When Japanese tourists crack open a bottle of Australian kombucha and take a swig, they sometimes get a shock. That’s because the word ‘kombucha’ has two entirely different meanings.
In Japan, ‘kombucha’ refers to ‘kombu tea’ which is made from kombu kelp. It’s a very simple combination of dried seaweed strips or powder, hot water, and a pinch of salt. Some people also like to add a dash of soy sauce. Japanese kombucha is rich in minerals, high in fibre, and a great aid to digestion.
However, when Australians talk about kombucha, they are referring to a fermented drink made from tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast. This kind of kombucha originated in China around 200BC. The recipe reached Russia in the 1800s and later spread throughout Europe, becoming increasingly popular in the early 20th century. In Japan, Western-style kombucha is known as ‘mushroom red tea’ because the culture used to create it looks like a fungus.
Western kombucha is full of probiotics, antioxidants, and a range of important vitamins. It can help to boost your immune system, improve liver and kidney function, and even help reduce the risk of heart disease!
The production of kombucha involves a double fermentation process. A symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) is placed in sugary tea and left to ferment at room temperature for a few weeks. As the tea ferments, the yeast converts the sugar into ethanol and the bacteria turns the ethanol into acetic acid. After that, the brew is bottled for about a week to encourage carbonation. The kombucha is then refrigerated to slow down the fermentation process.
Green tea kombucha
To give your Western-style kombucha a bit of Japanese flavour, why not try making it with green tea? Green tea makes a great kombucha with a yellow or green colour and a milder flavour. It’s also often fizzier than traditional black tea kombucha.
Before you can start brewing your green tea kombucha, you’re going to need a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (a SCOBY). The SCOBY will be the ‘mother’ for your batch of kombucha. You can buy a ready-made SCOBY online, get one from a friend, or make your own.
If you want to make your own SCOBY, here’s how to do it:
1. Purchase a bottle of raw kombucha.
2. Make 1 cup of Japanese green tea and let it cool to room temperature.
3. Pour the raw kombucha and green tea into a glass jar.
4. Cover the jar and secure the cover with a rubber band.
5. Store the jar away from sunlight for at least a week.
6. A white layer will form on top of the liquid. This is your SCOBY!
7. When the SCOBY is at least ¼ inch thick, it is ready for use.
Now you’re ready to make your green tea kombucha!
This recipe will make around 2L of kombucha.
- 4 green tea bags
- ½ cup white sugar
- Filtered water
- 1 SCOBY
- 1 cup starter tea (either unflavoured kombucha from a previous batch or raw, unflavoured store-bought kombucha)
- Flavouring (green tea works best with light flavours like raspberry or pineapple).
- 2L glass jar
- 1 muslin cloth
- Rubber bands
- Glass bottles
1. Place the sugar and tea bags in your glass jar and add boiling water until the jar is at least half full. Stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar.
2. Leave the tea to steep for at least 30 minutes.
3. Remove the tea bags and top up the jar with cold water, leaving at least 1 inch of space at the top.
4. Once the tea is at room temperature, add the SCOBY and starter tea to the jar. The SCOBY may float on the surface of the tea or it may sink: it doesn’t matter.
5. Cover the jar with a muslin wrap and secure it with a rubber band.
6. Store the jar at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, for 1-4 weeks. Make sure you store the jar somewhere that is well ventilated. Don’t put it in a closed cupboard.
7. After one week, start checking the taste of your brew by inserting a straw into the jar. Try not to disturb the SCOBY. When you’re happy with the taste, move on to the next step. The longer you leave your kombucha to brew, the less sweet it will be.
8. You will now have two SCOBYs in your kombucha brew. Remove them using a wooden spoon and store them in a glass container. Pour some of the kombuchas into the container with the SCOBYs. This will keep your SCOBYs alive and provide starter tea for your next batch of kombucha.
9. Funnel your kombucha into the bottles, leaving around 1.5 inches of space at the top.
10. Add your choice of flavouring and seal tightly. Use 1 to 2 Tbsp of flavouring per 1 cup of kombucha.
11. Store the bottles at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, for 3 to 10 days.
12. Once your kombucha is fizzy, it’s ready to serve! From now on, you’ll need to store it in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation process.