Digestive Health Fermentation Immune Support Nutrition

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea that has quickly become the go-to health drink. Discover its many health benefits, what it tastes like and even how to make it at home.

Kombucha was first coined as ‘the tea of immortality’ and is thought to have originated in the Far East over 2000 years ago. It was created as an elixir to encourage life longevity, boost energy and cure all manner of ailments. In China and Japan, each household would rarely be without a pot of kombucha brewing. In the last couple of years, it seems to have regrown in popularity with superfood fans flocking to reap the rewards that this drink has to offer.

Kombucha is made using sweetened tea and a SCOBY, which stands for a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeasts. Mixed with tea, hot water and sugar and left to ferment, the scoby turns the sugar to ethanol and acid, so the liquid becomes fizzy. During the process, a large amount of probiotic bacteria are created and it’s these that provide an abundance of health benefits to our bodies.

Kombucha benefits: what are they?

There are many supposed benefits to drinking kombucha, but despite its lengthy history many of these theories are yet to be proven. However, here are some evidence-based benefits of kombucha:

1. Probiotics

During the fermentation of kombucha, a large amount of probiotic bacteria are produced. Probiotics are often called ‘good bacteria’, which help to keep a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut. This balance has been linked to overall good health, including a stronger immune system and improved digestive processes[1].

2. Antioxidants

Free radicals are reactive molecules that occur naturally during your body’s processes, but can damage your cells. The best way to reduce their impact is to introduce more antioxidants into your diet, which fight free radicals. Green tea is rich in antioxidants, however, when fermented to make kombucha it is found to have much more.

3. Bad bacteria killer

The acetic acid produced in the fermentation process is said to kill harmful bacteria. Lactic acid is also created, which can help control the production of Candida yeast, which causes infections in some people.

4. Reduces the risk of heart disease

Based on rat studies, it has been found that kombucha leads to higher HDL (good) cholesterol and a reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol. Green tea is also found to have several heart benefits, so making kombucha with this tea variation is even better.

How to make kombucha

Making kombucha at home can seem confusing. However, once you get going, it’s a straightforward process that only takes the correct materials and a bit of patience to get it right.

To make a gallon of kombucha, the ingredients you will need are:

  • 2-3 pints of water (chlorine and fluoride-free)
  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • 8 tea bags or 2 tablespoons of loose tea. This can be green, black or a mixture
  • 2 cups of unpasteurised, unflavoured, readymade kombucha
  • 1 SCOBY

A SCOBY is the reason for turning sweet tea into kombucha, so it’s pretty important. If you can’t purchase it online, you can make a scoby yourself at home. Follow the process below, but leave the liquid for a month. This will create a rubbery skin on the top of the liquid, which acts as a natural barrier to protect the fermenting liquid from bad bacteria[2].

For the kombucha flavouring, we’d recommend fruit, juice, flavoured tea, honey or herbs. You can mix and match depending on your taste preference and you will use these to infuse the kombucha as one of the final stages in the process.

The equipment you’ll need is:

  • Large glass jar
  • A large bowl or pot
  • A tea towel or napkin
  • Glass bottles with plastic lids
  • Funnel

The basic method:

  1. Add the sugar to just-boiled water and stir. Once dissolved, pop the tea in and allow to brew until the water has cooled
  2. Remove the tea and pour in the pre-made kombucha
  3. Pour the liquid into the jar, gently slip the SCOBY in, cover with the cloth and secure with a rubber band
  4. Leave to ferment at room temperature and out of direct sunlight for up to 10 days, checking on it every other day
  5. Take the SCOBY out and put it on a clean plate. This can be used for your next batch
  6. If your kombucha has stringy brown residue, this is totally normal, but you may want to strain the liquid at this point
  7. Now you can either bottle your kombucha and add flavourings, or you can infuse the kombucha with the flavourings for a couple of days, strain and then bottle it
  8. Store for a further 1-2 days to carbonate the liquid and then refrigerate to halt the fermentation and carbonation process

And there you have your very own homemade kombucha.

Is brewing your own kombucha safe?

While many make kombucha at home safely, it is recommended that you follow a few guidelines as kombucha has the potential to make you unwell if made incorrectly. Saying this, it has no more potential than raw meat or unsanitary conditions to induce illness, so just be sure to follow instructions carefully, keep a clean environment, keep the kombucha out of direct sunlight, don’t jostle it about too much and watch out for mould. With all of these in mind, your kombucha should be just fine to drink.

What does kombucha taste like?

Those with a palate for tangy flavours should find the taste of kombucha to their liking. The acetic acid created in the process is found in most vinegars, which is why kombucha has a tart sharpness. Those who can’t stand sourness shouldn’t despair, as there are always the flavoured varieties that tend to mask it.

As for the texture, it’s refreshingly fizzy, which is often helpful for those who like a can of pop from time to time, as kombucha is a much healthier alternative.

Kombucha has the potential to bring you many health benefits due to its fermentation process. If you love its fizzing consistency and tangy taste, then you can have fun making your own kombucha at home.

References

[1] 8 Health benefits of probiotics

2] How to make your own kombucha