What Is Kombucha Made of Anyway?

Kombucha 101

Kombucha is made from regular black or green tea, which is fermented using what’s known as a SCOBY: Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. The SCOBY resembles a large mushroom, but don’t be put off by it. It’s removed long before the tea is served, and it’s there to facilitate the fermentation process.

The live bacteria in the SCOBY are what turn the tea into authentic kombucha. Aside from the tea and the SCOBY, the only other ingredient needed is sugar, though some people also like to add fresh fruit, honey, or other flavor enhancers.

When trying kombucha for the first time, the first thing you’ll notice is the slight vinegar smell. The tea itself has a sweet, tart taste.

Health Benefits of Kombucha

Kombucha has been heralded for treating everything from arthritis to heartburn to depression, but a lot of these claims are anecdotal and still require more research. Because of the amount of bacteria present, pregnant women and anyone with a compromised immune system should avoid kombucha.

With that said, clinical research has revealed a few promising health benefits. For instance, one study found that kombucha may improve HDL- and LDL-cholesterol levels, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease. That same study found that kombucha may slow the digestion of carbohydrates and improve blood sugar levels. Perhaps most impressive of all, kombucha may even slow the growth of cancer cells.

Preparing Kombucha

If you’ve never made kombucha at home, it’s best to purchase a kombucha starter kit, which can be found online. The kit will provide you with the necessary SCOBY, starter tea, and other ingredients, along with general instructions.

The preparation process is fairly easy. Just boil four cups of water and steep eight bags of your favorite tea. Stir in sugar to your liking and let it dissolve. Then let the tea cool. From there, add two cups of starter tea. This is tea from a previous batch of kombucha that adds acidity to the liquid and protects you from the bacteria.

Pour your mixture into a gallon-size jar and carefully add a SCOBY using clean hands. Cover the jar with several layers of cloth and rubber bands, and let it ferment at room temperature for at least a week. Then remove the SCOBY and pour out about two cups to set aside for your next batch of starter tea. Let the rest of the tea sit at room temperature for another three days, and then serve.

If you need more reasons to try kombucha, read on for the best kombucha cocktail recipes.