Kombucha has made its way into everyday dietary speak in the last few years. But the resurgence of this ancient tea still have many thirsting for more information.
So, what exactly is Kombucha?
Kombucha tea is said to have originated centuries ago in China. Sometimes referred to as the “Tea of Immortality,” Kombucha is a fermented, sweetened tea which can be made with black or green tea. Making Kombucha usually involves a double fermentation process where a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) is placed in a sweetened tea mixture and left to sit for up to three weeks. The tea is then bottled to help contain released CO2 and encourage carbonation for up to two weeks. From there, the bottled Kombucha is placed in a refrigerated environment to slow the fermentation and carbonation process.
Kombucha benefits and its move to mainstream
While the method to make Kombucha seems intensely laborious compared to brewing and steeping your typical tea, the probiotic benefits are believed by many to be worth it.
Kombucha has probiotics and because it is brewed from tea which also has anti-oxidant benefits. While Kombucha is not a magical cure-all, the sweet, fermented drink has been touted to have detoxifying effects that improve the digestive system and gut health, boosts energy and even improve joint health and aid in weight loss.
Kombucha benefits are just some reasons behind its explosion onto the market from national and international health food stores (Whole Foods was one of the first to carry it on their shelves, but it can also be found in some Walmart stores across the US), to major beverage brands like Pepsi Co. brewing their own versions and also its expansion into artisan alcoholic versions such as Kombucha beer as well.
It seems there is no end to the possibilities of this health drink with people adding their own spin to the ingredients, adding ginger, apple and grape flavors to the tea. Look up the Kombucha hashtag on Instagram and find thousands of colorful photos of home-brewed Kombucha in glass mason jars large and small. The conversation around Kombucha has expanded beyond small wellness blogs, and we're definitely going along for the ride.
How to make Kombucha at home
If you’re looking for tips on how to make Kombucha at home, we've got you covered with the help of CulturesForHealth.com.
You will need the following ingredients for a 1 litre batch:
- A Komubucha SCOBY. (These can usually be purchased dried from a health food store, or you can get one from a friend who is already brewing Kombucha. Ask them for a bit of starter tea if possible as well).
- 2 to 3 cups of water, free from chlorine and fluorides.
- 1½ teaspoon loose tea or 2 tea bags.
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 to 3 cups water
- ½ cup starter tea or vinegar
1. Combine the hot water and sugar in a glass jar and stir until the sugar dissolves. The water temperature shouldn't be boiling, but should be hot enough to steep tea.
2. Steep the tea or tea bags in the sugar water. Use a metal tea ball for loose tea, but the tea ball should be removed before adding the SCOBY and starter tea. The tea ball should not come in contact with the SCOBY.
3. Cool the mixture to 68 – 85ºF. You can leave the tea in the liquid as it cools or remove it after the first 10 – 15 minutes depending on how strong you would like the flavor to be.
4. Remove the tea bags or strain the loose tea leaves from the liquid.
5. Add the starter tea from a previous batch to the liquid. If you do not have any starter tea, you can substitute it with distilled white vinegar.
6. Add an active Kombucha SCOBY.
7. Cover the jar with a tight-weave towel or coffee filter and secure it with a rubber band.
8. Allow the mixture to sit undisturbed at 68-85°F, out of direct sunlight, for 7–30 days, or to your desired taste. The longer the Kombucha ferments, the less sweet and more bitter it will taste.
9. Once your Kombucha has fermented to your liking, pour some off the top of the jar for drinking. Retain the SCOBY and enough liquid from the bottom of the jar to use as starter tea for your next batch.
The finished Kombucha can be flavored and bottled, if desired, or enjoyed plain.
Adding fresh fruit to Kombucha is a great way to naturally flavor the bubbly tea. You can use this recipe to make a batch or adjust the measurements for a continuous brew. The best part about this process is being able to experiment with flavors and tastes that work best for you.
Brewing at home also allows you to control the amount of sugar and the fermentation process to suit your dietary needs. Not to mention, making brews at home could also save you quite a bit of money if you’re a Kombucha fanatic, as a typical bottled Kombucha tea can run anywhere from $3 – $5 a pop at the grocery or health foods store.
Don't forget to re-use your glass bottles or jars and you can even label them your own way—friends and family will be impressed with your unique spins, and can make for an Insta-worthy post!
While sipping on your home-brewed Kombucha can be satisfying enough, it hasn’t stopped others from getting creative with it. Apart from adding it to cocktails—everything from margaritas to whiskey concoctions, others have experimented with creating Kombucha iced coffee, smoothies, popsicles, gummy candies and even vinaigrette dressing.
The carbonation, multitude of flavors, hint of sugar, and boost of caffeine also makes Kombucha a much healthier replacement to soda, and yes, there’s a Root Beer Kombucha recipe out there too. Kombucha can be found on menus and recipes around the globe today and who know what undiscovered formula an at-home brewer has created that we don’t yet know about? Kombucha clearly has the versatility and health benefits to spark the creativity and innovation in foodies and health nuts alike.
Side effects of Kombucha
All this talk about Kombucha and cocktails is making us a little thirsty, but it's important to note that Kombucha is not for everybody. Some common side effects of Kombucha can include upset stomach, nausea or diarrhea, especially for those with sensitive stomachs or with a sensitivity to probiotic foods and ingredients.
A study in The Journal of Internal General Medicine also reported cases of people with head and neck pain, jaundice and allergic reactions where Kombucha was consumed. Those sensitive to alcohol, or for people who are taking medication that prohibits alcohol must also be aware when drinking or consuming Kombucha because while the SCOBY used to produce the brew contains yeast and bacteria that feed on alcohol, there is a chance that some Kombucha brews can have more than the .5% that legally makes a beverage non-alcoholic.
This issue garnered the attention of the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau who warned commercial and at-home Kombucha producers to be aware of the mix of sugar and yeast in the fermentation process that can effect the alcohol volume. The TTB even introduced a new page on their website in 2015 to further break down the regulations. Just like any new dietary addition, it’s best to consult your doctor or health professional if you’re on medication or have any health issue you feel may have a negative reaction to Kombucha.
Despite the few exceptions above, Kombucha, like matcha and Coconut Oil is more than just a health trend having its 15 minutes. Its benefits and accessibility has made it a staple in people’s everyday diets and consumption.
From ancient China to your pantry
Kombucha has come a long way from its ancient, eastern roots and has expanded to meet the diverse tastes and needs of a health-conscious community worldwide. Its accessibility makes it easy for people to brew at home and experiment with more than just the tea itself.
As a healthier alternative to soda and juice in some cases and its probiotic benefits, it doesn’t need to be a dietary staple to help people make healthier choices. If you haven’t tried it yet, make sure you don’t have any medical or prescription restrictions first, but don’t hesitate to give it a taste.
With the variety of flavors, the ability to be added to your favourite boozy beverage or even top your preferred salad, Kombucha is worth a shot—or bottle. With a plethora of information, recipes and Kombucha content available it’s easy to get lost in what’s available and what’s for you. Experiment, taste test, even take a stab at brewing at home...there’s bound to be a Kombucha for you.
And if not, there’s sure to be a new, healthy and trendy drink that will start trending soon.