I realize that many people have never heard of kombucha, I certainly hadn't until I spent a couple of weeks in Denver (where the local Whole Foods carried 5 brands of it) awhile back. It originated in China and can best be described as a slightly sweetened tea that is soured by a jelly fish like cluster of microbes.
Kombucha appeals to me because it is much faster and easier to make than funky beers, in addition it has almost no sugar and less than .5% abv, so I can feel good drinking it whenever I want. I grew my culture (left) from a bottle of what I felt to be the best kombucha I had in Denver (Tea Chi), but there are commercially available cultures that require less work if you are so inclined or if you can't get a bottle locally.
The finished product can vary greatly depending on your culture. Some are clean and sharply acidic, but it should come as no surprise that my favorite brand had plenty of funk (in particular our old friend Brettanomyces). The tea doesn't have too much impact on the finished drink, it serves primarily as a nutrient source for the culture (and as such it can't be left out in favor of other flavorings).
Here is my basic recipe:
Take it off the heat and soak 2 tea bags or 2 tsp of the tea of your choice for 15 minutes (the longer brew time extracts more nitrogen and nutrients),
Dissolve 2.5 oz of white sugar into the tea
Cool to 70 degrees
Pitch your culture and about 10% of the previous batch to lower the acidity.
The culture needs oxygen, so just put a paper towel over your container and hold it in place with a rubber band.
After two weeks of fermenting in the high 60's the kombucha is ready to bottle
At that point I put the bottles into the fridge and they are ready to go
Sanitation is not as important as it is with beer fermentation because with kombucha not only do you already have multiple microbes working together in the culture but also it is open to the air so some microbes are going to get in there regardless of your sanitation.
The next step in my process is to build up a big enough mother culture so that I can start splitting off daughter cultures to begin playing with. In particular I hope to find out if the culture is able to do its thing in the presence of hops...