After making a few early batches of kombucha using regular supermarket tea, she discovered the joy of fermenting single-origin teas - the complexities and nuances in flavour of which, in the final product, are matchless.
November 25, 2019
The SCOBYs working their magic in new batches.
Made in her home kitchen from scratch, this lightly-effervescent and refreshingly-tart drink is the latest in a long line of Ping’s experiments with fermenting edible things.
All it takes is about seven days, three ingredients (single-origin tea, sugar and a SCOBY) and two large glass jars to get her a week’s worth of probiotic-rich beverage.
"The beauty of fermenting single-origin teas of intricate flavour characteristics is waiting patiently for these inherent attributes to change during the process to produce new and exciting taste profiles. This, in turn, eliminates the secondary stage of flavour-enhancing fermentation using fruits/herbs/spices which is almost always necessary when a lower grade, and usually less complex, tea is used."
'The beauty of fermenting single-origin teas of intricate flavour characteristics is waiting patiently for these inherent attributes to change during the process to produce new and exciting taste profiles. '
It was a discovery that Ping warmly welcomed after a bottle of a mulberry-infused batch from her early kombucha-brewing days exploded during the stage of secondary fermentation. Flying glass shards made small dents on the stainless steel splashback in her kitchen and the exterior of her fridge, and the bright purple fruit pulp left stubborn stains on her white walls which had to be repainted. For those who are curious about brewing their own, she reassures us that this was a one-off incident, the result of a rookie mistake.
The little explosion incident of a mulberry-infused batch from her early kombucha-brewing days.
Baby SCOBYs waiting in their ‘hotel’ to be adopted by new Kombucha brewers.
'The SCOBY is like the Tamagotchi in that old pocket game. You care for it, show it love and it’ll love you back by turning sweetened tea into some of the most interesting liquids that you’ve ever had in your mouth!'
Currently on her 55th batch, she is still enjoying her once-a-week routine of harvesting and bottling the fermented brew, and is just as excited about starting the fermentation process with a new batch of tea as she was with her very first, diligently making notes of the type of tea used, their flavours pre- and post-fermentation, the weather/temperature, the duration of fermentation, etc. She loves watching the slow formation of the baby SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast), the development of ugly-beautiful yeast strands in the brewing jars, and sniffing the ever-changing scent of the fermenting tea.
“The SCOBY is like the Tamagotchi in that old pocket game. You care for it, show it love and it’ll love you back by turning sweetened tea into some of the most interesting liquids that you’ve ever had in your mouth! And every batch is different, even when the exact same tea is used. This is, perhaps, why I love home-brewing. The anticipation of tasting something new and exciting every week! I cannot thank my old pal enough for giving me my first baby SCOBY!”
Ping is paying it forward by giving away her baby SCOBYs, together with starter tea and detailed instructions, to anyone who is keen to make their own kombucha. To date, she has found new homes for 23 of them.
Fermented single-origin teas: Gyokuro, Roasted Kukicha, Wakoucha, Kabusecha and Goishicha
Ugly-beautiful yeast formations that are essential to the fermentation process.
Besides the fun of fermenting and the promise of better gut health, her hobby has also brought her the unexpected pleasure of making new friends, having just returned to Singapore after fourteen years away.
Her interest in single-origin teas fortuitously led her to a group of serious tea connoisseurs who have all been so generous with their time, knowledge and gifts of new-to-her tea. She returns the favour by giving them, most of whom are SCOBY-averse, the kombuchas brewed from the leaves that they have given her.
“I got into single-origin teas purely because of kombucha. I feel very fortunate to have met these tea pals who have so kindly and quickly welcomed a tea novice like me into the fold. I guess it’s true what they say about tea bringing people together!”
Next up for Ping is finding ways to re-use the leaves that goes into the brewing of the base tea for her kombuchas as she finds it a waste throwing out such a substantial amount each week when they’ve only been steeped once. So far, she has pickled Honey Orchid Dancong Oolong and eaten them in the style of Lahpet Thoke, the Burmese tea leaf salad, made tea leaf pestos with Duck Shit Dancong and Himalayan Hongcha, marinated Sencha in shio koji, and Gyokuro in a yuzu vinaigrette. She hopes to come up with more new leaf-saving solutions before she gets bored eating these.
Pickled used Honey Orchid Dancong Oolong leaves in a Lahpet-Thoke-style salad.
Used Kabusecha leaves marinated for a week in shio koji, served on silken tofu in a dashi broth.
All image credits: Ping (@likklepictures)