A Beginner’s Guide to Kombucha by Fix8
If you’re here, we can probably assume that you already love tea. But have you ever tried fermenting it? We’ve loved playing around with this endlessly exciting way to use tea and so to find out more we turned to friends and expert brewers, Fix8. They’ve even offered an exclusive discount to Good & Proper customers. Simply visit Fix8 and enter code GOODANDPROPERFIX at checkout for 10% off their delicious kombucha and homebrew kits.
Fix8 is a hand-crafted premium kombucha company based in South London. Available in 3 flavours to drink as a natural pick me up, refreshing tonic or craft cocktail mixer at any occasion, Fix8 is brewed the traditional way, using the finest ingredients and wild fermentation techniques. Fix8 founder Freya found her first Kombucha nestling in a fridge in Shanghai. Home-brewed by her Chinese medicine tutor to help boost her liver and stomach ‘qi’ (energy), it was love at first taste. That brief but brilliant buzz was the beginning of a positive obsession and kombucha became a life-saver during her year in the fast, full-on, fanatical city that is Shanghai. Her obsession with brewing continued and in 2018 she launched her own microbrewery in London, Fix8, to bring that passion for fermenting to life and to create a ‘proper premium kombucha in a category now flooded with tame fizzy pop’.
Now it’s over to the lovely Freya, their ‘fermentally-fixated’ founder, to hear what Kombucha is, which teas to use to make it and the all important exclusive recipe for home brewing.
Fermentation is trendy, we’re drinking less alcohol, sugar is demonised and soft drinks are part of our drinking culture. Enter: Kombucha – a fermented tea drink that’s lightly sparking, non-alcoholic and oh so good for you. I became hooked drinking kombucha whilst living abroad in Shanghai and quickly started to brew my own before launching Fix8. We still make kombucha the traditional way in our South London brewery, as you would at home. So what is kombucha and why is it so exciting?
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is made from four simple ingredients: tea, water, sugar and live cultures, otherwise known as a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). Once combined in a glass jar, the brewing vessel is covered with a cloth and left for 10-14 days to ferment. During this time, the yeast consumes most of the sugar and, through fermentation, produces probiotic bacteria (acetobacter), B vitamins and organic acids – all of which are brilliant for our stomach, nervous system and overall health.
After 14 days, the kombucha should be lightly sparkling and the perfect balance of sweet / sour - it can then be flavoured or simply popped in the fridge and consumed straight away for a refreshing tonic.
Choosing your tea
While the SCOBY is of course the star player here, the tea plays a very important supporting role too as your booch is, after all, just fermented tea. The specific tea you choose will not only go a long way to keeping your SCOBY happy, it also has a huge bearing on the balance and flavour of your final brew.
Traditionally, it is best practise to use a ‘real’ tea to make your kombucha - that is a tea derived from the Camellia sinensis (tea) plant such as black, oolong, green and white teas or even pu’er. These teas contain many nutrients and compounds that fuel the kombucha culture, such as theanine, caffeine and nitrogen, and provide proper nutrition for the SCOBY.
With all that being said, you can also brew with herbal infusions. However, over time the health of your kombucha culture (SCOBY) may start to weaken as it lacks the necessary nutrients available in real tea. My suggestion would be to experiment all you like with herbal infusions but just keep a spare kombucha culture which is fed with ‘real’ tea.
The joy of kombucha is that not only does the tea you choose as a base have a role to play in the taste of your booch, you can also get really creative using tea for flavouring too! This is the exciting time to get creative and choose the tea flavour profiles you like and want to ferment. For balance in flavour at Fix8, we use 70% green tea and 30% black tea, but when I’m making kombucha at home I love to experiment with different teas from white to oolong and even Earl Grey.
Here are some of the different tea types, the flavours to expect & some of our favourite teas to brew with:
Black teas contain the highest levels of ‘purines’, organic compounds which help feed the live cultures and help your SCOBY thrive. This makes them a good choice for getting started. Black tea often results in a bold, more robust kombucha, with dark fruit and nutty tones.
Try Darjeeling (or Brockley Breakfast which is a blend that includes Darjeeling) for a more aromatic black tea with a peppery, muscatel flavour or Yunnan for a rich brew with notes of cacao and caramel.
Oolong teas are much loved by Kombucha brewers thanks to the complex fruity and toasty notes that this type of tea can bring to your brew. Sitting between the rich, robust flavour of black teas and the fresher, more delicate notes of a green tea, oolong teas bring the best of both to the flavour of your booch.
Try: Four Seasons oolong for a fresh, delicate infusion with distinctly floral notes and hints of tropical fruit, or for a richer brew, go for Ruby, with its toasted notes of cacao and cherry.
Green tea are unoxidised, so bring a lighter, fresher flavour and pale, yellow-gold colour to your brew. and grassy notes.
Try: Japanese Sencha for a smooth, yet intensely vegetal flavour or Jade Tips for a smooth, floral green flavour with lingering almond sweetness that comes through in the fermentation.
White tea, the most delicate of tea types, makes a lovely kombucha - light, fragrant and reminiscent of apricot.
Try: Silver Needle for a gentle, honeysuckle character or White Peony for a more full-bodied infusion, brimming with melon-like sweetness.
Herbal teas may not be a traditional way to ferment kombucha, but they can make a lovely, caffeine-free kombucha, and the versatility and range of flavours also make them a great option for the flavouring stage / second fermentation of your Kombucha.
Try Chamomile tea for a light, floral brew, Hibiscus for a bright pink, distinctly tart flavour or for something more robust, Rooibos is my go to for something more full bodied but caffeine free, with notes of dried cherry and vanilla.
Now you’ve chosen your tea, it’s time to get brewing!
What you need (per litre)
Clean brewing vessel (glass jar)
70g white cane sugar
7g tea (or 2 tea bags)
1l filtered water
200ml Starter Liquid / SCOBY (available at www.fix8.com)
Start tasting your brew after 5 days, but your kombucha should be ready to drink within 10-14 days depending on how sweet or sour you like it. When you’re happy with the flavour, save 10% of the liquid and set to one side for your next batch and decant the rest into a flip top bottle. Chill & enjoy straight away, or if you wish now is when you can add additional flavouring. If you are adding flavour for a ‘second fermentation’, try a ratio of 5-10% fruit, herbs or spices to 90-95% kombucha and then leave it out at room temperature for a few days to create carbonation. Then refrigerate and enjoy!
Recently I’ve been loving the following second ferment ideas…
White tea, honey and cardamom
Rooibos, Clove and Orange Peel
Grapefruit and Juniper
Chamomile and lemongrass
Keen to get brewing? Fix8 have offered an exclusive discount to Good & Proper customers to get you started. Simply visit Fix8 and enter code GOODANDPROPERFIX at checkout for 10% off their delicious kombucha and homebrew kits. Code is valid until 31st August 2020.