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Oct. 14, 2019 | Monday
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Niagara College course teaches DIY kombucha making
Mary Towndrow has been brewing up homemade kombucha for five years. Doing it yourself costs a fraction of the retail price. (Jill Troyer/Niagara Now)

Mary Towndrow’s kitchen table in Old Town is covered in neat rows of homemade kombucha. Green and black tea kombucha with ginger, peppermint kombucha, rosehip kombucha, cherry kombucha, and beet kombucha with rosemary.

She’s been making it for five years, and now she and her fellow fermenting fan Lauren Zimbalatti are preparing to teach a Brew Your Own Booch course at Niagara College to help get others started in DIY kombucha.

Kombucha is a fermented beverage typically made with sweetened tea. The other essential ingredient is the scoby, which stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.”

The scoby, which looks like a gelatinous pancake, aids in fermentation, and the resulting drink is slightly effervescent, a little sweet, and also a touch sour with a hint of vinegar flavour.

It is growing in popularity both for its flavour and health benefits, since it has both probiotics and antioxidants. For some, it’s a tasty low-calorie, low-sugar alternative to pop.

Towndrow first tasted kombucha five years ago, while travelling in the United States on business. She loved the flavour, but not the price.

A bottle of commercially produced kombucha at the grocery store can cost up to $10. Towndrow says making it herself “costs just pennies a serving, that’s what got me interested.”

So she bought her first scoby and started brewing, and she says “my cost for a two gallon batch, which makes 15 bottles, is a few tea bags and some sugar, and it only takes 15 minutes to make the brew.”

She and her family have their favourite flavours and she keeps it on hand in the fridge as their go-to drink.

Towndrow and Zimbalatti met in a class at Niagara College that Zimbalatti was teaching about beer making. When Zimbalatti mentioned she had made kombucha beer, Towndrow says “my antenna just went up ... we just became friends and we’ve been experimenting ever since.”

Zimbalatti, who completed the brewmaster and brewery operations program at Niagara College three years ago, says the kombucha course she and Towndrow will teach is “geared to introduce people to brewing their own kombucha.”

Participants will get to “sample a tasting flight of different flavours and learn all the other uses of kombucha, like making syrups and jellies,” she says.

Towndrow adds she uses scoby “to make jerky, candy, as a base for smoothies, and the liquid to make sourdough starter ... you’re only limited by your taste buds and what you have on hand.”

For anyone “interested in fermentation, kombucha is a good place to start, because it’s inexpensive and simple,” she says.

The class will provide participants with everything they need to make their own brew and they’ll leave with their own first batch started, to finish fermenting at home. According to Zimbalatti, “it’s kind of set and forget. It’s very forgiving.”

The course, which costs $80, is set for June 26 at Niagara College. More information is available at: www.niagaracollege.ca/parttimestudies/courses/HTSM/1085/

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