Sometime between 2018 and 2019, kombucha became fashionable. This drink, which we could call “derived” from tea, is usually drunk as a soft drink and is positioned as a healthier, more natural and above all, more beneficial alternative (not that it does not harm us, but that it brings us quite a few benefits) than the traditional industrial soft drinks.
And as we know that a large part of our audience is very fond of tea (apart from coffee), we have decided to make room in our pages for tea kombucha and explain its properties and qualities compared to other soft drinks on the market.
What is kombucha?
At this point, many readers will wonder what kombucha tea is. You drink it, yes, but what is it really? An infusion? A soft drink? Coloured water? A new invention?
Well… no. Nothing of the sort. Initially, and being very simple, we could think of kombucha as a fermented tea, but the truth is that it is something more. Much more.
It is an ancient drink that has countless health benefits. Kombucha is natural, probiotic, refreshing and healthy. It is the favourite drink of the healthies and unconditional of the healthy habits. It contains natural bubbles, and many of the companies that produce and market it does so organically, ethically and sustainably.
Let’s classify it as a soft drink if we have to put a label on it. It is advisable to keep it in the fridge and drink it fresh, although the truth is that it does not have a defined use. Basically: take it when you feel like it.
Brief history of kombucha
Kombucha, as we say, has been produced and consumed for many centuries in different parts of the planet. What happens is that in each civilisation and culture, it was known by a different name.
The first references to this fermented tea drink date back to 221 B.C. in far-off China. Throughout history, the drink and probiotic cultures spread throughout Europe, Russia and Japan, thanks mainly to trade routes.
On a large scale, kombucha became fashionable at the end of the 20th century, mainly due to its expansion in North America (mainly in California) motivated by vegetarian and naturalistic tendencies. And from there, we know, the United States is the springboard of the world.
But then, who invented kombucha?
It is not known where Kombucha comes from. Its origin is uncertain, although as we say, it is located in China. Legends attribute the first production of kombucha to very diverse characters, from monks who apparently managed to ferment tea in their long spiritual retreats to emperors or ancient doctors. In short, we are not going to be the ones to pronounce on this matter.
Homemade kombucha recipe: Ingredients
Authentic kombucha has only 4 ingredients:
- Green tea.
- Mineral water.
Easy, isn’t it? Then, in an additional way, a second fermentation can be done with other fruits to obtain varied flavours and tastes. But to make natural, basic and authentic kombucha, these are enough.
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What is scoby?
Well, from the list above, you’ve probably noticed the fourth ingredient. The other three are very common, but Scoby? What is that? Where do they sell Scoby, or how do you get Scoby? Why does it have the name of a cartoon dog?
Well, let’s start with the basics: “Scoby” is actually an acronym for the English expression Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. Hence its name. It is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, which feed on the sugar in the tea. A kind of fungus. A thing that is alive! And, by the way: symbiotic means that the yeast and bacteria mutually depend on each other and help each other to keep the organism alive.
The Scoby is disc-shaped (hence the disc name of kombucha) and is by no means a modern invention. There is evidence that it was already used in East Asia almost two thousand years ago. Almost nothing, eh? And, by the way, it looks very ugly:
The peculiarity of Scoby, apart from all its beneficial properties, lies in the fact that it is capable of multiplying itself each time it ferments as if it produced other crops (“children”) in a completely natural way.
Kombucha Recipe: Preparation
OK, we have the ingredients. We know that many companies market it and that it can be made at home too, but how do we start? How is kombucha made? Let’s look at it step by step:
WARNING: To make homemade kombucha, it is necessary to maintain minimum conditions of hygiene, asepsis and safety, so that the kombucha does not become contaminated.
- First, we use the tea and mineral water to make an infusion of tea in a large pot. We are not going to explain here how to make tea, but basically put the water to boil, turn off the fire, and put the leaves or tea bags inside the pot. Between 10 and 20 minutes will be enough to make it ready. Remove the tea bags, you will not need them anymore.
- Add the sugar to your infusion. It should dissolve well, so be sure to stir it well with a spoon.
- Cover the pot with a clean cloth and let it cool down to room temperature. It will take a while depending on the amount of water you have used.
- Next, we are going to pour our sugared tea, cooled down to room temperature (this is basic: do not use it hot), into a large glass jar in which we are going to carry out the fermentation.
- We put the scoby inside the pot with the tea, and cover it with a clean cloth. Usually a rubber band is used to secure the cloth around the opening of the glass jar.
- Last step: wait.
The fermentation process of kombucha can take several weeks. The longer it takes, the more sugar the Scoby consumes, and the more acidic your kombucha will be in the end. Ideally, it should ferment slowly, in a warm (but not too warm) space and away from sunlight. As you can guess, no two Kombucha are the same, not all have the same amount of sugar, and the result depends a lot on the taste of the person making it.
When is the kombucha finished? Well, basically, when the taste is to your liking. From the first week, you can try it to see how it tastes.
