What Tea Can I Ferment With?
By Freya Twigden, Head Fermentalist @ Fix8
- Tea is the leaf which comes from the ‘Camellia Sinensis’ plant.
- Don't confuse a herbal tisane with tea.
- Traditionally Kombucha is brewed with Black tea.
- Experiment but always keep a back up in case it goes wrong.
Tea, a leaf which comes from the ‘Camellia Sinensis’ plant, known by many Brit’s as the nation's favourite drink - the bold cuppa.
With the early arrival of tea to Britain in the 17th Century, it’s fitting that at Fix8 we still source our tea from our very first tea friends across the pond - India and China.
It’s important to note a quick distinction between ‘real tea’ and ‘herbal tea’. A ‘real tea’ - such as black, green, oolong, white and Pu'er - must derive from this Camellia Sinensis plant. What makes each tea variety taste different is how it is processed. For example, black tea is oxidised and green tea is not. Anything else is not considered to be ‘real tea’, but a ‘herbal’.
A basic kombucha recipe will almost always use a real tea to brew with, traditionally black. The tea fundamentally offers essential minerals and nitrogen to the kombucha culture, keeping it healthy.
At Fix8, we use a combination of a Chinese sencha tea, and a high altitude grown black tea from the sunny hills of South India.
Now, that’s not to say you can’t use other teas such as herbals - but it’s important to know that over time, the oils in herbal tea or scented teas (like earl grey) might adversely affect the health of your culture.
How can you overcome this?
Keep a couple of spare SCOBY’s thriving in your SCOBY Hotel for back up.
Experiment with herbal tea’s or freshly brewed spices and see how your culture takes to it. Just be mindful and aware that if your kombucha is stagnating, it could be struggling to cope with the interference of oils from the herbal tea.
Trial and error is the only way to go! So get experimenting...
For some ideas I have loved playing with before: try chai spices, brew cacao husks, grate and boil fresh turmeric to ferment with the kombucha culture. I love a chamomile kombucha for the evening time if I want to ensure it’s caffeine-free. Keep your sugar the same as you would for a real ‘tea’ based kombucha, and see what happens.
Freya Twigden is the Founder and Head Fermentalist at Fix8. When she isn't brewing Kombucha she spends her time practising yoga, riding her bike and finding out what you can (and can't) ferment.