Without tea, kombucha wouldn’t exist. Tea is one of the base ingredients in kombucha, and different teas can vastly change the final product. With so many varieties of tea out there, it’s hard to determine which will be the best for a booch recipe. No need to worry — we’re simplifying the steep learning curve of teas for kombucha.
What Is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented drink made from tea, sugar, and yeast. It’s known for its signature tangy taste and fizzy texture. It’s typically served chilled, making it refreshing and invigorating. Kombucha comes in a wide range of flavors, from light, fruity tastes to rich herbal flavors.
The drink originated in Asia around 220 BCE and soon spread to Europe along trade routes. Its popularity took a dip around World War II when two of its main ingredients, tea and sugar, faced shortages. Despite the shortages, kombucha bounced back.
Today, the drink is more popular than ever, with kombucha fans across the globe. Before we get in too deep with kombucha, we need to talk about its main ingredient, tea.
What Is Tea?
Tea is a beverage made by steeping plant extracts in water. It’s typically served hot, although iced tea has some avid fans. Speaking of fans, tea is quite a celebrity — in fact, it’s the most popular drink in the world after water.
Most teas come from the tea plant, camellia sinensis. This evergreen shrub is responsible for the teas used in kombucha, including black, green, oolong, and white. While they all come from the same plant, each version is slightly different, thanks to using different parts of the tea plant and processing each tea differently. The result is different tastes, colors, and other properties unique to each tea.
Like kombucha, tea has origins in Asia, specifically ancient China. It soon became a staple in Chinese medicine and, like kombucha, quickly spread to the rest of the world along trade routes. Tea soon became a staple in certain rituals and ceremonies and continues to have cultural significance across the world.
Tea even made a splash in American history — literally. You might remember learning about the Boston Tea Party in history class, where colonial Americans protested high taxes on tea by dumping barrels of tea into the Boston harbor.
Just what makes tea so popular across the world? Well, it’s hard to pin it down, but if we had to try, we’d say it’s because of sheer variety. Tea can be caffeinated or decaffeinated, served hot or cold, bitter or sweet — you get the idea. With so many ways to serve it, practically everyone can find a variety they enjoy.
Kombucha Is a Fizzy, Fermented, Tea-Based Beverage
Of course, our favorite use of tea is in kombucha. Every batch of booch starts with tea as its base ingredient, along with a sugar source and yeast. The tea gives each batch its underlying flavor and makes kombucha distinct from other fermented beverages.
The kombucha ingredients are left to sit together for a few days to a month to ferment. While these ingredients are hanging out together, the yeasts eat the sugars, leaving behind a small amount of byproduct. For our hard booch, this byproduct is the alcohol that makes our kombucha the 21+ kind.
Hard Kombucha: Bright, Crisp, and Botanically Boozy
Hard kombucha is exactly as it sounds — alcoholic kombucha. However, it’s not just regular kombucha spiked with alcohol. Hard kombucha is fermented for a longer time, so there’s more time for the ABV to increase, leaving a boozier booch behind.
Unlike other hard fermented beverages like beer and wine, hard booch uses tea as its base ingredient, allowing it to be light and refreshing. Tea provides some underlying flavor, giving each brew an extra burst of deliciousness.
But tea alone isn’t all we use to create innovative flavors like Pineapple Chili and Grapefruit Thyme. Our other favorite ingredients are whole plant botanicals that allow us to reach a whole new complexity of unique flavors that come alive.
All fermented drinks start with some kind of sugar for the yeast to eat to kickstart the fermentation process. However, not every fermented drink has sugar on the label. For example, in our drinks, all the sugar is fully consumed by the yeasts by the time fermentation is finished.
Rather than adding extra sugar or artificial ingredients to flavor our booch, we rely on organic ingredients to create our bold flavors. We also brew fully dry, which means each can of our hard book lands at zero sugar and zero carbs.
But wait, it gets even better. All of our ingredients are also USDA certified organic, as part of our commitment to make drinks with better ingredients that are also better for our planet.
Is Kombucha Vegan?
