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What is kombucha?

The popularity of this fizzy, fermented tea is showing no signs of slowing down. There are many pre-bottled alternatives on the market, but have you considered brewing your own?

But first, let’s talk briefly about the benefits of kombucha and why we’re seeing this fermented fizz everywhere from health food shops to the mixer shelves in hipster bars.

What is kombucha tea?

Kombucha is a mildly fizzy, fermented cold tea drink with a slightly sour flavour. It’s made from sweetened tea and a live culture known as a kombucha SCOBY (short for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.) The origins of the drink are estimated to go back as far as 2000 years.1 But the soar in popularity in recent years in the UK is likely to be down to rising interest in the role of fermented foods in gut health. This has led to pre-bottled versions of this ancient brew becoming more widely available.

Is kombucha good for you?

The health benefits of kombucha are still to be proven – there’s more research needed to support all of the claims made about this beverage. But here are a few of the credentials that have convinced many people to make it a routine part of their diet.

It’s made from live cultures

Thanks to its bacteria content, Kombucha tea may help to maintain a healthy population of microorganisms in your gut. This could have benefits for your digestive health and overall wellness.2

Then there’s the antioxidants

Kombucha is packed with antioxidants, including polyphenols. These substances can help to fight off free radicals, minimising the damage they cause to your cells.

It’s a great alternative to less healthy beverages

In today’s more health-conscious age, people are choosing kombucha instead of sugary, high calorie carbonated drinks or alcohol.

How to make kombucha

Are you ready to test the benefits of kombucha? Do you fancy a mini microbiology project of your own? Following a simple 7 step process, you can ferment your own fizzy tea drink brimming with healthy bacteria.3

What is in kombucha?

Kombucha is usually made using 5 core ingredients. Here is what you’ll need to make 1 litre of the drink.

  • Cold water – 1 litre. Filter out chlorine first by boiling and allowing to cool

  • Tea ­– 1 bag (or loose tea equivalent) Black or green tea both work

  • Sugar – 50-100g Cane sugar is normally used, with the exact amount to suit your tastebuds

  • A kombucha SCOBY – 1 small A disk-shaped culture which creates the fizz during the fermentation process

  • A starter tea – 100ml This is kombucha reserved from a previous batch to kickstart your new brew. Your SCOBY should come sitting in this liquid.

What else you’ll need

  • A large, glass jar (clear so you can see what’s happening.)

The method

  1. Put on a brew. Steep the tea and sugar in 250ml of boiled water and leave to cool for 6-10 minutes.

  2. Create the right environment for the SCOBY. Remove the tea bag (try not to squeeze it) and add the remaining 750ml of cold de-chlorinated water.

  3. Add the SCOBY and the starter tea.To allow for SCOBY growth and other fermentation effects, make sure to leave at least 5cm space at the top.

  4. Cover the liquid. Use a cloth or a paper towel and an elastic band to prevent dust and fruit flies from getting in. But don’t seal the jar as the SCOBY needs to breathe.

  5. Leave for 6-9 days. The ideal temperature range for fermentation is 26-27°C. But room temperature should be fine as long as it’s above 21°C. It’s better to leave your fermenting kombucha out of a cupboard but avoid direct sunlight.

  6. Start sampling.The exact point when your kombucha is ready depends on your personal taste preference. Some people find it’s still too sweet after six days and prefer to wait until nine or 12 days before drinking.

  7. Or you could move on to a secondary fermentation. If you want to add flavours to your brew, if you prefer a higher level of carbonation or are looking to make hard kombucha, you can ferment further.

A quick word of advice, be careful to keep everything clean, and if there is any sign of mould in your mixture discard it (that’s the SCOBY and the liquid.)

Are there side effects of drinking kombucha?

Some unpleasant side effects (such as stomach-ache, nausea and dizziness) are sometimes associated with drinking too much kombucha.4 Like with any live food or drink, it’s advised to allow your digestive system to adjust by building up the amount you drink gradually. For example, start with 100ml a day for the first week and increase slowly. Also, it might not suit everyone.

Finally, if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or have a compromised immune system, kombucha may not be suitable for you so ask your GP before introducing it into your diet.

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Last updated: 17 August 2020


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