Although the clue is in the name, chances are that tea is not the first thing that springs to mind when you think of kombucha.
Good for your gut. Sure.
Fizzy. Fermented. Sour.
All of the above. Yet unless you make your own kombucha, does it even occur to you that kombucha is made from tea?
Let’s dwell on that for a moment.
Kombucha tea ingredients
Kombucha is made from five ingredients. Water, tea, and sugar, plus bacteria and yeast in the form of the SCOBY. This is left alone to ferment. The SCOBY is the live culture responsible for fermentation, a process that involves turning sugar to alcohol and alcohol to organic acids. It is similar to how rice vinegar is made.
Whilst we are busy concentrating on the amount of sugar in kombucha, or whether kombucha is alcoholic, ( a good scientifically correct kombucha has no remaining sugar or alcohol) tea is quietly getting on with its job. Turns out, tea is actually the most important ingredient in kombucha.
Why does kombucha need tea?
Tea not only makes booch taste great, and has some bonafide benefits to health, but it plays an integral part in the fermentation process too. Sugar plays an important part, but it is also the various compounds in the tea leaves that support the life of the SCOBY.
Is there caffeine in tea?
Caffeine occurs naturally in the plant camellia sinensis from which all true teas are harvested yet caffeine content in tea varies widely. Tea also contains an amino acid called l-theanine which works synergistically with caffeine to induce a state of calm alertness, as oppose to the rollercoaster ride of a coffee caffeine-high.
There are many factors that determine the caffeine content of tea. Although black tea is widely considered to have more caffeine than green tea, this may not always be the case. Some types of Japanese green tea, for instance, have more caffeine as they are grown in the shade and only the tips are harvested. Assam, a tea varietal found in many black teas, is naturally high in caffeine.
So, does kombucha have caffeine it it?
As with tea, the caffeine content of kombucha varies. The type of tea used, and the specifics of the brewing process, can affect the results. What is important to know is that less caffeine comes out than goes in because caffeine is used up in the fermentation reaction. Something involving nitrogen.
What teas can you use to make kombucha?
Kombucha needs true tea to grow and thrive. That’s black, green, white or oolong tea (or a combination). Herbal teas, such as peppermint or chamomile, are herbs not true teas so will not provide the right nutrients for fermentation. They can be used, with a healthy SCOBY, to brew up a batch or two but as part of the continual fermentation process that is kombucha they will not support the ongoing health of the culture.
It goes without saying that organic tea is preferable. Not only could pesticide residues inhibit fermentation but they will end up in your brew too.
Here at PepTea we only produce organic kombucha from green tea.
Kombucha green tea benefits
One of the major health benefits of kombucha is that it carries all the antioxidant benefits of the tea that it was made from. Green tea is particularly rich in antioxidant polyphenols, and studies have shown it to have numerous benefits to health.
Antioxidants prevent cell damage and inflammation. Green tea is a particularly rich source of EGCG, a powerful antioxidant of the group known as catechins. L-theanine has anti-anxiety properties which together with brain boosting caffeine can improve long term brain function. Green tea is also said to improve fat burning, reduce blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, and help prevent cardiovascular disease.