Kombucha tea is a popular health drink made from the active bacteria and yeast cultures that grow on kombucha, which is a colony of bacteria and yeast often referred to incorrectly as a mushroom. When prepared, organic raw kombucha is combined with tea, sugar and an acidic component, and allowed to rest or ferment for about 14 days, depending on the exact recipe you use. While many people find kombucha is an enjoyable beverage to drink, kombucha tea might not provide any health benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic. When you first start making kombucha tea, always follow a recipe from a reputable source to use proper food safety guidelines and to ensure your personal health and safety.
Pick Your Tea
Kombucha is always made with brewed, sweetened tea, but you can use different types of tea, depending on the taste you want. Black tea is the most common type of tea used for making kombucha -- and if you’re trying to match a commercial or prepared variety you’ve had before -- use black tea. However, you can use brewed green tea, rooibos, chamomile and white tea to make kombucha. Teas that contain essential oils for flavoring like chai or bergamot should be avoided because they can damage the culture used to make kombucha. Use organic loose-leaf tea for optimal flavor, and brew the tea just as you would for drinking it on its own.
Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY) or Mother of Kombucha
Symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, often shortened to an acronym as SCOBY or mother of kombucha, is collected from bacteria and yeast from the kombucha culture and used to make kombucha tea. SCOBY is a flat, cap-like culture that grows on the top of a kombucha colony, and that is how it is commonly packaged and sold. While you can grow your own SCOBY using a bottle of commercially prepared kombucha, it is much faster and easier to purchase the SCOBY from a health food store or online retailer specializing kombucha products. Look for SCOBY that is tan or ivory in color and avoid any product that has black, orange or green mold, as mold is a reliable sign that the culture is no longer active.
Sugar is an important part of the fermentation process needed to make kombucha. When making kombucha, you should use plain white sugar or organic evaporated cane crystals to guarantee your finished product will have the proper pH level of between 2.6 and 4.0. You can also use raw turbinado sugar, a type of raw sugar that is spun through turbines to and has more molasses flavor than granulated sugar because it is less processed. While you can use molasses or brown sugar to make kombucha, you will need to check the pH level, using a special pH meter to make sure you have the proper pH level, even if you’re following a proven recipe. You can purchase a pH meter made for food from some restaurant supply stores and from various online stores. Do not use raw honey or artificial sweeteners to make kombucha. Raw honey contains bacteria that can negatively affect the fermentation process of your kombucha tea. Artificial sweeteners are mostly plant-based and don't aid in fermentation, so they can't be used to make kombucha tea.
Adding Prepared Kombucha or Vinegar
Kombucha must have a pH of between 2.6 and 4.0, so the addition of an acidic liquid is necessary to make the safe for consumption. The most common acidic ingredient used to make kombucha is already prepared kombucha tea -- either from your personal supply or from a bottle from a reputable manufacturer. Previously prepared kombucha should make up approximately 1/8 of the batch you are making. As an alternative to prepared kombucha, you can use distilled white vinegar or pasteurized apple cider vinegar. Using vinegar will make the prepared kombucha tea have a slightly more bitter taste than it would be if you were using prepared kombucha tea as an acidic ingredient.
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- Mayo Clinic: Consumer Health: Question: What Is Kombucha Tea? Does It Have Any Health Benefits?
- Going Raw: Everything You Need to Start Your Own Raw Food Diet and Lifestyle Revolution at Home: Judita Wignall
Christopher Godwin is a freelance writer from Los Angeles. He spent his formative years as a chef and bartender crafting signature dishes and cocktails as the head of an upscale catering firm. He has since ventured into sharing original creations and expertise with the public. Godwin has published poetry, fiction and nonfiction in publications like "Spork Magazine," "Cold Mountain Review" and "From Abalone To Zest."