Kombucha – Fermented Tea

by Catherine Haug, April 12. 2012

Kombucha – fermented black or green tea, or tea kvass – is becoming a popular heath-beverage. When fruit juice is added, it’s a healthful alternative to soda pop. We learned how to make kombucha from Jeanette Cheney, using the SCOBY (or ‘mushroom’) at our August 2011 gathering (Lacto-Fermentation, with Don Bates & Jeanette Cheney).

If you’ve never had kombucha before, you might want to try one of the Synergy Kombucha beverages that have added fruit juice, and is not as tart as regular kombucha. [Synergy comes in glass bottles that you can take to the Wellness Education Center (WEC), where Jeanette will reuse them.] After you’ve accustomed to this flavor, try the bottled 100% kombucha before embarking on your own brew.

Also, start with a small amount – about 4 oz – daily for a couple weeks, then gradually increase the amount over time.

What’s in kombucha that makes it so special?

The scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts) – which is also called a ‘mother’ or a ‘mushroom’ – is used to make sequential batches of this probiotic beverage. Generally, kombucha is quite tart – almost vinegar-like – from its many beneficial acids: glucuronic, gluconic, lactic, acetic, butyric, malic and usnic acid, that result from the SCOBY digesting the added sugar. These acids are essential for the liver’s detoxification pathways.

The beverage is rich in vitamins B and C, amino acids, enzymes and probiotics, all of which have health benefits. Kombucha may also contain a small amount of alcohol (less than 1%), and releases carbon dioxide as bubbles.

Like it cousins, cultured milk, kombucha has similar antibiotic, antiviral and anti fungal properties. See Seeds of Health: What is Kombucha for more detail.

Caution on using different teas

While black or green tea make the most viable kombucha, there are recipes using herbal teal/tissanes. However, Jeanette cautions:

KombuchaKamp.com addresses what kinds of tea to use when making kombucha. It suggests that black and green are best for the health of the culture:

When you brew Kombucha with herbal infusions (also called tisanes), you may get a delicious, healthy fermented beverage, but over time, due to the lack of necessary nutrients, the culture will atrophy and eventually die.'”

If you wish to make kombucha with an herbal tea (such as mullein – see Counter Culture: Better Kombucha for Adrenal Support), save a daughter SCOBY for this use, and periodically reinvigorate it with several batches of black or green tea.

The SCOBY is also very sensitive to volatile oils, so avoid any teas flavored with these oils, such as Earl Grey which is flavored with bergamot oil.

For more information

  1. The EssentiaList: Lacto-Fermentation Recipes, from Jeanette Cheney (pdf)
  2. Seeds of Health: What is Kombucha
  3. Weston A Price Foundation: Kvass and Kombucha: Gifts from Russia
  4. The Happy Herbalist: Kombucha Mushroom Tea; Cautions & Concerns; Smart Brewing Tips
  5. Kombucha Kamp: Tea and Kombucha – What to Use and What to Avoid
  6. Food Renegade: How to Brew Kombucha – Double-Fermentation Method
  7. Counter Culture: Better Kombucha for Adrenal Support
  8. Counter Culture: Are You Coughing? Kombucha Cough Syrup to the Rescue!
  9. Phase I and II Detox Pathways
  10. Detoxification in the Liver

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