Kombucha is the health elixir on the top of the ‘so hot right now’ list. Find out how you can make it at home.
What is kombucha?
Although it sounds more like a martial arts move or an Indie band, kombucha is actually a fermented tea, or, as some prefer, the ‘tea of immortality'.
“Various stories can abound on the history and origins of kombucha, but most point to China around 221 BCE during the Qin Dynasty,” explains Lara Bell, founder of Wild Kombucha by Ballsy. It also has a strong history in Eastern Europe, Russia, and Japan, but kombucha has only recently made it to western cultures.
How does kombucha taste?
The ideal kombucha is brewed until it tastes "a little like cider with a degree of sweetness and a crisp and slightly tart end note," Lara explains. “The end note is a result of the acetic acid profile and reflects a mature and well-aged brew. The longer the brew time, however, the higher the alcohol content, which is where the art and science come together.”
What are the benefits of kombucha?
A traditionally brewed kombucha is a great alternative to soft drink and alcohol, Lara says. "It is low in sugar, contains only a small amount of caffeine and has a very low amount of alcohol (0.5%), so you get to enjoy all of the above three ‘vices’ at once in one much healthier alternative."
- It Energizes
Fermented from green and black tea, kombucha is a source of caffeine which stimulates and invigorates the body. “But unlike a sugary soft drink, most of the sugar is used in the fermentation process.”
- It’s Antioxidant
“Green and black tea are rich sources of polyphenols, which are antioxidants that scavenge free radical damage in the body, shielding it from oxidative stress linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, eye disease and ageing,” Lara explains. “Researchers have reported higher levels of phenols in Kombucha tea thanks to the fermentation process and brewing time.”
- It’s Alive
Kombucha tea has been found to host a range of gut-friendly bacteria and live yeast that helps balance your intestinal flora and support good bowel health.
- It’s Strong
Along with acetic acid, kombucha contains forms of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which strengthens immunity.
How is kombucha brewed?
Lara gave us a recipe (below), but the key to a good kombucha is SCOBY - an acronym for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast.
It's fairly hideous and kind of unpleasant, but it is vital for home brewing kombucha. The live bacteria helps ferment the tea, helping to create the flavour and valuable health properties.
Anybody can brew kombucha, it's just a matter of sourcing the ingredients and being patient!
Basic Home-Brew Kombucha Recipe
Makes approx 3.5L
- 14 cups of filtered water
- Six standard size tea bags. ("Preferably organic, and best to start with a black tea," suggests Lara.)
- One cup of cane sugar (preferable organic)
- One cup of starter liquid - which is essentially just already-brewed kombucha, but it must be unflavoured and unpasteurised.
- Heat four cups of filtered water to 90-95ºC if you're using black tea.
- Once water temperature is correct, steep tea bags for 15 minutes.
- After you've removed the tea bags, add one cup of sugar to the hot tea mixture and stir until dissolved.
- In a new container add the hot tea and sugar liquid with the remaining ten cups of (cold) water. This will cool your brew down, as you don't want to be adding your starter liquid and SCOBY to hot liquid, which would kill your starter and SCOBY.
- Transfer all the mixed liquid into your fermentation vessel, ensure your vessel is clean and sterilised.
- Add starter to fermentation vessel.
- Add SCOBY gently to the liquid in your fermentation vessel and place a clean cloth or tea towel over the top of the vessel.
- Store your fermentation vessel out of direct sunlight, ideally in a warm and familiar location.
- In one to two weeks your brew (or booch) will be ready for tasting.
Tip: Lara says "brew to taste". For some taste buds this is two weeks and for others four weeks or longer. Make sure you try your brew. Remembering the longer you ferment for, the more vinegary your brew will be.