Kombucha can be vegan, but that’s dependent on the ingredients brewers choose. The most common animal product you might find in kombucha is honey, which some brewers use as the sugar source in their kombucha.
At Flying Embers, we like to keep our booch vegan-friendly, so we use organic cane sugar over honey. Cane sugar provides the best taste, the cleanest production, and an added level of inclusivity for our vegan friends.
Our ingredients are also gluten-free and keto-friendly, so everyone at the party can enjoy our drinks together.
What Ingredients Are in Kombucha?
We’ve already talked about the big three ingredients of kombucha: tea, sugar, and yeast. While ingredients might sound simple, a lot more goes into making an exceptional batch of kombucha. Let’s get into some more specifics.
SCOBY: What Is It?
One of the biggest components that make kombucha different from regular tea is SCOBY. The acronym stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, and each kombucha brewer has its own unique SCOBY.
SCOBY plays a huge role in fermentation. We’ve already talked about how the yeast eats up sugar, leaving alcohol behind as a byproduct. The good bacteria in a SCOBY then convert this alcohol into acetic acid, which is how kombucha gets that distinct tartness we know and love.
Tea in Kombucha: Why It Matters
While every kombucha ingredient has its purpose, tea is perhaps the most important component of a kombucha brew. Why? Tea is largely responsible for setting the underlying flavor of a kombucha brew. Different teas will have different flavors, so choosing one with the right taste is important.
Since tea is made with plant extracts, it’s also important to look into how and where those plants were grown, or you could risk affecting the delicate SCOBY.
Part of why we go through the trouble of verifying our ingredients as organic is because non-organically grown plants may be sprayed with pesticides at their farms. Even if you wash the plants extensively, the pesticides may still linger.
The biggest danger of pesticides in kombucha is how they affect the SCOBY. The yeasts and bacterias that compose SCOBY are fragile, and even the smallest amount of pesticide could damage the SCOBY and an entire batch of booch.
Another factor to consider is caffeine. Tea from the camellia sinensis plant naturally contains some caffeine, although steeping and fermentation can severely reduce the amount of caffeine that ends up in the final product.
Caffeine can also contain nutrients that support SCOBY, so a little extra caffeine won’t hurt the brew. If brewers are looking for a certain caffeine amount in kombucha, they might have to adjust what kind of tea they use or how long they ferment their kombucha.
Teabags versus loose leaf tea can also affect kombucha. Tea in tea bags is typically broken up into smaller pieces to fit into the bag, which can make it more difficult for the plant extracts to infuse into the tea. Some tea bags may also contain trace amounts of microplastics, which could end up in kombucha.
Why We Make Our Hard Kombucha With Black Tea
With all those factors in mind, we chose organic black tea as the first ingredient in our kombucha.
Black tea has one of the strongest flavors of all teas, and we love how it creates the perfect backdrop for our botanical flavors. We also steep our tea with an adaptogen blend of turmeric, ginger, and ginseng for an extra boost to the brew.
Black tea gives our kombucha a rich, earthy color that other teas just can’t replicate and has just the right amount of caffeine to keep our SCOBY healthy.
Other Teas Used in Kombucha Production
While black tea is our favorite (and the most popular tea for kombucha), brewers might choose other teas for their kombucha.
Green tea is also particularly common in booch. Green tea isn’t quite as flavorful as black tea, resulting in a milder flavor.
Oolong tea is the sweet spot between green and black teas. It has a lighter flavor than black tea but is not quite as mild as green tea. Oolong tea is made by leaving tea leaves to wilt in the sun to partially oxidize them. Oolong can make kombucha on its own or with another tea for a stronger flavor.
For a light, mellow flavor, white tea is the way to go. White tea is typically made from younger, less developed tea leaves, resulting in its thin taste. Brewers who use white tea often combine it with other types of tea because the flavor is so mild.
Hard Kombucha: One Sip and You’re Hooked
Hard kombucha may be hard to brew, but it’s easy to love. The next time you’re looking for a drink to enlighten your mood and liberate your spirits, look no further than a can of our botanical booch.