Kombucha brewers put a lot of care into choosing the right tea for kombucha. Most kombucha on the market is fermented black tea, but other varieties of tea can provide unique health benefits and flavour characteristics. Find out why Superfoods Company sources microencapsulated powder made from brewed Alishan High Mountain oolong tea for Instant Kombucha.
The Importance of Tea for Kombucha
Every type of true tea originates with the camellia sinensis plant. By harvesting leaves and other parts of the tea plants at successive stages of growth and processing the crop in different ways, tea-makers produce white, green, oolong and black tea. All of these types of tea contain beneficial compounds, such as flavonoids and polyphenols, that brewed kombucha retains.
Any variety of tea can work to brew kombucha or related beverages that are fermented with symbiotic cultures of bacteria and yeast and a source of sugar that the SCOBY converts into enzymes, probiotics and other beneficial compounds. We have ranked five common varieties of tea used to brew flavourful and nourishing kombucha.
1. High Mountain Oolong Tea
One of the best oolong teas has been cultivated in the Alishan mountain region of Taiwan for over two centuries. Tea plants grow slowly in this alpine environment characterised by relatively low temperatures, limited sunlight, and moisture from fog and mountain springs. These plants produce higher concentrations of polysaccharides that nourish kombucha SCOBYs. These compounds found in the cell walls of plants also provide aroma, taste and health benefits for people who drink tea and kombucha.
High Mountain tea grows at altitudes from 1,000 and 2,300 metres. The leaves are harvested twice a year, in spring and winter. Oolong tea is typically rolled to break down cell tissue, left to rest for about eight hours and then lightly roasted to slow the oxidation process. In other words, this type of tea for kombucha is partially fermented and semi-oxidised prior to brewing and 21-day fermentation with a SCOBY. The taste of Alishan High Mountain tea is evident in Superfoods Company Instant Kombucha powder, especially the original flavour made with apple cider vinegar.
2. Black Tea
The most common type of tea used for brewing kombucha is black tea, achieved by harvesting tea leaves at maturity. Black tea leaves are typically allowed to wither before being crushed, rolled or torn to promote oxidation. Roasting then dries the leaves, slows oxidation and brings out a more pronounced flavour.
Thanks to this process, black tea contains the highest concentration of tannins of all of the varieties of tea for kombucha. Tannins are a type of polyphenol with a large molecule size that readily combines with other molecules, such as minerals or proteins. The SCOBY used to ferment kombucha feeds on the tannins in tea, along with other plant compounds and sugar. Oolong tea contains the second highest level of tannins found in true tea, while white tea has the lowest tannin levels.
3. Green Tea
Green tea is harvested earlier than black or oolong tea and is often grown in environments that are partially shaded to stimulate the production of chlorophyll. The tannins in green tea stay locked in the leaves, and brewing releases lower amounts of these compounds. Green tea can be blended with other types of tea for kombucha.
A variation on kombucha called jun, sometimes referred to as the "champagne" of kombucha, is brewed with green tea instead of black tea and raw honey rather than cane sugar. Jun typically ferments faster than kombucha made with black or oolong tea. This version of kombucha also tends to contain more lactobacillus bacteria, less acetobacteria and a slightly higher level of alcohol in the finished brew. Fermented green tea has a delicate flavour, but kombucha made with oolong tea can have similar characteristics, such as floral notes.
4. White Tea
White tea results from harvesting tea plant buds and young leaves even earlier than green tea. Tea cultivated for early harvesting is often fully shaded to limit chlorophyll production. Unlike other types of tea, white tea is not fermented prior to drying. This type of tea has a very light flavour and colour compared to black, oolong or green tea.
This variety of tea for kombucha is the least processed, though experts debate whether processing and fermentation prior to drying make polyphenols more bioavailable. White tea tends to have the lowest level of tannins of any true tea. For this reason, most kombucha brewers recommend making a blend consisting of one part white tea to three parts mature tea leaves, such as oolong or black tea, to provide tannins for the SCOBY.
5. Some Herbal Tisanes
Kombucha makers sometimes brew with plants other than camellia sinensis, but the resulting beverage is not technically tea. The term "tisane" describes prepared beverages that are conventionally referred to as herbal teas. Hibiscus and rooibos are some of the most popular tisanes used as tea for kombucha. These ingredients perform well under fermentation conditions, unlike true teas flavoured with oils or spices, such as Earl Grey tea with bergamot oil or chai. Kombucha made with flavoured teas can have unpredictable results and run a higher risk of developing mould.
Hibiscus tea is made from harvested blossoms of the flowering plant. This tisane contains all of the tannins, flavonoids and other compounds necessary for brewing kombucha and can be used alone or blended with true tea. Rooibos, a tisane commonly referred to as red tea, has a nutty flavour but is very low in tannins. Once again, brewers recommend brewing a blend of one part rooibos to three parts tea leaves for kombucha.
Choosing the Best Tea for Kombucha
The best tea for kombucha combines health benefits and a delicious taste. Alishan High Mountain oolong tea has an orchid aroma and a sweet taste that contribute to the flavour profile of Superfoods Company Instant Kombucha. Check out our selection of kombucha powder that you can mix with water or juice to get all of the benefits of drinking this probiotic beverage.