What Is Kombucha Tea?
Kombucha starts out as a sugary tea, which is then fermented with the help of a ‘scoby’. Which is an acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. The scoby bacteria and yeast eat most of the sugar in the tea, transforming the tea into a refreshingly fizzy, slightly sour fermented (but mostly non-alcoholic) beverage that is relatively low in calories and sugar. You can check out the health benefits of kombucha in our previous article here.
Types of Tea You Can Use To Make Kombucha Tea
Kombucha requires tea for its fermentation. That’s real tea not herbal tea. It can be also be sensitive to strong aromatic oils. A tea like Earl Grey that contains Bergamot oil, can sometimes kill or badly affect the culture. There are several different kinds of tea that give different results from lighter tastes to stronger more cider like tastes. Following are some you can use to make kombucha tea.
Black tea tends to be the easiest and most reliable for the scoby to ferment into kombucha, but once your scoby is going strong, you can try branching out into other kinds. Green tea, white tea, oolong tea, or an even mix of these make especially good kombucha. Herbal teas are ok, but be sure to use at least a few bags of black tea in the mix to make sure the scoby is getting all the nutrients it needs. Avoid any teas that contain oils, like earl grey or flavored teas.
1. Black Tea
Black tea is made from leaves that have been fully fermented. The leaf is spread out and left to wilt naturally, before being fired, producing a deep, rich flavour and an amber brew.
2. Oolong Tea
Oolong tea is half way between green tea and black tea. It’s gently rolled after picking and allowed to partially ferment until the edges of the leaves start to turn brown. Oolong combines the taste and colour of black and green tea.
3. Green Tea
Green tea is withered then steamed or heated to prevent oxidation and then rolled and dried. It is characterized by a delicate taste, light green colour. The Japanese tea Sencha makes an especially fine kombucha.
4. White Tea
White Tea is the rarest and most delicate of tea. Plucked forty-eight hours or less between the time the first buds become fully mature and the time they open. Unlike black and green teas, white tea isn’t rolled or steamed, but simply aired dried in the sun, this preserves more of its antioxidant properties. White tea has about three times as many antioxidant polyphenols as green. White tea represents the least processed form of tea.
What Is A Scoby?
It protects the fermenting tea from the air and helps maintain a very specific environment inside the jar that is shielded from outsiders, aka unfriendly bacteria. You can see how to make your own scoby from here
While the homebrewed nature of kombucha makes some home cooks nervous, is unlikely that kombucha will ever make you sick. Kombucha has been around for a very long time and been brewed in environments that were even dirtier than our own. If the scoby is healthy, then the kombucha will be healthy.
How To Make Kombucha Tea?
~Makes about 1 gallon
3 1/2 quarts water
1 cup white sugar
8 bags black tea
2 cups starter tea from last batch of kombucha or store-bought (unpasteurized, neutral-flavored) kombucha
1 scoby per fermentation jar
Optional flavoring extras for bottling: 1 to 2 cups chopped fruit, 2 to 3 cups fruit juice, 1 to 2 tablespoons flavored tea (like hibiscus or Earl Grey), 1/4 cup honey, 2 to 4 tablespoons fresh herbs or spices
1-gallon glass jar or two 2-quart glass jars
Bottles: Six 16-oz glass bottles with plastic lids, 6 swing-top bottles, or clean soda bottles
Note: Avoid prolonged contact between the kombucha and metal both during and after brewing. This can affect the flavor of your kombucha and weaken the scoby over time.
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Remove from heat and stir in the sugar to dissolve.
- Drop in the tea and allow it to steep until the water has cooled.
- Depending on the size of your pot, this will take a few hours.You can speed up the cooling process by placing the pot in an ice bath.
- Once the tea is cool, remove the tea bags or strain out the loose tea.
- Stir in the starter tea. (The starter tea makes the liquid acidic, which prevents unfriendly bacteria from taking up residence in the first few days of fermentation.)
- Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon glass jar (or divide between two 2-quart jars, in which case you’ll need 2 scobys) and gently slide the scoby into the jar with clean hands.
- Cover the mouth of the jar with a few layers of cheesecloth or paper towels secured with a rubber band.
- Keep the jar at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, and where it won’t get jostled. Ferment for 7 to 10 days, checking the kombucha and the scoby periodically. It’s not unusual for the scoby to float at the top, bottom, or even sideways. A new cream-colored layer of scoby should start forming on the surface of the kombucha within a few days. It usually attaches to the old scoby, but it’s ok if they separate. You may also see brown stringy bits floating beneath the scoby, sediment collecting at the bottom, and bubbles collecting around the scoby. This is all normal and signs of healthy fermentation.
- After seven days, begin tasting the kombucha daily by pouring a little out of the jar and into a cup. When it reaches a balance of sweetness and tartness that is pleasant to you, the kombucha is ready to bottle. Before proceeding, prepare and cool another pot of strong tea for your next batch of kombucha, as outlined above.
- With clean hands, gently lift the scoby out of the kombucha and set it on a clean plate. As you do, check it over and remove the bottom layer if the scoby is getting very thick.
- Measure out your starter tea from this batch of kombucha and set it aside for the next batch. Pour the fermented kombucha (straining, if desired) into bottles using the small funnel, along with any juice, herbs, or fruit you may want to use as flavoring.
- Leave about a half inch of head room in each bottle. (Alternatively, infuse the kombucha with flavorings for a day or two in another jar covered with cheesecloth, strain, and then bottle. This makes a cleaner kombucha without “stuff” in it.)
- tore the bottled kombucha at room-temperature out of direct sunlight and allow 1 to 3 days for the kombucha to carbonate. Until you get a feel for how quickly your kombucha carbonates, it’s helpful to keep it in plastic bottles; the kombucha is carbonated when the bottles feel rock solid. Refrigerate to stop fermentation and carbonation, and then consume your kombucha within a month.
- Clean the jar being used for kombucha fermentation. Combine the starter tea from your last batch of kombucha with the fresh batch of sugary tea, and pour it into the fermentation jar. Slide the scoby on top, cover, and ferment for 7 to 10 days.