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January 14th, 2008

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03:57 pm - herbal kombucha
Since we're running out of black tea in the pantry, I've been looking into what other herbs we can use for kombucha.  Found some advice.  I'm thrilled that we could sustain kombucha production without (importing) camellia sinensis (i.e., tea).  We could do kombucha with stuff that grows in our yard, I mean, our developing forest garden.  I have, however, seen tea plants growing in Illinois, and heard of someone in Michigan growing tea.  I understand it requires special attention to overwinter.

But as far as alternatives for kombucha:

Teas to Avoid

Don't use teas like Earl Grey that use essential oils (Bergamot in Earl Grey) to add flavour. This can upset or even kill the kombucha culture. Smoked teas like Lasang Suchong are best avoided too. They make a very odd tasting kombucha. Herbal teas should not be used on their own unless they are a blend of real tea and herbs. You can add herbal tea bags to real tea to add a flavour to the kombucha. But make sure they don't contain essential oils or artificial flavourings or sweetners. They should only use dried herbs and dried fruit.

Using Herbal Teas and Plants - A Quick Word

Traditionally, black tea was always used for brewing and maintaining kombucha mushroom culture.  There are reasons for using black tea that aid in the longevity of the cultures vitality working as a nutrient solution.  When using herbal teas or plants to brew kombucha with the main concern will be with the amount of oil contained within the plant in question.  Kombucha does not like herbs or plants with high amounts of volatile oils, an example would be peppermint tea.  Herbal teas that contain high amount of bitters should also be avoided.  The medicinal herbs used when preparing kombucha tea can greatly enhance the beneficial properties of the kombucha tea tonic. 

An great alternative to traditional tea is dried rose hips and dried elderberries.  This is a very old traditional recipe as both ingredient could be gathered in most area with very low cost, if any, compared to imported tea.
However, herbal teas with high amounts of volatile oils are not recommended for brewing kombucha tea beverages. 

These include but are not limited to - Sage, peppermint, St. John's wort, chamomile, ginger, or plants within the pepper family.  Adding a little black or green tea within your herbal mixture gives the kombucha the needed nutrients without to much unwanted tea. You can also add a little green or black tea from time to time.  One other draw back to using herbal tea are that they contain more germinal spores than does black tea.  This make the kombucha culture have to compete more for food and space.  In short, there may be a higher chance of contaminating your kombucha mushroom culture by using herbal teas or plants.  Always use properly dried plants and never use fresh organic matter or sources.  See our recipe page [below] for more brewing flavors!  You can mix or match any combination of herbs for medicinal value or for taste.

A good list of herbal medicinal that may be used without worry follows:

Aniseed, blackberry or raspberry leaf, chicory, club moss, dandelion, elder flowers and berries, fennel, hibiscus flower, nettle leaf, oat straw, rooibos(red bush tea), plantain, rose hips common, yerba maté leaf, and valerian.

Kombucha Recipes

Traditional No Tea Recipe # 1

Kombucha tea was traditionally made from sugar and black tea, but an even older recipe calls for sugar, elder berries, and rose hips.  For a gallon size batch use 1 1/4 cup sugar and 3 teaspoons of elder berries and 3 to 6 teaspoons of rose hips.  This makes a very nice fruity kombucha drink with lots of vitamin C !  Brew as per normal instructions and remember to use a back-up/extra culture when experimenting with new recipes.

Traditional Seasonal Recipe # 2

Try this recipe in the spring when the raspberry and blackberry leaves are young and fresh.  You may choose a mixture of equal parts of any of the following berry leaves; bilberry, raspberry, blackberry, or black current leaves.  This can make a very medicinal kombucha tea blend.  Try adding an equal part of rose hips to add more flavor to your mix.  For a gallon batch use your normal amount of sugar (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups per gal) and 1/2 cup of fresh leaf total.  Allow leaf to steep for 10 to 20 mins to infuse into the sugar solution.  Strain out leaf and organic matter and add kombucha culture when cool.

Herbal Recipe # 1

This is a recommend recipe from Günther Frank's book, 'Kombucha - Healthy beverage and natural remedy from the far east'. He highly recommend this for those who would like to make kombucha without
caffeinated teas.  It goes as follows:

3 parts Yarrow flowers/tops
2 parts Dandelion leaf or root (cleaned)
1 part nettle leaf
1 part club-moss or plantain leaf

Make the KT as normal substituting this herbal blend in the place of the tea.  The mixture is said to give a pleasant tasting beverage.  You could get this made for you by an herbalist or get the herbs from an good source.  Remember to use double the amount for fresh herbs over died herbs. If collecting your own herbs clean them very well.

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