Love it or hate it, kombucha has taken over the world of healthy beverages. The process of making this functional drink may not appeal to all tea drinkers, but there are many kombucha lovers that can’t imagine a day without it. Find out what exactly is kombucha and how to make it at home.
Getting Started with Kombucha
If you are ready to try a very different tea, kombucha won’t let you down. Kombucha is available in doezns of flavors, proudly standing on the shelves of many supermarkets and grocery stores worldwide. While the process of making kombucha may not sound that appealing, this drink may have a lot of potential health benefits.
Kombucha can be carbonated or non-carbonated. Carbonated kombucha is sometimes described as a natural, alcohol free champagne. If you tried it and liked it, you can try making it at home too. You won’t need many utensils, and a simple regular black tea and sugar will be enough to get started.
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea made from sugar, water, tea leaves and scoby – or often called a kombucha tea “mushroom”. It’s popular across the world, mostly because of its potential health benefits. Kombucha, just like other fermented food, is a functional food. In fact, it’s the “fastest growing product in the functional beverage market ”. Functional beverages contain compounds such as probiotics, prebiotics, peptides, fibers, minerals, vitamins and others.  that may provide many health benefits, from anti oxidant and anti inflammatory activity, to improving cognitive and digestive function.
What’s really interesting is that kombucha, just like real teas, originates in China. In fact, it was first made over 2000 years ago .
Kombucha contains bacteria and yeast that may be beneficial for health. However, it also contains sugar, so keep in mind if you are careful about sugar intake. Pre-made tea may contain a very high amount of sugar. You can make kombucha from different types of tea. Although black tea is the most common, if you like earthy flavors and want to use decaffeinated tea instead, you may even use rooibos.
Don’t confuse kombucha with konbucha, a type of Japanese tea made from konbu seaweed. These are two very different teas. Konbucha is rarely available outside Japan. It has a specific salty seaweed flavor.
Kombucha has a very different flavor from a regular cup of tea. It’s refreshing, slightly sour and more or less fizzy. It will have a light sweetness too, but most of sweetness in commercially available teas will come from additionally added sugar.
What is a scoby?
Tea “mushroom” or a scoby is not a real mushroom. Scoby is a “symbiotic association of bacteria and yeasts” that forms during a fermentation process of black tea and sugar. To make a scoby, you will need an already made kombucha that contains live cultures needed for “scoby to form. Unflavored raw types from supermarkets should work well. However, you can also get a scoby from specialized shops or other tea lovers that are making kombucha at home. Whichever way you choose, pay attention to where is your tea or scoby coming from. Benefits may easily turn into health problems if your scoby or tea are contaminated or mouldy. To make a scoby, always use regular black tea and kombucha without additives or flavorings.
What is a “starter tea”?
To make kombucha having a scoby is not enough. You will also need a starter tea. Starter tea is already a fully fermented kombucha that contains live cultures. If you are buying already made scoby, you will usually get a starter tea too. Just like scoby, starter tea needs to be healthy.
If you are making your own scoby, keep in mind that the tea liquor you used for making a scoby is not a starter tea. It will taste very sour and is not suitable for making a fresh batch of kombucha tea. You will need another one.Your starter tea will be the first kombucha you will make using your already formed scoby. This tea will be similar to the raw unflavored types from the shop.
Is preparing kombucha at home safe?
Preparing kombucha at home may be less safe than buying ready-to-drink drinks. However, if you are paying extra attention to details, making sure all your equipment is sterilized and your starter tea and scoby are healthy, it’s possible to make safe drink at home too. Keep in mind though, making kombucha will take a lot of time. It’s will require patience and proper conditions.
Supplies/Ingredients You Need
To make kombucha you will need a bigger jar, a cloth or some other type of breathable but finely woven cloth and an elastic ribbon. You will also need black tea, sugar and water.
Always use only glass jars. Sterilize them before use to make sure there are absolutely clean from any dirt, mould, bacteria or anything else that could ruin your kombucha.
How to Make Kombucha Tea
Making kombucha starts with a scoby. If you already have one, skip this step.
How to make scoby
To make kombucha tea, you will need to grow a scoby first. Scoby is grown, rather than made, as it will form once tea starts to ferment. Use plain black tea leaves or even tea bags. Simple organic Assam black tea leaves will be a good choice.
Growing a scoby will take at least 10 to 30 days.
- Add 7 cups of water to a clean saucepan and bring it to boil. Remove from heat.
- Then add ½ cup of regular granulated white sugar and stir to dissolve it.
- Add 10 grams of loose tea or the equivalent in tea bags and let it steep for about one or two hours until it reaches room temperature.
- Strain the tea into a large 1 jar.
- Add one cup of unflavored raw store bought kombucha.
- Cover with cloth or even regular kitchen towel and secure with a rubber band.
- Place in a dark place away from sources of heat, mould or direct sunlight.
- Try to keep it at room temperature.
- After 2-3 weeks your scoby will be ready.
How to make kombucha
To make 1 liter of kombucha, you will need your scoby, starter tea, sugar, water and tea of your choice. You can use any tea you want, even if your scoby is made from black tea. Make sure all utensils and your hands are perfectly clean. Making kombucha is very similar to making scoby. In fact, you can use the same amounts of water, sugar and tea to make your kombucha or you may even double them to make more. Try with a smaller quantity first to get the idea on how long your kombucha will need to ferment.
- Add 1 liter of water to a saucepan and bring it to a boil.
- Add about 6 grams of tea leaves and let it steep for 10 minutes.
- Strain into another saucepan and add 50-60 grams of sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves.
- Let it cool down for a couple of hours until it reaches room temperature. Never put scoby into hot water.
- Pour the sweet tea into a clean jar, add 1/3 cup of starter tea and your scoby.
- Cover the jar with a clean cloth and tighten with a rubber band.
Let it ferment for 6-10 days. You can let it ferment longer. Keep checking the flavor. The best temperature for making kombucha is the room temperature, or even better, a few degrees higher. Lower temperatures may prolong the fermentation time, and higher temperature may shorten it.
Add sweeteners only when you take out your scoby, not before. Keep in mind though, sugars will make it ferment further, which may increase the alcohol content. Store brewed kombucha in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process.
How does kombucha taste?
Kombucha may have different flavors, depending on the tea and other ingredients. You can choose any tea you want, but organic will be the best option. Lighter green teas such as organic Dragon Well with give a lighter and crispier kombucha. Never use flavored or scented teas for fermenting. Pure tea leaves are the best. If you want to make herbal kombucha, use pure rooibos or pure honey bush, rather than flavored blends.
You can add fruity flavors and sweeteners once your raw kombucha is ready and not with scoby still in the jar. Kombucha will be more or less sour, depending on the sugar content and additional sweeteners. It will be more or less fizzy, also depending on how long it will ferment in the bottle.
Keep in mind though, kombucha contains alcohol. Alcohol levels will also depend on the fermentation process. Studies show it may contain anywhere from less than 0.1% to even 5% of alcohol . Therefore, it’s not advisable to drink kombucha for pregnant and breastfeeding women, children and people that need to avoid alcohol.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Every person is different and may react to different herbs and teas differently. Never use teas or herbs to treat serious medical conditions on your own. Always seek professional medical advice before choosing home remedies.