In recent years, we have been hearing about the wonderful benefits of kombucha tea. So, what is kombucha tea really? Kombucha tea is a fizzy fermented beverage that has a tart-like taste and when drunk, is extremely refreshing. The brew is essentially made by fermenting sweetened tea with a symbiotic culture of particular yeast and acetic acid bacteria.
Revered as the “Immortal Health Elixir” by the ancient Chinese, kombucha tea originated over 2,000 years ago from northeast China. This refreshing beverage is prized for its refreshing, unique taste and its remarkable array of health and therapeutic benefits.
What is SCOBY?
Sometimes kombucha tea is called kombucha mushroom tea; however, contrary to this popular misconception, kombucha is not a mushroom but SCOBY. SCOBY or the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast is added to the tea and sugar solution to prepare the kombucha tea. During the process of fermentation, the yeast and bacteria cultures on the SCOBY ferment the solution of tea and sugar and the resulting liquid is a sour and tart-tasting beverage.
When the SCOBY starts growing, sections of it can be broken off to start a new batch of kombucha tea preparation. SCOBY has a gelatinous appearance and is like a blob, which is why it is also called tea beast, fungus, mushroom or mother culture.
Why Kombucha Tea Has Become Popular
Kombucha tea is a deliciously sweet and tangy flavored refreshing drink, which tastes like a blend of champagne and apple cider. It is very easy and inexpensive to make. The best part is you can make several flavor variations if you are creative. You can add spices, fruits and herbs and even make a kombucha champagne. The flavor of the beverage can be varied depending on the kind of tea you use, green tea or black.
Nutrition Snapshot of Kombucha Tea
Since kombucha tea is made by the process of fermentation, it contains plenty of healthy bacteria called probiotics. When the process of fermentation is completed, the kombucha drink becomes carbonated and it contains B vitamins, folic acid, enzymes, vinegar, acetic, lactic and gluconic acid, along with the probiotics. Kombucha tea also contains beneficial antioxidants and polyphenols.
Health Benefits of Kombucha Tea
Drinking kombucha tea has several impressive health benefits, especially if it is made using green tea. The probiotics contained in kombucha tea helps to protect your digestive tract, improves your immune system and helps to fight illnesses and infections. Kombucha tea contains antioxidants that can have several health advantages like improving liver health and protecting it from oxidative stress and damage. The beverage has antimicrobial properties as it contains acetic acid and polyphenols that can kill harmful bacteria. Consuming kombucha tea can help to reduce the “bad” LDL cholesterol and improve the “good” or HDL cholesterol and it can also be beneficial for heart health. Kombucha tea has many anti-cancer properties and may help to manage type-2 diabetes. Drinking kombucha tea can help to improve mental health and alleviate the effects of problems like depression and anxiety.
Recipe for Making Your Own Kombucha Tea
The process of making kombucha tea is very simple and you can easily make it at home. With this recipe, you can make 8 cups of kombucha tea. To make more, you can just double the ingredients.
What You Need
A Big Metal or Glass Jar or Bowl with a Broad Opening
Do not use a plastic bowl or jar as during the fermentation period, the chemicals from the plastic can seep into the kombucha tea. Also, avoid ceramic pots as the lead from the ceramic can percolate into the tea when the acid touches the ceramic glaze. The jar or bowl that you are using should have a wide opening to allow plenty of oxygen to reach the kombucha during fermentation.
A Big Piece of Cloth or a Towel
Tie the cloth (any old cotton T-shirt or cotton cloth will also do) or a dish towel around the jar’s opening using a rubber band. Avoid using cheese cloth as the material allows particles to go through.
One Disk of SCOBY
You can buy the SCOBY disc online or it is available in any food store.
8 Cups of Drinking Water
You can use tap water, but it is better if the water is filtered. You may also use distilled water as it contains lesser metal and contaminants when compared to tap water.
Half a Cup of Cane Sugar or Raw Honey
You can use regular sugar to make your kombucha tea. However, using cane sugar preferably organic is a better option. You can also use raw honey instead of cane sugar if you like.
