What Is Kombucha Tea? (And How to Make It!)

By Angela Tague in Healthy Feeling

It's tangy yet sweet, fermented and fizzy. If you haven't seen bottles of kombucha in your favorite grocery store yet, you will soon. The flavorful fermented tea beverage comes plain or infused with ginger, lemon, pomegranate, cherry, or other juices. Bottom line: It's a refreshing chilled drink to add to your day!

What Is Kombucha Tea?

This amber-colored brew has a long, winding history through eastern Europe, Asia, and Russia, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. The fermented drink may have originated in China and spread to other regions on the Silk Road. It been referred to as "the tea of immortality" and "mushroom tea." Rest assured, there are no mushrooms in this drink.

I attended a local kombucha-making workshop to learn more about this popular beverage. The aroma of unflavored kombucha reminds me of apple cider vinegar or homemade apple cider. My husband said it didn't taste like tea at all, but has a neutral flavor with a vinegary zing. We both agreed a splash of sweet pomegranate juice would add a delicious flavor.

glass bottle of kombucha tea

Why Drink Kombucha?

Fermented foods like kombucha may help balance your gut biome. Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that a large proportion of our immune system is regulated by our digestive system, so keeping your digestive organs healthy is important.

At the kombucha workshop, I learned a new word: bioindividuality. It means that what's good for one individual may not be suitable for another. The Mayo Clinic says that kombucha may cause stomach upset and other adverse reactions for some people. If you have trouble eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, alcohol, or pickles, it might be best to pass on kombucha.

Glass jar, tea bags, and other kombucha supplies

How to Make Kombucha at Home

If your taste buds and belly agree that fermented foods are delicious, give kombucha a try! You can buy it bottled in well-stocked grocery stores or try making a batch at home. When the kids ask, "What is kombucha tea?" you can show them!

Before you get started, be sure to sanitize all of your equipment in boiling hot water. Use all glass vessels to avoid leaching any substances from ceramic or metal containers. For utensils, choose wood or plastic.

You'll need tea bags, sugar, some starter tea from a previous batch of kombucha, and a SCOBY. An acronym for a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, a SCOBY is a rubbery substance used during the fermentation process as yeast and bacteria interact. Good Housekeeping recommends getting the starter tea and a SCOBY from a friend or ordering them online. If you're up for another adventure, follow this recipe from The Kitchn to make your own SCOBY from scratch. The kids will love playing with the slimy disc that gives kombucha its flavor!

Kombucha recipes vary according to personal preferences, but the basic steps include dissolving sugar in hot water, adding black or green tea bags, then cooling the mixture and removing the tea bags. Next, you'll add the starter tea and the SCOBY. The mixture will rest at room temperature, away from sunlight, for a week or longer. If you like a more tart flavor, let the mixture ferment up to thirty days.

We'd love to follow along on your fermentation adventures. Share a photo of your kombucha with us on Twitter!

Image Source: Angela Tague

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Why It's Good

If you want to increase your intake of probiotics or simply try something new, kombucha could be a tasty addition to your usual beverage lineup. The tart, bubbly beverage can be enjoyed from a store or made at home with your favorite juices and flavors!