Kombucha and Tea – How These Beverages Go Hand-in-Hand
There seems to be a lot of popularity gaining about kombucha and tea, but a lack of understanding as to what it truly is. These two truly cannot live without one another…why? In the simplest terms, kombucha is a fermented tea!
This article will take you through a high level overview of what exactly is kombucha and tea and how these two beverages are similar and different.
Kombucha & Tea’s Description & History
Kombucha is a fermented tea, so let’s start with the history of tea! The birth of tea dates back to 2737 BC in ancient China. Emperor Shennong is credited as the “Father of Chinese Agriculture“. His name translated is Divine Farmer!
Shennong took an afternoon break in his garden, resting under his Camellia sinensis tree. He boiled a pot of water and while he was waiting for it to finish, dry leaves from the tree drifted into the pot. Noticing this created a new beverage, Shennong indulged in his curiosity and it is said he felt the liquid investigate every inch of his body. Thus, tea was born!
Kombucha has been around for thousands of years, known to some as “the tea of immortality.” It is said that this vinegary beverage is what filled the flasks of Ghengis Khan and his army when they set out to battle.
Toward the end of the 19th century when China, Japan, Russia, & Korea were battling over territory, fermentation cultures were exchanged. One of them was a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria & yeast). This beautiful culture is responsible for transforming sweet tea (green, black, white, or oolong) into a highly functional & nutritional beverage for us to enjoy.
Tea has then exploded taking on new forms, flavors and influences since the mild Chinese garden beverage. From green to black, white, pu’erh, oolong and herbal, all these are common place in the tea world we know and love today.
It is important to note that authentic tea comes solely from the Camellia sinensis tree, like the origin story. This plant makes up green, black, oolong, pu’erh and white tea. Herbal tea is any tea made not from the tea tree! The differences in the teas come primarily from processing.
Kombucha falls under the umbrella of fermented food, which includes kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut, & pickles. Fermented foods have been known for their immune boosting and gastrointestinal supporting potentialities. Nowadays, you can learn how to whip up some of your very own delicious kombucha at home!
If you have ever had a cup of green and black tea, you will quickly realize they are very different, not only in look, but taste and quality. Considering these come from the same leaf, how can this be? It comes primarily down to the processing!
When discussing tea processing it is important to know the word oxidation. Oxidation is the process of subjecting something (in this case Camellia sinensis leaves) to oxygen! This allows chemical reactions to occur changing the properties of the tea.
Green and white teas are the least processed or least oxidized. Oolong follows next and can be oxidized any from 20% – 80% oxidized. Pu’erh and black tea’s are 80% – 95% oxidized. It is said that less oxidation relates to healthier properties.
There is more than just oxidation that makes up the tea’s final product, but the majority comes from this process.
What we love so much about kombucha, is the fact that it goes hand-in-hand with tea. Caffeinated tea & sugar are required for a successful fermentation process because this is what serves as food for the SCOBY. Without the proper balance of caffeine & sugar, the SCOBY won’t be able to grow and thrive the way it’s supposed to.
In addition, the temperature must be monitored and kept between 75 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal vitamin, mineral, & acid production. Although this may seem like a lot of work, you only have to brew fresh tea once every 7-14 days. The rest from there is babysitting – tasting it often, monitoring temperature & SCOBY growth, & getting familiar with your culture.
It’s fascinating because every brew is different and unique to your own personal touch. This is why we highly encourage people to look into brewing their own & ask us for guidance. We’re here to serve as your resource!
The Many Types
Kombucha can be classified into two categories Jun & Regular.
Based on the idea of every culture being different, there is a specific culture which likes to feed off raw honey. This culture is referred to as Jun. Recently, Jun has been gaining much popularity. Taking into account that people are shifting away from cane and table sugar, to honey, this seems to make a lot of sense.
The main difference between Kombucha tea & Jun tea is the food and temperature they thrive on. Kombucha prefers cane sugar, black tea/mix of black, green, white, & temperatures between 75 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Jun tea prefers raw honey, green tea, & temperatures between 70 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Some people prefer kombucha for it’s bolder flavor, and some prefer Jun for its lighter flavor.
