My name is Nada, and I’m a Kombucha-holic.
I kid, of course – but in all seriousness, kombucha is probably one of my favourite beverages of all time.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, Kombucha is a fermented drink made from sweet tea and a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (also fondly referred to as a SCOBY). Generally speaking, drinking this probiotic and enzyme-rich drink has many reported benefits including improved digestion, better gut and immune health as well as chronic disease prevention. Personally, I like to enjoy kombucha as an alternative to sodas and fizzy drinks and I definitely do appreciate the extra dose of probiotics – but I’m not about to call it a miracle drink just yet.
I think my first run-in with kombucha must’ve been in London circa 2012, and it was definitely love at first sip. I went on to sample ‘booch in many a country on my travels, but it wasn’t until I moved to Abu Dhabi a little over two years ago that I was finally able to successfully brew my own, and what a revelation that has been.
Kombucha brewing isn’t complicated, by any means – but it is a fickle process that, in my experience, varies greatly based on different variables including the temperature of your home, the type of ingredients (and particularly, water) used, and the strength of your starter culture. Thankfully, I seemed to have locked down a brewing method and “recipe” that has worked time and time again.
- 1 SCOBY (AKA kombucha culture)
- 1 cup of unflavoured starter tea
- 1 cup of organic cane sugar
- 4 tbsp organic black tea (I like using ceylon tea)
- 10 cups of filtered water
- 1 clean large glass brewing container with a capacity of at least 1 gallon/3.7 litres
- A clean mesh cloth or handkerchief and rubber band
- Tea strainer (if using looseleaf tea)
- Large bowl or stainless steel pot to brew tea in
- A large wooden spoon
- Airtight glass bottles (I get mine from IKEA)
- Start by assembling all your ingredients and tools. When making kombucha it is important to ensure that all your tools are clean and free of debris to avoid any contamination and mould during the fermentation process. I usually wash everything with dish soap and a fresh sponge then rinse with scalding hot water to sterilize.
- Firstly you'll want to brew your sweet tea. Boil 3 cups of water and add to your bowl or stainless steel pot before adding in the tea. Allow to steep for 10 minutes before removing.
- Next stir in the sugar until dissolved. Allow the tea to cool completely before proceeding to the next step - hot tea will kill the yeasts in the kombucha culture so you don't want to rush this step. I sometimes transfer the tea into large glass bottles and cool in the fridge to speed the process up, however.
- One your tea has cooled, add it to your brewing vessel along with your SCOBY, starter tea and the rest of the water. Stir gently with your wooden spoon to make sure the mixture is well combined.
- Cover your brewing vessel with your breathable cover and rubber band.
- When your tea has cooled down add your kombucha mushroom culture along with the starter tea into your brewing vessel.
- Place your vessel in a dark but well ventilated place. I tend to keep mine on my counter tops for easy access, but a pantry or open closet could also work.
- Depending of the temperature of your home, your kombucha may ferment slower or faster (warmer climates will result in quicker ferment). Wait 4 days before tasting the kombucha - if it's too sweet still then continue to brew for a few more days, tasting it every day or so until it has reached the desired level of tartness. If it's tasting a touch too sour, then make a note to shorten your brewing cycle next time and bottle it straight away. Taste is subjective, so with time you'll figure out the balance of sweet and tart that appeals to your palate. I personally like to bottle it when it's tart but still slightly sweet as I find that works best for my second fermentation.
- When bottling kombucha I add either fruit juice, fruit, or sugar. This both adds flavour and helps create the all important carbonation. My tried and tested ratio is around ⅓ cup of fruit juice to every 1 litre bottle or ¼ cup fresh chopped fruit. If I'm adding sugar (say for a plain flavouring), 1 tbsp works well.
- The bottles should sit at room temperature for anywhere between 2 and 7 days, to create enough fizz. It depends on amount of sugar, the strength of your kombucha and the temperature of your home. You can "burp" them daily to see how fizzy they are (and avoid any explosions too). Note that you don't have to check all your bottles every day - just one of them will suffice, the next day choose a different one, and so forth. Once ready, store them in the fridge to halt the fermentation process and enjoy.
For the tea, I like to use organic ceylon black tea as I love the deep flavour it imparts, but any black tea will do.
If you order a kombucha kit online (I highly recommend this one from Get Kombucha which was gifted to me many years ago) – you can also use a custom kombucha blend that will often contain both black and green tea.
As for the SCOBY itself, you can order one online or seek out any fermenting community groups in your area – most kombucha brewers are happy to give away their baby SCOBY’s and some starter tea at no extra cost.
Some of my favourite kombucha resources are:
Happy brewing, friends! Feel free to leave me any questions you might have in the comments below.