Kombucha is a fermented, usually slightly fizzy, tea drink that is great for your gut health, immune system and libido (sex drive!). Produced by fermenting sweetened tea (usually green or black) using a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY). The SCOBY bacteria and yeast feed on the sugar in the tea, releasing carbon dioxide (bubbles) as well as ethanol (alcohol). The alcohol is then re-consumed to further release healthy amino acids, trace vitamins and minerals!
Now, before you get scared away by the amount of sugar that goes into brewing a great Kombucha Tea, remember that the sugar is for the culture to consume and not for you! The SCOBY is made up of yeasts, and yeast needs sugar to survive. When it’s done fermenting, there will only be about 2-6 grams per 8 ounce glass of unflavoured Kombucha, depending on the fermentation time (way less than your average glass of juice).
Without sugar, Kombucha cannot ferment! Pretty much all types of sugar will do the trick except for artificial sweeteners, stevia, xylitol, corn syrup and raw honey. Raw honey has it’s own natural occurring bacteria which will battle the SCOBY!
Cane sugar has been used by humans for over 5000, years and is most likely what has been used to feed Kombucha cultures all these years too! Plain white sugar is most easily digested by the yeast (though make sure it’s Cane and not GMO Beet Sugar). This gives the best SCOBY health, fastest brewing time and the most ‘neutral’ flavour Kombucha. On the other hand, it holds little nutritional value. Therefore, even though it’s a bit harder for the SCOBY to break down, I tend to go for unrefined organic raw cane or mascovado sugar. The less processed a sugar is, the more essential nutrients it retains.
Raw sugar contains higher levels of minerals like iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium which are passed on into your Kombucha! Although, do note, that using the different types of sugars will effect the taste and texture of your brew (just like with a normal tea). I would recommend trying out a few types to see which one you prefer the most.
Tea, along with sugar, it is the main fuel source for the SCOBY! The type of tea you use, will largely define the kind of flavour profile your Kombucha will take on. However, it is important to choose a tea that creates a healthy environment for the SCOBY to grow in, allowing it to work it’s magic at the peak of it’s abilities! Since the bacteria cultures traditionally evolved to feed on Camellia Sinensis (a species of evergreen shrub, native to South and East Asia, whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce traditional tea), the SCOBY will be at it’s healthiest and most efficient when feeding off of a variety of this ‘real tea’ (Black, Green, White, Yellow, Oolong or Pu-Erh), compared to a herbal (tisane), floral or oil infused tea.
This isn’t to say that, if you have a spare SCOBY or two, you can’t experiment and perhaps make a batch using real tea in combination with tisane! But do note that, over time, due to the lack of necessary nutrients and amino acids (nitrogen, caffeine and theanine, to name a few) the cultures will begin to atrophy and eventually die – so it’s best to keep them in rotation. Furthermore, try to always use organic tea whenever possible to avoid any chemical contaminants.
Try to avoid handling your SCOBY or your Kombucha with metal that isn’t stainless steel! Metals like aluminium or regular steel can, due to the acidity of the Kombucha, become pitted after contact or, even worse, can leech into the kombucha and be poisonous to the SCOBY or the drinker over time! I tend to handle mine with wood or plastic.
To summarise, Kombucha provides your body with what it needs to heal itself by:
1. Brew the tea– Bring the water to the boil and remove from the heat. Add in the sugar, stir untill it has dissolved and chuck in the tea bags. Give it another stir and allow it to rest until the water has cooled. This will usually take a few hours.
2. Prepare your Kombucha jar by adding in the SCOBY and, if it’s a new batch, the starter tea.
3. Once your tea has cooled (can check by dipping in your finger, just make sure its washed! Should not feel warmer than your finger), remove the tea bags.
4. Pour the cooled tea into your Kombucha jar. (Don’t worry if your SCOBY isn’t floating perfectly on top)
5. Cover your Kombucha with the cotton cloth and rap it round the jar with a rubber band.
6. Allow your Kombucha to ferment for 7-10 days (the longer you leave it the more acidic it will become) at room temperature away from the sun. You can taste the Kombucha using a straw to see if it is right for you! If you over-ferment it do not worry, you can simply add some water to your glass to dilute it, once the whole process is done.
7. Once it has reached the desired level of fermentation, grab a plastic siv and pour it through into a jug (getting rid of any excess cultures that begin to form). But leave enough starter tea to cover your current SCOBY.
8. This is what is known as the first fermentation. This method will create a fruity, slightly acidic, quite sweet but ‘fizzy-less’ tasting drink that kind of resembles Iced Tea. From here, if you prefer an uncarbonated Kombucha, you can bottle it, or seal your jug, and refrigerate. By refrigerating you slow down the process of fermentation drastically allowing your Kombucha to keep your desired taste for longer.
Otherwise, you can begin the second process of fermentation! Remembering from earlier that yeasts feeds on sugar, releasing carbon dioxide (bubbles) as well as a tiny amount of alcohol, we can carbonate our Kombucha tea simply by sealing our jug, or bottles, and leaving out at room temperature for another 3-4 day’s before refrigerating (if your jug doesn’t have an air tight lid you can rap it around in some cling film).
To speed up the process, and further increase carbonation, I like to add an extra 1-2 tablespoons of sugar before sealing my Kombucha and putting it away for the second fermentation. However, this is all very dependable on personal preference so, once you’ve made a few batches of Kombucha and feel more familiar with the process, begin to experiment and find the exact taste that you like! In addition, learn to flavour your Kombucha here.
I like my Kombucha best served cold with a couple of ice cubes!
If you keep at it, repeating the process, eventually your SCOBY will grow big enough to multiply and begin to form a mini SCOBY! Once that is big enough to command it’s own Kombucha jar, separate it and place it in it’s new home with enough starter tea to fully submerge it. Cover with a lid and store away for when you are ready to make another batch!
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