* Please note that this blog remains up as a resource. However, this blog is currently on hiatus until further notice. For more information, please read this blog post. Thank you and happy kombucha brewing, drinking, and SCOBY trading! Lots of love. ~Annabelle *

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Different Teas for Your Kombucha Brew

I have finally been able to start reading the book Kombucha - Healthy beverage and natural remedy from the Far East by Gunther W. Frank. Wondering which tea(s) to use to brew your kombucha? Here's the quick and dirty about the main varieties of tea and how they relate to your brew.

Black Tea
  • Examples: Russian and Ceylon tea
  • Fermented
  • High caffeine content
  • Produces the more typical apple cider vinegar taste of kt
  • Using more of it increases the ratio of yeast to bacteria in your brew (3)
  • What Kombucha tea is "typically" brewed with
Oolong Tea
  • Semi-fermented (1, p. 20)
  • Inbetween green and black tea in taste and appearance (1, p. 20)
Green Tea
  • Examples: Gunpowder, Jasmine, and white tea
  • Comes from the same plant as black tea, but is unfermented (1, p. 19)
  • Can contribute an astringent quality to kt
  • Lower caffeine content than black tea
  • Using more of it decreases the ratio of yeast to bacteria in your brew (3)
  • Often used because of its numerous health benefits
Yerba Mate (2)

Yerba Mate

Herbal Teas
  • Avoid teas with too many volatile oils (ex. sage, peppermint, chamomile, and St.-John's-Wort), which can alter the microorganism balance in the Kombucha culture over time (1, p. 25)
  • Used for their medicinal properties and for individuals who want to avoid caffeine (1, p. 25)
  • The Kombucha culture feeds on the nitrogen in herbal teas (2)
Herbal Tea Possibilities with Kombucha Tea:
  • Rooibos (2)
  • Recommended by Pastor Hermann-Josef Wendinger: Equal parts bilberry leaves, raspberry leaves, blackberry leaves, and blackcurrent leaves (1, p. 25)
Recommendations Regarding Herbal Teas
  • Include at least some green or black tea in your herbal brews to "[make] the best nutrient solution for the Kombucha culture" (1, p. 25)
  • According to Happy Herbalist, brew with 25% "real" tea and 75% herbal tea. OR, ferment 3 brews with herbal teas and every fourth batch use "real" tea (2)
  • Add herbal teas in the bottling process
Advantages of Black Tea vs. Herbals
  • Produces the highest concentrations of lactic and gluconic acid (1, p. 28)
  • Provides the "best conditions" "as a source of mineral nutriments for the culture" (1, p. 28)
  • Bing (1928) "describes the Kombucha culture as a community of living things which are particularly adapted to a nutrient milieu rich in purine, and which need this rich supply of purine to maintain their metabolism." (1, p. 28). Black tea contains this necessary purine (1, p. 29).
  • According to Bing, the tannin content of the tea also affects the formation of the zoogloea (the new baby mushroom that form at the surface) (1, p. 28)
  • Herbal teas contain higher amounts of volatile oils and phenol than black tea. And because the volatile oils float to the surface where the new baby mushrooms grow, they can destroy/inhibit bacteria in the Kombucha culture and change the culture's composition (1, p. 29)
  • Herbal teas contain more germinal spores than black teas, which can "germinate in the warm nutrient solution" (1, p. 30)
Which teas do I brew with?
  • I typically enjoy using a combination of green and black teas in ratios of around 3:1 or 3:2. I also do brews using only black tea, such as only Ceylon, Darjeeling, or Assam tea.
Read more about different tea types for your kombucha brew at Happy Herbalist and Seeds of Health UK.

1. Frank, Gunther W. Kombucha - Healthy beverage and natural remedy from the Far East. 4th ed. Austria: Wilhelm Ennsthaler, 1994.
2. http://www.happyherbalist.com/differentteas.aspx
3. http://geocities.com/kombucha_balance/


Twins said...

Thanks for the tips! I have been starting to drink Kombucha the past month or so, I was wondering, "is okay to have some everyday?" Also my homemade one was not as fizzy, is that okay?

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention Puerh. That's what they make kombucha with in places like China. It already has the probiotics your body craves so much. --Teaternity

Annabelle Ho said...

-It's definitely ok to have kombucha tea everyday! 4 oz daily is typically recommended as a starting point, and you can increase your consumption from there if that's something that you're interested in. More info at: http://kombuchafuel.blogspot.com/2009/02/how-much-kt-to-drink.html

-And it's also ok that your kombucha brew isn't that fizzy! It’s usually more of a taste preference.

-Because the yeasts convert sugar -> alcohol and CO2, as the new kombucha mushroom forms at the surface during fermentation, the ability for the CO2 to escape decreases, increasing the kombucha tea’s natural fizz. A lower fizz may just indicate a lower ratio of yeast to bacteria in your culture (Source: http://kombuchakamp.blogspot.com/2009/04/fizzy-brew.html).

-You can also increase fizz significantly by bottling. By leaving no air in the bottle, the yeasts will convert more sugars into alcohol and CO2, and the CO2 will buildup inside the bottle, creating fizz. Beer bottles, which have a tight seal, are ideal for creating fizz. More bottling info here: http://kombuchafuel.blogspot.com/2009/02/kombucha-bottling-101.html.

-And thank you Jason for mentioning Pu-erh! I didn’t know that, but both of the websites that I linked to mention that tea!

Annabelle Ho said...

-For more clarification on green vs. black teas, and fermentation and oxidation of tea leaves, two sites:



-A word on green tea and tannins (green tea has more tannins):


Unknown said...

What about caffeine free options? Is it OK to substitute caffeine-free black tea for brewing?

Annabelle Ho said...

Hey Jennifer,

I didn't realize there was caffeine-free black tea! Is this actually an herbal tea, or a type of decaffeinated black tea? (You can tell by looking at the ingredients). Completely caffeine-free teas are known as herbal teas, which I wrote about in the post.

If you would like to lower the caffeine content of your tea: One way to do this would be to put the tea bags/tea leaves in some hot water for 1 minute, than transfer those tea bags/tea leaves to the water that you are going to brew your kombucha with. Because caffeine is water-soluble, the majority of it will go into the water during the first minute. Another option would be to brew with decaffeinated teas.

Hope this answers your question!

Hannah said...

Why is yerba mate listed under herbal tea? It has more caffeine than green and black tea.

Annabelle Ho said...

@Hannah Sorry about that. Thanks for pointing it out!

Anonymous said...

I don't think that it, Yerba Mate, is out of place as a herbal tea.

The name itself is misleading, as there is no such thing as a herbal tea. Tea comes from one plant, and non of the herbal mixes come from it.

However, most will classify yerba mate as its own type of brew generally outside of the tea groupings.

One of my favorites to brew lately has been with this mix citrus mate as the scoby seems to do well with the yerba mate, and the citrus infusion doesn't seem to bother it at all

Annabelle Ho said...

That is a good point. Thanks for sharing your views! The citrus mate sounds delicious. However, I would be concerned about the oils in the orange peel and flowers harming the health of the SCOBY over time. While I enjoy brewing with different teas, usually if I brew with tea besides the traditional green/black tea, I keep a backup SCOBY in black/green tea just in case.