What Is Kombucha? Kombucha is a fermented beverage made with brewed tea, sugar, and bacteria that is introduced from a starter culture. Large-scale manufacturers as well as home brewers blend kombucha with herbs, fruit, spices, infused teas, and other flavors to create their own concoctions.
The key to kombucha’s existence is the mother, a live starter culture similar to a sourdough bread starter. Referred to in the industry as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast), this rubbery substance kicks off the fermentation process and ultimately forms a pancake-size disk that looks like the top of a mushroom (thus, the reason why for centuries the drink was called “mushroom tea”).
Demystifying kombucha home-brewing, Stephen Lee’s Kombucha Revolution: 75 Recipes for Homemade Brews, Fixers, Elixirs and Mixers offers recipes for using kombucha in infusions, smoothies, cocktails, and more. Superfood kombucha is packed with polyphenols, B vitamins, vitamin C, organic enzymes, vital amino acids, and organic acids. Now, founder of famed Kombucha Wonder Drink Stephen Lee shows you how to brew your very own.
Probiotic-rich kombucha has seen an astronomical climb in recent popularity and has do-it-yourselfers salivating for home-brewing instructions and recipes. Who better to guide beginners through the process than a tea guru with more than 40 years of experience under his belt? Cofounder of Tazo Tea and Stash Tea, Stephen Lee has been at the forefront of the tea business for decades, and now he’s turned his talents to fermented tea with his hugely successful company Kombucha Wonder Drink.
With instructions for weekend warriors ready to care for their very own SCOBY, this sourcebook will teach kombucha converts how to craft infused brews, juices, cocktails, vinegars, brines, broths, and more from their favorite fizzy beverage. Inspiring and inventive, recipes such as Lavendar Green Tea Kombucha, Sweet Beet Smoothies, Cranberry Bitters Cocktails, Kombucha Vinegar, Tea-brined Eggs, Kombucha Ramen Noodles, and Kombucha Ice Cream Floats demonstrate creative ways to incorporate kombucha into any snack, beverage, or meal.
Reprinted with permission from “Kombucha Revolution: 75 Recipes for Homemade Brews, Fixers, Elixirs and Mixers” by Stephen Lee, copyright (c) 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC. Cover photography (c) 2014 by Katie Newburn. All other photography (c) 2014 by Leo Gong. Support your local bookstore, or buy the book through our affiliate link at Amazon.com.
Three parts oil to one part vinegar. Remember that and you’re on your way to becoming a master vinaigrette maker. Oh, and don’t forget that oil and vinegar will separate, so make sure you shake or stir your kombucha vinaigrette before serving. Once again, you’ll want to use your well-fermented kombucha batch for this easy recipe. And feel free to enhance your vinaigrette with ingredients such as minced onion, garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, lemon, or honey for a dash of sweetness. Makes 1 cup.
1/4 cup Kombucha Vinegar
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground mustard seeds
Coarse ground sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Combine the kombucha vinegar with the olive oil, mustard, salt, and pepper to taste. Whisk together until combined. Pour over a salad or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 1 week.
If your unfinished home-brewed kombucha slips away from you and is well on its way to becoming vinegar, don’t throw it out. Why not just let it become vinegar? Because kombucha is such a robust, aggressive culture and antioxidant, it can transition rather quickly to vinegar if the fermentation process is not stopped at the right time. So, don’t fight it. There are lots of recipes in which you can use your own homemade vinegar in place of other cooking vinegars. Since the SCOBY from your batch of vinegar could imbue a harsh taste in any subsequent batch of kombucha, I recommend either discarding it or designating it as a “vinegar SCOBY” if you want to keep brewing vinegar. Makes 1 scant gallon.
14 cups purified water
16 to 20 tea bags; or
8 tablespoons (35 grams)
loose-leaf black tea or green tea, 6 tablespoons
(35 grams) balled oolong tea, or 10 tablespoons
(35 grams) loose open-leaf oolong tea
1 cup evaporated cane sugar
2 cups starter tea (see page 10)
1 SCOBY (see page 7)
Heat 6 cups of the water in a stainless steel saucepan to 212°F, then remove from the heat. Add the tea, stir well, and cover. Steep for 4 minutes, stirring once at 2 minutes.
