Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cultural Journey - Kombucha and Viili arrive today

My Kombucha and Viili cultures arrived Wells of Health today.

I'm very excited about this, as I've never had Kombucha before, and I've always wanted to make my own yoghurt.  As these are live cultures, they need to be fed right away, so I got to work.

First thing I did was re-read the rather indepth instructions.   After you place your order, they send an email with the instructions, which is awesome.  Especially when you consider that this Viili yoghurt isn't like other yoghurts, you don't heat it.  I repeat, you Do Not Heat the Viili!  A yoghurt that you can cultivate at room temperature - those people in Finland are very clever.

Next I brewed my sweet tea.

Tea plus sugar for the Kombucha
Just waiting for the kettle to boil.

I choose some loose leaf tea (without any oils as apparently they are bad for Kombucha).  Once I was happy with the tea I left it to cool for a few hours until it was room temperature.

What is Kombucha anyway?  Kombucha is a fermented beverage made from tea, sugar and a SCOBY called a Kombucha Mother or sometimes called Kombucha Mushroom.  It is not a mushroom.  The SCOBY is a colony of yeast and bacteria that feed off tea and sugar.  Somehow they have this symbiotic relationship that helps them live together and make (what I'm told is) a yummy drink.  Kombucha also has many health claims associated with it, but I can't for the life of me remember what they are.  Probably something about detoxifying, that's always popular.

While I wait for the tea to cool, I take out the Viili.

Because it had to travel across the border, which could mean delays, they shipped me a dry culture.  Basically they dipped a cotton ball in their culture and dried it.  Once it's dry, the culture goes dormant for a few months and can be woken up with some milk.

It doesn't' have any noticeable smell, and the texture is kind of crunchy.  But that's enough playing around, it's time to wake this culture up.

The first batch of Viili I make will be small, just half a cup, but then I can use it to make more in a few days.  It's a self feeding cycle, where I take a few table spoons from the last batch to start the new batch.

I'm very curious what this Viili will be like.  The description on the website is encouraging:

Viili is a fermented milk yogurt from Finland. It is thick and viscous, almost jelly like, very “ropey”. It is mildly sweet and pleasant tasting. Viili thrives on cream. Make it with half and half for a rich dessert. Eat it plain, served with fruit and berries, or sweetened with honey, sugar, or Stevia powder.

That sounds delicious.  But then I read in The Art of Fermentation that the texture can be quite challenging to the North American pallet.

From the description I'm not certain if Viili is going to be like yoghurt as we know it.  But I don't know any better words to describe this kind of cultured milk in English, so yoghurt it is.

But that's not the exciting bit.

The really exciting thing about Viili is that it doesn't require heat to cultivate.  Most yoghurts need to be kept at a specific temperature for a few hours, which isn't all that easy.  Viili grows at room temperature.  I don't need to waste time with special equipment and fussing over temperature.

Viili should be ready for the next step in a day or two.

By now I'm sufficiently distracted by making yoghurt and some visitors, my tea is cold.  Time to put the Kombucha together.

The Kombucha mother comes with enough liquid to make 1 quart of tea.  I can make more next time by saving more liquid.  The SCOBY smells sweet and a bit like the forest floor after rain, so I can see why people call it a mushroom.

Following the instructions carefully I put the kombucha in it's new home.  It should be ready for me to try in about 5 days.  Can hardly wait!

So far, I like the Wells of Health shop.  The shipping was quick and the instructions on how to grow the cultures clear.  The packaging was fantastic, maybe a bit excessive, but I'm glad they did go the extra extra bag, because you never know what kind of adventures your parcel gets up to in the post.

Affordable cooking?  I think this is going to be great.  Milk is far more affordable than live-culture yoghurt and I'm told that Kombucha in the store is pricy.  They are both self perpetuating cultures, meaning that you make the next batch from a bit of the last batch.  In other words, once you have a culture, you don't need to keep buying more.  I'm also thrilled with how healthy this will be to have my very own live culture yoghurt on demand.


  1. Hello
    Is your viili the ropey slippering version or the other one ? :)

  2. Hello Goldkitten, thanks for stopping by.

    I can't say for certain as I've never tried other Villi, but I would say there is definitely a ropey quality to this.

    1. Hello ! I got the original viili culture from Gem Cultures today and hope it will thrive. I´ve recultured it from commercial cultures brought from Finland but they change overtime until all of its quality is lost. Hopefully I can keep this new one alive. Aparently there is a non ropey version out there so that is why I asked you which one you had....since you´re not sure here is a link from a post on youtube and it is how it looks like ( the ropey one )