As the world catches on with modern twists to the ancient medical drink, Vahdam Teas explores the deep dark secrets of Kombucha and how we can perfect the recipe, despite the odds.

What odds, you say? Well, India does not have favourable climate for kombucha, especially not in the tropical summer wave, especially not in the landlocked belt of northern India.

And yet, we did it. We brewed the perfect kombucha, thanks to a steady supply of fresh black teas and joined a global movement of fermented brews.

Despite the global recognition that it is receiving, Kombucha is hardly a new concept. It was first brewed as part of Chinese medicine. There are records of a ‘Tea of Immortality’ in 221 BC in China. However, the drink gets it name from Japan. The use of the brew as we know it, takes it name from a famous Korean physician called Kombu or Kambu who treated the Emperor Inyko with the tea and it took his name, “Kombu” and “cha” meaning tea.

The brew is made by fermenting black or green tea.

According to James Roche, the author of The History and Spread of Kombucha, the same brew was also being used in Russia as a healing drink by the name of “Tea Kvass”, brewed by fermenting a ‘Japanese mushroom’ in black tea.

Roche says that kombucha continued a successful journey around Europe until World War 2 when the focus shifted to modern medicine. It was Dr Rudolph Skelnar of Germany who renewed the interest in kombucha by using it extensively for treating cancer patients, metabolic disorders, high blood pressure and diabetes.

With kombucha gaining fame in the United States in the past two years, everything about the fermented drink has become household terminology. The kombucha culture is a SCOBY, an anagram of ‘Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast’. This rubbery colony of micro-organisms help ferment the tea and the sugar into into a healthy probiotic mix of 7 acids.

You need black tea, water, a BIG glass vessel and a starter kit — which contains the scoby and some kombucha. We decided to go with an organic scoby from the Rocky Mountains. Although the original scoby was created in China, today’s finest organic cultures come from USA and are available at premium prices on Vahdam Teas Official website.

Here’s the process we tried:

We added a full packet (10 gms) of black tea to 1 litre of water and let it steep for 20 minutes.

Next we added 2 cups of sugar to our glass jar and strained the tea into it.

Being a tropical climate, it took the tea 3 hours to cool down to room temperature (30 degrees Celsius).

Once the tea was cool, we added the scoby and the starter kombucha and covered it with a linen scarf and stored it away in a cabinet.

The first batch was ready in 10 days!

Kombucha preparation is best done away from direct sunlight

There are experts to guide you through that tricky first batch of kombucha. Hardly any information is available for how to care for your scoby after the first batch has been strained out. Thankfully, we had set aside the very first cup of kombucha we made. This combined with the scoby was left aside in another glass vessel with a cup of cool, sweetened black tea. The glass jar was cleaned out, dried and then put to its second test the following day. This enables rest for the scoby as well.

It is important to check constantly on the health of the scoby to ensure a good kombucha.

A lot of people love to experiment with flavours in their kombucha but we preferred to keep it simple and straight-forward, like our teas. If you prefer flavours then you can add 1–2 cup of chopped fruits or 2–3 fruit juice along with 1/4 cup of honey or 2–4 tablespoons of spices. Flavoured kombucha cannot be used to brew plain kombucha, however, the scoby can be for 3 successive batches of kombucha.

It is normal for the scoby to move around in the brew, the colony searches for sugar

Despite all your precautions, the scoby can get mouldy when the moisture in the atmosphere increases.

In such cases, it is best to discard the batch of kombucha, wash out the scoby under running tap water and let it rest with a teaspoon of granulated sugar and half a cup of sweetened black tea (cold brew). After a few hours, the scoby will discard the mould. You can help clean it out and place in a fresh jar for the next batch.

It is best to brew as well as serve kombucha in clear glass bottles as any exposure to metal or plastic can ruin the taste of the drink.

Another deterrent to a good kombucha is external particles. Food experts recommend the use of linen or a clean cotton weave to cover the mouth of the kombucha with to avoid any external particles from falling into the brew. Paper sheets tend to shred into the brew as the brew ferments.

The glass jar or bottle must be stored away from sunlight and far from any unnecessary movement.

Bottling of the kombucha is as important as the brewing itself. Always leave at least an inch of air between the brew in the bottle and the lid. It is perfectly alright to strain the kombucha before bottling it as you would want to remove any excessive sediments (extensions of the scoby) from the brew.

Kombucha puritans do not advise the use of distilled white vinegar to make the brew more fizzy but several kombucha makers have proven that it helps. Once you have had your fill of kombucha or if you the scoby has passed its lifespan (it turns black).

One of the most important things is to share the drink with your friends and introduce them to a healthy alternative to soda-based fizzy drinks which are not healthy.

Let the world know your recipe as it could encourage someone to try a healthier alternative brew.

Susmita Mukherjee


Vahdam Teas

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