To put it simply, kombucha is a fermented green or black (or oolong) tea which is often consumed for its health benefits. It is made from sugar, tea, and a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) which consumes the sugar, resulting in an unpasteurised drink containing a whole mix of good bacteria.
Where Did Kombucha Come From?
I know, I know, we're all thinking it. Kombucha seems to have suddenly burst forth into the world - and yet, that is not the case.
Kombucha has actually been around for almost 2,000 years, having first been brewed in Northeast China. Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi is said to be the first person to make and drink kombucha, using it as a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
There are also alternative stories which talk about a Korean physician called Dr. Kombu, who took the fermented tea to Japan as a curative drink for Emperor Inkyo. Regardless of the origin, popularity spread across Asia and Europe, and now, you can find this fizzy tea almost anywhere.
What Does Kombucha Taste Like?
Kombucha in its raw form can taste like a sweet-and-sour fizzy tea. Whilst delicious, this taste can be a bit too strong and vinegary for some people, so some people prefer to drink it mixed with juice and cordials.
Is Kombucha Alcoholic?
Due to the fact that kombucha is produced by fermentation, it does contain a teeny tiny amount of alcohol. Most kombucha has less than 0.05% ABV due to the yeast keeping the alcohol levels low - but home brewing can result in a higher percentage.
What are the Health Benefits of Kombucha?
Researchers believe that the tea base of kombucha and its fermentation process result in probiotic benefits, encouraging gut bacteria diversity and aiding digestion. Along with this, some people claim that kombucha can cure many ailments - but we can't back any of it up. Honestly, we recommend just enjoying it as a sweet, slightly vinegar-y tea, rather than medicine.
Is it Hard to Make Kombucha?
Due to the fact that kombucha needs very little intervention other than when the initial brew is made, the whole process is pretty hands-off. In essence, the kombucha makes itself - resulting in a relatively easy pastime that doesn't take up a whole lot of effort.
Plus, it's almost impossible to kill a Scoby - even if it sinks to the bottom of the tank, it is still alive and well. The bacteria creates such an acidic environment that if conditions are right then no harmful bacteria can survive. This leaves plenty of room for all the good stuff.
Where Do I Get a SCOBY?
The easiest way to get a Scoby is by asking friends or family who brew their own kombucha if they could donate one of their baby SCOBYs to you. Each month, new layers of Scoby are formed in the brew, so they should have some spare.
Alternatively, you can do what we did and attend a tour at your local kombucha factory, where you ask for some of their starter liquid. By brewing this liquid with tea and sugar, you can grow your own Scoby from scratch.
Or, if all fails, you can purchase a Scoby online. Your Scoby should also come with some of its own starter liquid, which will be super important for the first brew as it contains all of the bacteria, yeast, and acid that it will need to flourish.
How Do I Make Kombucha?
Firstly, you will need to get your hands on a large glass jar - plastic and metal containers should be avoided. You'll want it to have a wide neck so that you can easily move the SCOBY and change over the liquid.
To Brew Kombucha, You Will Need:
1 litre spring or mineral water
2 teaspoons loose leaf tea
100g demerara sugar
100ml starter liquid (AKA strong, old kombucha)
1 SCOBY (optional)
1.5 litre glass jar
Instructions for Brewing Kombucha
Boil the water in a saucepan, then, move it to a bowl and add the loose leaf tea (we recommend black tea, so that it doesn't become astringent). Add the sugar and give it a quick stir before leaving the mixture to brew for 5 minutes. Remove the tea leaves and allow to cool.
Once the liquid has cooled to around 25°C, add the SCOBY and starter liquid to the glass jar. If you are brewing without a SCOBY, you should have at last 300ml of starter liquid, which you simply add to the tea mix (don't worry - a SCOBY will begin to form soon enough!).
Cover the jar with the cheesecloth (or a thin tea towel - anything to keep bugs and dust out). If there is a lid, leave it open so that the SCOBY can breathe.
Make a note of the brew date, so that you know how long the tea has been fermenting.
Leave for approximately 14 days - and if it's not strong enough, leave for one week longer. The brew should be kept in a warm room away from radiators and direct sunlight, where there is enough room for the air around it to circulate.
And then finally, your kombucha is ready! Feel free to add any juices, cordials, spices, herbs, or vegetables you desire when bottling the brew (don't add them to the jar with the SCOBY!).