You have to take into account that the kombucha, in order to make sense, should not be pasteurized. Pasteurization is a process that eliminates bacteria and enzymes, but that is exactly what we do not want to happen in a fermented product because then it would lose all its properties. There are companies in the industry that market pasteurised kombucha, but in this way, it is just like any other soft drink.
All this means that we must be very careful with cleanliness when making kombucha at home and basically discard any liquid or kombucha production that looks bad. We do not have the safeguard of pasteurisation after the fact.
How to flavour kombucha
Most kombucha brands have several types of flavoured kombucha in their catalogue. How can this be achieved? Simply by flavouring the original kombucha. That is: by adding a second additional process to the first fermentation.
This second fermentation can be done with fruit or juice (some manufacturers, for example, use organic juices to experiment and then market kombucha in different flavours).
The best of kombucha: Properties and benefits
The benefits of Kombucha are multiple, but we start with the most obvious:
- It is natural, much more natural than any industrial soft drink. Therefore: healthier.
- It has very few calories and very little sugar.
- It has bubbles, but it is not a drink with added gas. The bubbles in kombucha are natural.
- And last but not least, it is very tasty and super-refreshing. Well, this is subjective, but that’s what everyone says, so there’s a reason for that, don’t you think?
Apart from these advantages of kombucha, the drink provides another series of benefits and properties for the body, which of course, you won’t find in any other industrial soft drink. Why? Because that’s why kombucha is probiotic. Yes: once again, the Scoby is to blame for all the good things about this soft drink.
That sounds a bit strange, but it’s the truth: when you drink kombucha, you are introducing living bacteria into your body, which are very, very good for your health. Still don’t believe it? Well, here’s a summary, to make it clear to you:
What does kombucha taste like?
Unfortunately, we cannot tell you, as the advances of the Internet do not yet allow us to send aromas and tastes over the net (everything will be taken care of). However, we know that many people hear about kombucha and its properties and how good it is, and the first question they ask is what does it taste like? The innate curiosity of the human being.
Let’s see; we assume that any company that manufactures or markets kombucha tea will tell you that its taste is excellent, refreshing, attractive, it is logical. They are not going to throw stones at your roof.
But the taste of kombucha is different. And like everything else, some people find it hard to get used to at first. It happens, in fact, with any fermented product. Kombucha is a strange combination of sour and sweet. Something vinegary. In fact, the longer it ferments, the more that vinegar taste is accentuated. Some people even find similarities with (apple) cider.
Of course, all this refers to the original kombucha. Kombucha with flavours also has nuances of fruit or additional ingredients that would have been used to flavour it.
Does kombucha have alcohol?
Due to the fermentation process, it is possible for very low levels of alcohol to appear in Kombucha tea (between 0.2% and 2%). It is not considered an alcoholic beverage, as this amount is below the established minimum threshold.
It has theine and caffeine because it is made from tea, but these are always present at very low levels. In any case, for prevention purposes, it is always recommended to avoid consuming kombucha during pregnancy and breastfeeding (as with any cola or coffee).
Does kombucha have sugar?
Very little. During the fermentation process, the Scoby organisms feed on the sugar present in the tea so that, in the end, very little sugar remains in the kombucha. The exact amount cannot be predicted because it depends on each case, but it is always very low. So low that it is not even considered a sugary drink. And, of course, much less than the amount of sugar present in any industrial soft drink.
Does kombucha have caffeine?
Caffeine or theine is naturally present in tea but disappears to a great extent with fermentation. It is not possible to give an exact figure, but on average, the theine or caffeine present in kombucha can be a third of what a cup of tea would have.
Kombucha vs Kefir: Differences
There are numerous comparisons between kombucha and water kefir, two vaguely similar preparations, which have two main things in common:
- They are fermented drinks.
- They are probiotics.
However, water kefir has not yet achieved the fame and popularity of kombucha. In this section, we will try to briefly explain the differences between the two to clarify concepts for those who are discovering them now.
WARNING: We always talk about water kefir, not milk kefir, which is a different food.
- To begin with, water kefir is fermented – as its name suggests – from water and sugar, not tea.
- The fermentation is much faster than that of kombucha.
- Water kefir grains (the symbiotic complex equivalent to kombucha scoby) have more bacteria than yeast. In the case of scoby, there are more yeasts than bacteria.
- The taste of water kefir is much milder than that of kombucha.
Which is better, water kefir or kombucha? That depends. They have different properties and benefits, and the taste isn’t nearly the same either, so it’s a matter of taste.
Where to get your kombucha
Many readers will come to this page looking directly for where to buy Kombucha.
It is really complicated to find Kombucha in physical shops. It may be easier to buy Kombucha in big city shops, but in general, the distribution of Kombucha tea still has a long way to go, and there is room for improvement.
Buying Kombucha online is much easier and more accessible, so this is the option we recommend from here. There are several brands of kombucha on Amazon, and it couldn’t be easier!