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What Is Kombucha?

What Is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a foreign drink to many of us. But whether or not you've heard of it, it’s a drink that should be on your radar. Known for its health benefits and medicinal uses, kombucha is appearing on more and more shelves in grocery stores and health shops and can even be brewed at home.

Watch the "Thass Kombucha" Music Video

While you may not have heard of it before, kombucha has been around since 221 B.C., when it was first used as a medicinal cure in China during the Tsin Dynasty and was known as the "Tea of Immortality."

Containing tea and sugar fermented with kombucha culture, or a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, kombucha is said to taste like a hybrid of champagne and sparkling apple cider — not your average tea flavor profile. Depending on the type of tea — black tea, oolong tea, green tea, and white tea are ideal — used in fermentation, kombucha can vary from a lighter taste to a stronger, cider-like taste. To make the drink, the kombucha culture, resembling a rubbery pancake, is placed in the sweetened tea, transforming it into a healthy combination of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and organic acids.

Though scientific research on kombucha is somewhat limited, the tea is known to have quite a number of health benefits. These include detoxifying the body, boosting the immune system, improving digestion and liver function, and slowing the aging process. It’s also believed by many to be able to cure baldness, insomnia, intestinal disorders, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and even cancer — all reasons you may want to start drinking it.

If you want to know more about kombucha, the organic drink company Reed’s, partnering with Cashmere Agency, just launched its GET CULTURED campaign. To kick off the campaign, they've released the music video "Thass Kombucha," featuring indie rapper Murs and YouTube sensation DJ Dave, to educate non-kombucha drinkers about the tea. Through rap and hip-hop beats, the music video introduces you to kombucha, what’s in it, what it can do for you, and more. Watch it here or watch it below!

Haley WIllard is The Daily Meal's assistant editor. Follow her on Twitter @haleywillrd.


  • 2 organic green teabags (or 2 tsp loose leaf)
  • 2 organic black teabags bags (or 2 tsp loose leaf)
  • 100-200g granulated sugar , to taste
  • 1 medium scoby , plus 100-200ml starter liquid

Method

For essential information on brewing safely, our top recipe tips and fun flavours to try, read our guide on how to make kombucha. Pour 1.8 litres boiled water into a saucepan, add the teabags and sugar (depending on how sweet you like it or the bitterness of your tea), stir to dissolve the sugar and leave for 6-10 mins to infuse.

Remove and discard the teabags without squeezing them. Leave the tea to cool completely before pouring into a large 2.5- to 3-litre glass jar. Add the scoby and its starter liquid, leaving a minimum of 5cm space at the top of the jar.

Cover the jar with a cloth or kitchen paper so the scoby can ɻreathe'. Secure with an elastic band and label the jar with the date and its contents.

Leave to ferment for one to two weeks at room temperature and away from radiators, the oven or direct sunlight. Do not put the jar in a cupboard, as air circulation is important.

After the first week, taste the kombucha daily – the longer you leave it, the more acidic the flavour will become. When ready, pour the kombucha into bottles, making sure to reserve the scoby and 100-200ml of starter fluid for the next batch.

The kombucha is ready to drink immediately, or you can start a ‘secondary fermentation’ by adding flavours such as fruit, herbs and spices to the drawn-off liquid and leaving it bottled for a few more days before drinking. Will keep in the fridge for up to three months.
Lemon & ginger kombucha
Add the zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1-2 tsp grated ginger to 750ml kombucha and mix well. Pour into a flip-top bottle and seal. Leave at room temperature for two to four days, tasting daily, until it has reached the desired level of carbonation and flavour. Strain and chill to serve.

Berry kombucha
Add a handful of chopped strawberries, blueberries or bashed raspberries to 750ml kombucha and mix well. Pour into a flip-top bottle and seal. Leave at room temperature for two to four days, tasting daily, until it has reached the desired level of carbonation and flavour. Strain and chill to serve.


Homestead Kombucha Recipes that Work!

As an avid kombucha brewer, I have tried tons of recipes. Some were hits, others not so much. To save you some trouble, here’s my line-up of go-to kombucha flavors.

1. The Arnold Palmer of Kombucha, a.k.a. Kombucha Lemonade

You’ve been working in the garden all morning. The sun is starting to burn a hole in the back of your shirt. Your lips have just reached that level of parched that gets you off the ground, away from the pile of weeds you just finished pulling, and onto the front porch for refreshment.

What’s better than a 50/50 mix of tea and lemonade? Well, that would be a 50/50 mix of kombucha tea and lemonade of course!

