There’s no better way to kick up a fizz this springtime than with kombucha. This fermented tea drink—just like its friends matcha and chai—has undergone a huge boost in popularity during recent years and now lines the shelves at every grocery store!
As bubbly as bubble tea and enzyme-filled as pu-erh, kombucha is famous for treading the line when it comes to taste buds. Fans laud the tea’s perfect equilibrium between sweet and satisfying while others find it much too tart or acidic.
Whatever side you stand on, there’s no denying that this effervescent and ballsy brew is here to stay! Given The Tea Centre regularly receive requests for kombucha tea base recommendations, we’re dedicating this week’s entry to all things fermented tea.
The history of kombucha
In Australia, kombucha’s popularity traces back to where all great trends start…the noughties. Specifically, it was only 2009 when MOJO Beverages became the first Australian brand to sell kombucha commercially.
Globally, however, the tea’s history goes back much further than that. Kombucha’s origins lie in Manchuria where tea brewers began experimenting with fermenting teas in 220 BC. Well-known for its health properties even back then, traders began distributing the tea to Japan and Europe through the silk road.
Notably, the drink became popular in Russia and Germany where it was called Kambucha and Kombuchaschwamm respectively. Finally, kombucha-happy backpackers along with immigration eventually saw the beverage land on Australian shores.
How is kombucha made?
Not very aesthetically, if The Tea Centre has to be honest! A crucial part of kombucha’s fermentation process involves a SCOBY. This stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”.
Best described as an ugly enzyme pancake, a SCOBY floats in kombucha’s sugar-and-tea blend at room temperature for 1–3 weeks. This marks the first fermentation process.
The second fermentation involves removing the SCOBY and bottling the kombucha for a further 1–2 weeks. This gives the substance time to carbonate. After this second fermentation, it’s important that you refrigerate the kombucha. This is to slow down the tea’s carbonation process and retain the beverage’s antimicrobial properties.
While The Tea Centre encourages kombucha lovers to try home-brewing, please note the need to follow beverage safety protocols at every step! We suggest looking at other websites like Kombucha Kamp for more information on how to safely brew kombucha at home.
The Health Benefits
Kombucha sports many benefits that makes it a healthier alternative to other carbonated beverages. While it can’t cure terminal illnesses (a myth that found legs in the ’90s), the tea does wonders for your wellbeing and overall digestion.
Specifically, beverage companies often market kombucha as a natural and healthy substitute to soft drink and even alcohol. There is truth in this, as the cultures in kombucha are thought to be immunity-boosting and promote gut bacteria diversity.
Kombucha also contains a number of vitamins (C, B1, B6, and B12), essential amino acids like leucine and isoleucine, and the tasty antioxidant EGCG (especially if you use a green tea base). Speaking of tea bases, find our recommendations below!
#1 | East Frisian
Without camellia sinensis (the common tea plant), there is no kombucha! The larger the caffeine, theanine, and nitrogen in the tea leaf, the more nutritious your kombucha brew will be.
Therefore, we recommend that home-brewing beginners start off using black loose leaf like East Frisian as their tea base. This Assam tea has organic status, which eliminates the likelihood of competing bacteria or chemicals contaminating your SCOBY.
Furthermore, this tea has spicy top notes that add extra natural flavour to your kombucha upon fermentation.
#2 | Organic Sencha
Green teas are another popular base for kombucha. Moreover, The Tea Centre’s Japanese sencha ticks all the boxes! It’s organic, full of EGCG, and produces a crisp and fresh-tasting kombucha.
Green tea bases are also thought to produce fizzier brew. If you want to make your batch less bubbly, we suggest mixing it with black tea or oolong!
To add complex tasting notes to your kombucha, we suggest taking advantage of the nuttiness and vegetal flavour found in our Vietnamese High Mountain Oolong tea!
Having undergone quality testing in Germany, this oolong is the perfect loose leaf to help take your tea to the next level. Furthermore, its abundance of antioxidants, polyphenols, and flavonoids is sure to have a positive effect on the microbes found in your final kombucha batch!
#4 | Hibiscus (second fermentation)
Its commonly understood that herbal tisanes don’t have enough compound nutrients to sustain a SCOBY during the first fermentation process. However, you can add extra flavour in the second fermentation through infusing hibiscus!
Unlike other herbal tisanes whose natural oils may interfere with the kombucha’s SCOBY or the second fermentation’s carbonation process, hibiscus is the exception to the rule. In fact, the good bacteria in kombucha love to feed on the high natural sugar content in hibiscus. This makes the drink even fizzier!
Simply add your hibiscus tisane before bottling your brew and extract the leaves 3–10 days afterwards.
#5 | Peach Sangria (second fermentation)
Just like hibiscus, a number of our fruit tisanes are the perfect flavour boosters to add to your kombucha’s second fermentation!
In particular, Peach Sangria has the same abundance of sugar that bacteria loves while also adding texture should you decide to not strain the end batch. Furthermore, your kombucha will also boast unique tropical flavours stemming from the fruit tisane’s papaya, pineapple, and rosehip!
Are you a kombucha-brewing aficionado that’s seeking more recommendations? Be sure to explore our whole collection of second fermentation-friendly fruit tisanes here.