You can use green or black tea and you may use tea leaves or tea bags to make the tea base for your kombucha.
One Cup of Kombucha (Pre-Made)
To make your kombucha tea, you need a first starter batch, which you can buy or get from anyone you know who has made homemade kombucha tea recently. If you are buying the starter kombucha, make sure that you buy unpasteurized kombucha, as the pasteurized ones don’t contain the proper live cultures required.
Directions to Make Your Kombucha Tea
Making the Tea Base: Boil water and stir the sugar in to dissolve it after removing it from the heat. If you are using tea bags, put in the tea bags or else, add the tea leaves and let it steep till the water cools.
Adding the Starter Tea: When the tea has cooled, strain the loose tea leaves or remove and discard the tea bags. Add the starter pre-made kombucha tea and stir it in. This pre-made starter tea helps to prevent unfriendly bacteria from propagating during the process of fermentation by turning the liquid acidic.
Transfer the Brew to Jars and Add the SCOBY: The next step is to transfer the mixture into glass jars and add the SCOBY disc to it. The mouth of the jar must be then covered using the cloth or dish towel and secured using a rubber band. This will help to keep away flies and other insects from the brew. Make sure that the cloth is thin enough to allow sufficient air to pass through.
Ferment the Mixture for 7-10 Days: Keep the jar away from direct sunlight, at room temperature in a place where it will not be disturbed. Let it sit for 7-10 days depending on the flavor you want. Lesser sitting time will result in weaker and less sour-tasting kombucha tea while allowing it to sit longer helps in fermenting it longer and the tea will develop more taste.
During the time of fermentation, you may notice the SCOBY floating at the top, sideways or at the bottom of the jar. In a few days, a new layer of SCOBY will start forming on the top of the kombucha tea. It may be attached to the old SCOBY or may be separated. You may also notice stringy brown bits underneath the SCOBY, bubbles around the SCOBY and some sediment at the bottom. Don’t be alarmed. All these things are normal and are signs of healthy fermentation.
After 7 days, taste some of the kombucha tea daily until it reaches the right balance of tartness and sweetness that you like. The tea is now ready for bottling.
Removing the SCOBY: Remove the SCOBY from the kombucha and place it on a clean plate. If the bottom layer of the SCOBY is too thick, then you can remove it. If you don’t plan to prepare another batch of kombucha tea immediately, then you can store the newly formed SCOBY in some kombucha that you have made earlier. The SCOBY will remain active for many weeks if it stored in some of the kombucha brew in your pantry or on the kitchen counter top at room temperature.
Bottling the Kombucha Tea: The fermented kombucha can be poured into bottles and while doing this, you can add any herbs, juice, or fruit that you want for added flavor. Make sure that you leave around half an inch of space from the top in the bottle. You can also add the flavorings for a couple of days in another jar and then strain the kombucha tea and bottle for a clearer beverage.
Carbonating and Refrigerating the Kombucha: Once the kombucha is bottled, store it away from direct sunlight at room temperature for around 1-3 days to allow it to carbonate and turn fizzy. When you want the carbonation to stop, refrigerate the kombucha tea. Try and consume the tea within a month or it will spoil.
Storing the Kombucha Tea: Use clear glass bottles or jars with tight lids to store the fermented kombucha tea. Avoid using plastic bottles as they may harden or swell and the color from the dyed bottles can leach into the tea. Never shake the bottle of kombucha, as it may explode.
Making the Kombucha Tea Interesting
You can make basic unflavored kombucha tea or you can make it interesting and add some flavors to it like lime juice, ginger juice, cranberry, fresh orange juice or pomegranate juice or blended berries, etc. You can also add natural flavorings that are low in sugar.
The tangy, sweet flavor of the kombucha tea along with it being low in calories and sugar content makes it a very popular replacement for unhealthy soft drinks that are loaded with sugar. It is no wonder that today, kombucha tea is becoming one of the rapidly growing health trends across the globe.