All those refreshing benefits of an Arnold Palmer boosted with an infusion of probiotic goodness. This drink is enough to make you want to head back out for another round of sun-scorch and weed eradication!

2. Cuckoo for Coconut Kombucha

I am sure I don’t have to tell you about the health and hydrating benefits of coconuts. Whether you use it for toothpaste, in your cast iron pan, in your curry, or in your kombucha, coconut is the bomb!

You can make kombucha from coconut water rather than using tea bags. There are a few tricks to it. And quite frankly, your SCOBY won’t live as long if you don’t follow the guide.

Or, you can use coconut meat and traditional kombucha for a flavor mash-up that will make your mouth water with proper hydration.

3. Lovely Lavender Kombucha

Work hard, relax hard! That’s my motto as a homesteader.

Lavender, a perennial plant I grow a lot of, is one of the most relaxing substances around. When I am having a bad day, just a hint of lavender, fresh or dried, helps get me back on track.

When I add it to my kombucha beverage, it’s like being transported to the lavender fields of Provence for a while. Cool, refreshing, enticingly aromatic – this kombucha will elevate your senses while also grounding you.

I recommend sipping it while sitting in your herb garden (if you’ve got one). Or sip it while dreaming about your soon-to-be herb garden if you’re just getting started!

4. Fabulous Fizzy Ginger Kombucha

If you happen to be of the “occasional cocktail persuasion,” this recipe makes kombucha that is perfect for use as a ginger beer substitute in the classic Moscow Mule.

If you prefer to take your fizzy beverages without the added vodka, then serve this one up with a splash of lime juice and a mint garnish to make it a mocktail.

5. Bubbly on a Budget – Kombucha Champagne

There is nothing more festive than a bottle of bubbly to make an event special. On a homesteading budget, though, it’s not something I get to enjoy more than a few times a year.

Luckily, there’s kombucha champagne to the rescue! Elderflowers, Lemon Verbena, and Linden flowers make a potent flavor combo. It elevates ordinary meals to ecstatic events. Pop open a bottle whenever you need a pick me up!

6. Turmeric Tonic Kombucha

Turmeric is one of my favorite spices. There is something earthy, rich, and enticing about the aroma. I use it almost every time I cook meat or make curries. Until I came across this recipe, I never thought of putting it in my kombucha.

Mixed with a little OJ and a dash of cinnamon, it makes a soothing, anti-inflammatory, and entirely delicious tonic that warms my heart! Since turmeric is often used in herbal medicine to promote heart-health and self-esteem, I suspect you’ll have the same experience when you try this recipe.

7. Berryade Kombucha – The Ginger, Berry, and Lemonade Bomb!

Just about any sweet berry you grow can work well in this recipe. Honeyberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, Juneberries, gooseberries, and more are all great choices.

If you don’t have lemons, you can also substitute other lemon-like things such as rhubarb or red sumac berries to bring up the tartness and acidity of this flavor exploding drink!

Pack a cup with sumac tree berries (not to be confused with poison sumac) or finely chopped rhubarb. Cover with boiling water and allow to sit until cool. Press and strain the solids. Then use the liquid instead of lemon juice in the recipe.

8. Chocolate Decadence Kombucha – ¡Ay, caramba!

How about a cup of chocolate without the guilt? It can be yours with this tasty, decadent kombucha recipe based on the flavors of Mexican Chocolate. Sweet, spicy, savory, and – of course – chocolatey, this recipe makes you rethink what’s possible in the world of probiotics!

Personally, I like to drink this one with a chunk of 85% dark chocolate to really up my flavonoid intake. However you drink it — adding cacao nibs and some spices to kombucha make for an exotic experience!

9. A Moment on the Lips, A Lifetime of Love for Rosehips Kombucha

I made this one up. I take two tablespoons dried rose hips and ¼ cup dried hibiscus flowers and add them to a half gallon of fresh made, room-temperature kombucha.

Allow them to steep in a sealed jar at room temperature for 24 hours. Refrigerate the jar, herbs and all, until it is good and chilled. Then pour into wine glasses and enjoy.

It is my favorite go-to kombucha around the cold season. Rose hips are high in vitamin-C, and I swear can feel that tartness doing its magic in helping me fend off colds and such.

10. Fall Favorite – Apple Cider Kombucha

Some friends of ours hold an old-fashioned cider pressing event at their private orchard each year. We all take turns cranking the handle and loading apples into the hopper to squeeze out fresh apple cider.