Tea on the other hand comes in many flavors, shapes, sizes and more. Below lists a high level overview of the major tea’s:
- Black: Most popular in Western culture, this tea exploded in countries like the US, India, Africa, and the UK. Some specific types include Assam, Darjeeling, Ceylon, Kenyan, Congou and more. (To learn more check out Fresh Steeps “Black Tea Facts” post)
- Green: Arguably the most popular in the world, but definitely in
Eastern culture, this tea has been made popular for its health benefits and smooth taste. Some specific varieties include Dragonwell, Gunpowder, Sencha, Genmaicha, Matcha, Hojicha, Gyokoro and more. (To learn more check out Fresh Steeps “Green Tea Fun Facts” post)
- Herbal: Also known as “tisanes”, this is the only “tea” to not be considered a true tea due to the fact that it does not come from the Camellia sinensis tree, this tea is made by taking any edible flower, root, leaf, seed, mushroom, bark, etc. Some specific types include ginger, turmeric, chamomile, hibiscus, lavender, cinnamon, peppermint and more. (To learn more check out Fresh Steeps “Herbal Tea Facts” post)
- Oolong: The name means “black dragon” given for its dark leaf and twisted shape. This tea is a happy medium between green and black tea. Some specific types include Phoenix, Iron Goddess of Mercy, Wuyi, High Mountain, and Jin Xuan. (To learn more check out Fresh Steeps “Oolong Tea Facts” post)
- Pu’erh: This tea includes a fermentation step in the process. The tea can be fermented anywhere from 15 to 30+ years! There are two types Sheng or Shou. Sheng is the original fully fermented type, while Shou is a quicker fermentation. Pu’erh is known for its unique shapes and containers that it comes in. (To learn more check out Fresh Steeps “Pu’erh Tea Facts” post)
- White: Known as the champagne of tea, to have true authentic white tea you must get this from the Fujian region in China. It is the least processed of all the teas. Some specific varieties include Silver Needle, White Peony, Tribute Eyebrow, Noble Long Life Eyebrow, and Fujian New Craft. (To learn more check out Fresh Steeps “White Tea Facts” post)
For both these beverages, it comes down to personal preference and consideration of what your body may prefer. All of them are lovely options for people seeking a simple and effective way to create a healthy habit.
With both of these beverages gaining competition in the market, it’s important to learn how to find quality products.
Identifying Quality In Both
Quality is huge when it comes to achieving the best tea and kombucha experience. How can you tell if you are getting quality tea or kombucha?
- Always look for organic! This is not just a buzzword, it actually affects the quality. Organic means there will be no added pesticides/herbicides or additives. This goes not only for your tea, but also the cane sugar and honey used in your kombucha. These will affect your overall experience as well as your health.
- Look for fair-trade! This will support small farms all around the world. Local fair-trade farms would be even better 🙂
- Know your SCOBY! There are many options out there, so we highly recommend doing your research. Reputable suppliers such as Kombucha Kamp & Happy Herbalist, are who we’d recommend… but simply based on experience working with them. Learning where the SCOBY’s came from gives a lot of transparency as to what the final product may be like.
- Do research on the history of the tea type! When you understand the history of the type of tea you want you will know where you can source the tea from for the highest quality. Considering tea is used in kombucha this affects that as well.
- Know the important facts! Understanding the processing of your beverage, where it is grown, etc. This empowers you to make the right decisions!
- Read reviews from trusted sources! Find trusted sources for quality reviews and stay up to date with them.
- Ask Komunity Kombucha & Fresh Steeps! We have dedicated time and effort to understanding these questions and can guide you in the right direction.
Incorporating Kombucha & Tea In Your Life
Kombucha and tea are gaining major traction in the world and there are good reasons! Both of these beverages are ancient and are only being perfected as time goes on.
These two go hand-in-hand. Understanding these on a deeper level will not only provide a greater appreciation for your drinking experience, but also allow you to further expand your health and nutrition routine.
Always be on the lookout of high quality ingredients that are grown and harvested organically. Understand the process so you know what you are putting into your body. Most importantly, enjoy the delicious tastes and flavors!