Just like when a meticulous Chef picks his ingredients making sure that it’s only of the best Quality and freshness, so does the “Kombucha Master Brewer” pick only the Best ingredients to create the best taste + character in one serving of Brilliantly Crafted Kombucha.
It’s usually the second ferment that comes to mind when kombucha brewers think of the flavor of their brew but flavoring actually starts when you start brewing your sweat tea. Ingredients are the major game changer when it comes to flavor and it starts with the choice of tea, sugar, and water.
So it’s only logical that the tea of choice has a great impact on flavor and health benefits of the brew because in many ways Kombucha adopts and mirrors the flavor and health benefits the tea provides. Not only that but the microorganisms in the kombucha SCOBY feeds on the nutrients in the tea, these microbes have evolved to feed on the tea made from the Camellia sinensis leaves. (the earlier mentioned Normal Chinese Tea) This is the type of tea that works well to keep your brew balanced and your SCOBY healthy, if you use the wrong tea type you may kill your SCOBY.
The tea you choose isn’t only great for SCOBY health but also contributes to your own health because of the vitamin and mineral content.
Studies have been done on health benefits of tea and here I’ve included the outcome of one specific study done by some Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. They have found that tea consumption, both black and green tea, can extend years of life after a heart attack. It was found that Antioxidants in tea, may have a protective role to play in rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and some cancers, reduce the risk of strokes and minimize damage from smoking. Put that in your cup + drink it. 🙂
To give you a good idea of the good stuff I’ve listed some of it below:
Tea contains Carotene A precursor to vitamin A, vitamin B1, Riboflavin Nicotinic acid, Pantothenic acid, vitamin C, vitamin B6, Folic acid, Quercetin, Rutin, Manganese, and Potassium. As well as Theanine – an amino acid that produces calming effects in the brain.
There are other “tea” types such as Herbal tea or Tisanes, as the French call it, like Yerba Mate and Rooibos. Tea mainly considered to be made from any other plant that’s soaked in hot water to make an infused beverage that doesn’t contain caffeine. Yes, It may be called tea but to the kombucha brewer tea in it’s truest form comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant.
We know there are literally hundreds of different tea types, just pop in at a good tea merchant if you don’t believe me… there’s just no chance of getting bored. But there’s is some teas that don’t work well with brewing kombucha.
Teas to avoid
Here are some teas to avoid with the first ferment.
Extremely Smokey or other strongly-flavored teas like Lasang Suchong. They may be good for the SCOBY but my-oh-MY your taste buds may not like it.
Flavored tea – This type of tea is not recommended at all for kombucha making. Flavored teas are normally black, green and oolong teas, that’s flavored. The artificial additives used to give the tea a specific fruity or herby flavor can interrupt SCOBY growth and development resulting in a poor brew.
Medicinal herbal teas. Some of these contain antibacterial agents, and since your SCOBY is made of bacteria that may cause deterioration.
Decaffeinated tea. The SCOBY uses the caffeine as a nutrient. There is not much left in the finished kombucha, which will be lower in caffeine than regular brewed tea or coffee. You can use Decaffeinated tea to experiment with EXTRA SCOBYs, but don’t expect the SCOBY to do well.. it may adapt or not at all. Some Kombucha Brewers claim they use Rooibos tea only and are quite happy with the results.
Herbal teas should not be used on their own unless they are a blend of real tea and herbs. You can add herbal tea bags to real tea to add a flavor to the kombucha. But make sure they don’t contain essential oils or artificial flavorings and sweeteners. Some herbal teas like Peppermint tea contain high levels of volatile oils that can cause strain on the microorganisms and even reducing the levels of Glucorinoic acid in the end product. Earl Grey, for instance, contains bergamot, an aromatic oil that can smother the SCOBY and kill it. You can, however, add herbal teas to the second ferment for added health benefits and flavor.
Even though it’s flavorsome and have great health benefits, the Tisanes doesn’t provide the Microorganisms in the Kombucha Brew with enough nitrogen, tannins, and caffeine to make a successful brew.
There may be some exceptions like Rooibos tea, I have made kombucha with Rooibos tea numerous times and it turned out great but my SCOBYs was thin and it deteriorated.. so Rooibos tea can be used successfully, but maybe not batch after batch!
It’s always a good idea to keep a backup hub or SCOBY hotel made from normal black or green tea to keep some strong SCOBYs for backup because the Rooibos tea SCOBYs can sometimes grow quite thin and may deteriorate completely.
Thin SCOBYs at the end of the fermentation cycle is evident of the bacteria part struggling to flourish and the balance is tipped more to a yeasty brew, this problem can be sorted and I talk more about this in my troubleshooting guide.