We go through thousands of pounds of apples that day. In exchange for our help, we all get to take home gallons of fresh apple cider. I turn some of my share into dry sparkling cider. But a few cups get reserved for my all-time favorite: fall-flavored kombucha.

This recipe is super simple and unbelievably tasty. Trust me though, it tastes even better if you pressed the fresh cider yourself or bought it locally from farmers you know. There are apple-y goodness and wholesomeness in every sip!


2. And some starter liquid.

Think of the starter liquid as your activator, the bacteria-packed potion that kick-starts your kombucha. "It&rsquos the unspoken hero of the kombucha brew," says Childs. Ideally, get your starter liquid from the same place you get your SCOBY. You'll want at least 1 cup to make a gallon batch.

The other option is to use commercial brew (make sure it&rsquos plain), although experts warn that the stuff you buy at the grocery store doesn&rsquot have the diversity of bacterial strains for a full spectrum brew. I&rsquove used both and found that the homegrown starter liquid developed more flavor and fizz than the store-bought stuff.


Kombucha Recipes &ndash How To Make Fizzy Kombucha with Secondary Fermentation

First things first &ndash the question everyone always asks &ndash &ldquoHow do you make fizzy kombucha instead of flat?&rdquo

The initial fermentation of your kombucha may create a bit of carbonation on its own. That&rsquos because the scoby makes an airtight seal in the brewing vessel, allowing CO2 to build up underneath.

The best way to get fizz in your kombucha is through secondary fermentation. Secondary fermentation occurs when you bottle your kombucha.

Here are some tips for increasing carbonation in the bottle to get fizzy kombucha:

  • Add sugar &ndash Yeast gobbles up sugar and the result is bubbles! Sugar can be added in the form of fruit (fresh, pureed or dried) or with a squirt of honey. (See flavoring recipes below.)
  • Fill bottles completely &ndash Less oxygen means more room for carbon dioxide to build up.
  • Cap tightly &ndash Don&rsquot let those bubbles escape. If you are reusing bottles, make sure the lids are tight. Flip-top bottles are a great choice because they seal completely.
  • Leave out on counter &ndash Warm air leads to more fizz. (Note: Exploding kombucha bottles are rare but you should check bottles after 2 to 3 days at room temperature and consider moving to the refrigerator if the carbonation level is high. This is especially true in summertime temps!)

That said, once you start brewing kombucha, you&rsquoll find that the amount of carbonation can be hit or miss. Some bottles bring on a huge amount of fizz (best to open bottles over the sink, just in case!) and some just fizzle out.

When you do get a flat bottle of kombucha, just mix it with a little carbonated water to get your desired fizz!

RELATED: Kombucha vs. Kefir &ndash Learn about the similarities and differences of these two fermented drinks.


Kombucha

A fizzy-drink addict? Loved a sugar-laced iced tea in your past life? Let me introduce you to The ’Bucha.

Preparation

Skill level

You might have seen kombucha-crazed kids parodied about town and rolled your eyes with the masses. Fair enough. It’s kind of boundary-pushing stuff. But I’ll try to ground it for us. Kombucha is a slightly fizzy, fermented ‘iced tea’ made by adding a SCOBY (short for ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast’) to a batch of brewed tea. This spongy, mushroomy thing propels the drink (by eating sugar – yes, sugar!!) to become an ‘alive’ gut-healing beverage. The stuff is brimful of probiotics and is a standout for digestive health.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup rice malt syrup, or sugar if you prefer
  • 2 organic black tea bags (many say non-organic tea just doesn’t work as well)
  • ½ cup kombucha (from a previous batch or store-bought)
  • 1 SCOBY (see Note)

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.

Instructions

Sterilise a broad-mouthed glass or ceramic bowl or jug with boiling water. (It needs a wide opening to allow plenty of contact with oxygen.) Combine the rice malt syrup or sugar in a saucepan with 1 litre of water and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, add the tea bags, cover and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Remove the tea bags and pour the liquid into the sterilised container. Leave it to cool to around body temperature. Or cooler. (This is important, Hot tea will kill the mother.)

Add the kombucha and then gently place the SCOBY on top (it may sink, but this is okay). Cover with a clean tea towel or muslin and leave to sit for 7–10 days (a week will be plenty in warm weather and/or if you use sugar). The temperature needs to be around 24–30°C.

At the end of 7–10 days, a ‘baby’ SCOBY will have formed on top of the ‘mother’. Remove both SCOBYs, placing them in a glass container. Pour a little of the kombucha liquid onto the SCOBYs, then pour the rest into a 1 litre swing-top bottle (one with a hinged lid and rubber stopper), or a plastic soft-drink bottle, and refrigerate, ensuring you leave a 2–3 cm space at the top.