Remove the tea bags or pour the tea through a colander or fine-mesh strainer into a second pot. Compost the tea. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Then add the remaining 8 cups of water to cool the tea to about room temperature (72°F or cooler). Add the starter tea and stir.
Pour into a 1-gallon jar. With rinsed hands, carefully lay your SCOBY on the surface of the tea. Cover the opening of the jar with a clean cotton cloth and hold it in place with a rubber band. Place your jar in a warm spot (72°F to 78°F) out of direct sunlight and leave your kombucha undisturbed to ferment.
A kombucha’s vinegary nature is subject to taste. If you allow the fermentation to continue for 18 to 21 days (tasting it along the way with a straw), you should expect to make a basic vinegar. Age it for more than 3 to 5 weeks, and you will have a uniquely flavored product comparable to store-bought vinegar.
When the kombucha vinegar suits your taste, remove the SCOBY. Pour the liquid into a bottle and store in the refrigerator to cease the fermentation process.
Pomegranates soared to popularity because of their high amount of antioxidants. The taste can range from sweet to sour depending on the variety of pomegranate and its ripeness, but as a general rule, if you like the taste of grenadine syrup, you probably like pomegranate. You can push this infusion to the sweeter side by adding more juice or make it more sour by using less. Makes 1 gallon.
14 cups purified water
16 to 20 tea bags or 8 tablespoons (35 grams) loose-leaf black tea
1 cup evaporated cane sugar
2 cups starter tea
4 cups pomegranate juice
Heat 6 cups of the water in a stainless steel saucepan to 212°F over medium heat. Remove from the heat, add the tea, stir well, and cover. Steep for 4 minutes, stirring once after 2 minutes. Remove the tea bags or pour the tea through a colander or fine-mesh strainer into a second pot. Compost the tea.
Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the remaining 8 cups of water to cool the tea to about room temperature (72°F or cooler). Add 2 cups of the starter tea and stir. Pour into a 1-gallon jar.
With rinsed hands, carefully lay the SCOBY on the surface of the tea. Cover the opening of the jar with a clean cotton cloth and hold it in place with a rubber band. Place the jar in a warm spot (72°F to 78°F) out of direct sunlight and leave undisturbed to ferment for 7 days.
Taste your kombucha using a straw. Does it taste too sweet? Let it go a few more days before tasting again. Is it sufficiently tart, and you love it? Time for the next step.
Carefully remove the SCOBY with rinsed hands and place it on a clean porcelain or glass plate or bowl bathed in kombucha. This will be your culture for the next batch. If immediately proceeding with another batch, reserve about 2 cups of the finished kombucha for the starter tea of your next brew. (Otherwise, to put your SCOBY to rest, see page 8.)
Add the pomegranate juice to the fermented kombucha tea. Stir gently. Using a funnel and a spouted measuring cup (for easy pouring), fill your bottles with the flavored kombucha, leaving about 1 inch of air space in the neck of the bottle. As you pour, you may want to use a fine-mesh strainer to filter out yeast strands. Cap tightly. Your kombucha is ready to drink, but if you prefer a more carbonated beverage, proceed to the next step.
To begin the optional secondary fermentation process, simply store the capped bottles in a warm dry place (72°F to 78°F is best) for 48 hours. Be aware that the sugars present will add fuel to the fermentation action in the bottle, which will increase the pressure inside the bottles. After 48 hours, chill one of the bottles for at least 6 hours. Crack it open and pour it into a glass. If it effervesces, you’ve done it! If you want more carbonation, let it go for a few more days and test again with another chilled bottle. When you’re pleased with the carbonation, refrigerate all the bottles to end the fermentation.
Starter tea is previously brewed kombucha or store-bought raw kombucha with no flavorings or infusions (essentially as close as possible to a traditional plain kombucha). It is added to freshly brewed sweetened tea to lower the pH and introduce a plethora of beneficial yeasts and bacteria to help kick-start the fermentation process.
Stephen Lee has cofounded and sold two of the country’s best-known tea brands—Tazo Tea and Stash Tea. After discovering kombucha on one of his tea importing trips to Russia, in 2001 Stephen launched Kombucha Wonder Drink, which can now be found in natural food stores, grocery stores, pubs, spas, hotels, college campuses, and coffee and tea houses across the country. He also recently launched Tea Tibet, a nonprofit tea company benefiting Tibet.