To make it fizzier: Get a little more fizz going by adding a dash of extra rice malt syrup or a little chopped fruit and securing the lid. Leave the bottle out at room temperature for an additional 2–4 days. The live yeast and bacteria will continue to consume the residual sugar from both the fi rst fermentation, plus the extra dash you’ve just added. In the absence of oxygen (now that the whole thing is lidded), carbon dioxide is produced (and trapped), thus building up the fi zz. (If you like a ’bucha with fizz, you may wish to use sugar instead of rice malt syrup in the fermenting stage. It fi zzes faster.)

• SCOBYs can’t be manufactured as such but are spawned from a ‘mother’ when one makes a batch of brew. Regular kombucha makers are always happy to give away a baby SCOBY. Check out sarahwilson.com for details on finding one online.

For strawberry and vanilla kombucha, place 3 cups plain kombucha (made as above), 6-8 fresh or frozen strawberries and 1 vanilla pod (or ¼ tsp pure vanilla extract) in a large jar with a tight seal or a 1-litre swing-top bottle and let it sit at room temperature for 3–4 days. You can choose to strain the strawberries and vanilla pod out after 2 days and rebottle, if you like. Use the leftover fermented strawberries with yoghurt for dessert or breakfast.

For chai kombucha, place place 3 cups plain kombucha (made as above), 5 cloves or cadamom pods, I cinnamon stick, broken up, a 3 cm knob of ginger or tumeric, cut into matchsticks and 1 star anise in a large jar with a tight seal or a 1-litre swing-top bottle and let it sit at room temperature for 3–4 days. You can choose to strain the spices out after 2 days and rebottle, though I don't as I prefer the mixture to become stronger with time.

Recipe and image from I Quit Sugar: Simplicious by Sarah Wilson (Macmillan Australia, RRP $39.99). Read our article about kombucha here.


How to flavor kombucha

So you’ve got kombucha from a first fermentation and now it’s ready for the second fermentation, so let’s add your flavors! Here’s a quick guide for how to flavor kombucha:

  1. Pour kombucha into fermentation bottles, leaving a little space at the top to add your flavors and to allow breathing space.
  2. Add flavors, like fruit, sugar, honey, or table sugar.
  3. Seal tightly. An airtight seal is important for creating carbonated and fizzy kombucha.
  4. Ferment for 3 to 10 days, somewhere dark and room temperature, until it reaches the carbonation level of your liking.
  5. Strain (optional) to remove debris before serving.

Kombucha Bottling Day Checklist:

    • 1 gallon of already fermented kombucha from your Kombucha Brewing Kit (12 – 16oz each)
    • Non-antibacterial soap
    • Measuring cup & measuring spoons
    • Funnel
    • Your choice of fruit, spices, herbs or other flavors

    Using a kombucha brewing kit, you’ll need to ferment your kombucha tea for 1 – 2 weeks before bottling day. This leaves you plenty of time to plan your recipe, source your ingredients and find bottles if you don’t already have any.

    On bottling day, you’ll remove the SCOBY from your fermenting jar along with 1 – 2 cups of fermented kombucha. Set these aside in a glass bowl while you bottle. Fruit and other flavors should NEVER come in contact with your SCOBY. Foreign yeasts on fruit skin and other produce can actually harm the SCOBY, which is why flavors should only ever be added to bottles.

    You’ll need tight sealing glass bottles in order to carbonate your kombucha. You can use our Kombucha Bottling Kit , which includes eight 16oz glass bottles and twist off caps. You can also use swing top bottles. An airtight seal is key for fizzy carbonation, so we don’t suggest using mason jars.

    Give bottles a good wash & rinse with non-antibacterial soap (antibacterial soap can kill the good-for-your-gut bacteria in kombucha). To avoid a mess, use a funnel when pouring kombucha into each bottle. Be sure to fill each bottle to the base of the neck or slightly higher. Leaving too much headspace will mean that it takes longer for carbonation to develop. More headspace = slower carbonation.

    Once kombucha is bottled with fruit or other flavors, let the bottles carbonate at room temperature. Don’t store bottles in the fridge until the fizz is to your liking. Carbonation will continue to develop in bottles if left at room temperature, so be sure to test the carbonation every few days. To do so, you can “burp” your bottles by slightly untwisting the cap and listening for a hiss. The hiss sound means your batch is likely ready to be refrigerated. No hiss means you should let the bottles stand at room temperature and check again in a few days.


    Kombucha Health Benefits

    Advocates say it helps your digestion, rids your body of toxins, and boosts your energy. It’s also said to boost your immune system, help you lose weight, ward off high blood pressure and heart disease, and prevent cancer. But there’s not a lot of evidence to support these claims.

    Claims about kombucha’s power to aid digestion come from the fact that fermentation makes probiotics. Probiotics help with diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and they may even strengthen your immune system.

    When kombucha is made from green tea, you get its benefits, too. This includes bioactive compounds, such as polyphenols, that act as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect your cells from damage.

    Green tea may also help you burn fat and protect you from heart disease. Studies in animals show that the drink lowers cholesterol and blood sugar levels, among other things. But research hasn’t shown that it has the same effects in people.

    Continued


    7 Kombucha Cocktails for a Different Kind of Buzz

    When it comes to healthy changes, we&rsquore all for small, healthyish steps toward your goals instead of major overhauls that won&rsquot last. After all, there are always ways to make what you&rsquore consuming a tad healthier, even when it comes to booze. Which is why when it comes to cutting back on alcohol, kombucha has been something of a godsend.

    Kombucha is a great stand-in for the beer or glass of wine you might have at the end of a long day (guilty), but it also works well in cocktails. Swap out the booze for kombucha, and you&rsquoll still get a slight buzz while adding healthy probiotics to your system. &lsquoBooch can also be added to drinks like sangria or punch for a burst of flavor while cutting down on the amount of alcohol needed in the drink.

    Next time you head to the kitchen to pour yourself a drink, try one of these kombucha swaps. They&rsquoll have you clearing space in your fridge for more fermented tea in no time.

    1. Kombucha Moscow Mule

    After you try this, you may never want to order a regular Moscow Mule again. OK, that might be dramatic, but ginger kombucha tastes like it was made for Moscow Mules. And with way less sugar per serving than typical ginger beer, the swap definitely makes us feel better about having this drink as a nightcap.

    2. Ginger Raspberry Kombucha Cocktail

    These bright red drinks would be perfect for so many occasions&mdashFourth of July, Christmas, or a Wednesday night at home when you wanna feel a little fancy. They&rsquore made with a fresh-fruit raspberry syrup, gin, and ginger kombucha, plus mint and more berries for garnish.

    3. Kombucha Lime Margaritas

    If you&rsquove ever bought margarita mix, it&rsquos time to throw it out. Not only are the premade mixes usually packed with sugar, they just don&rsquot taste as good as a fresh margarita. Swear. This kombucha version is just the right amount of bubbly and uses lime juice and honey to get that perfect tart but sweet marg taste.

    4. Ginger Peach Kombucha Sangria

    Sangria is usually more of a party drink, but who says you can&rsquot make a batch for girls&rsquo night in instead? This recipe uses a bottle of white wine, ginger kombucha, peach schnapps, strawberries, peaches, and mint. The kombucha cuts some of the sweetness and gives it a nice little fizz.

    5. Sparkling Cranberry Kombucha Mocktails

    If you&rsquore giving up alcohol cold turkey or just need something festive to sip on during a night you don&rsquot want to drink, these cranberry mocktails will keep you from feeling like you missed out. Ginger, cranberries, and rosemary give you all the festive holiday flair you need, minus any chance of a hangover the next day.

    6. Blueberry Kombucha Mojito

    Mojito fans, these taste so close to the real thing you almost won&rsquot notice the difference. Instead of rum, the drinks use kombucha mixed with blueberries, sugar, water, mint, and lime wedges. You can make your own kombucha or buy an original bottle either method works.

    7. Kombucha Dark and Stormy

    Did we mention we love simple recipes? All you need are two liquids and some mint for garnish to make this drink taste like a classic Dark and Stormy. A spicy ginger Kombucha works great as a stand-in for ginger beer mix it with dark rum and a splash of lime juice to round out the drink.


    Kombucha-Vodka Highball

    The Moscow Mule, born in New York, adopted by Hollywood, and somehow tied to Russia (hint: vodka), is kind of a confusing drink from an inspiration standpoint. Why not make it a little stranger? At Kombucha Town, the Washington state joint for in-house brewed kombucha, Patrick Mullen switches the ginger beer for ginger kombucha. Mullen warns to be wary of sweetness since kombucha varies in sugar content. If it needs a little more, just up the simple syrup.

    Kombucha-Vodka Highball

    Now go get your buzz and your health mojo going, whether you're recovering from yoga or from, uh, sitting on the couch. You're already on the way to perfectly boozy booch.