RSS Feed

Rooibos Kombucha

Posted on

I remember the first time I ever tried kombucha. I was doing a photography apprenticeship with one of the coolest people I have ever met–a miss Lisa Warninger. I would go over to her place to do photo editing or whatever she had for me that day, and then we’d walk over to a nearby health food store for lunch. One day, she introduced me to kombucha. She told me that she liked weird tasting things and that I should try it, too. I seriously had no idea what it was, but the label promised that it was healthy, so I bought one.

I couldn’t even finish the bottle.

It was definitely weird. It was definitely sour. I didn’t like it.

Then, a couple years ago I was making a lot of changes to my diet and trying to become a more “traditional” eater. I had started buying raw milk and doing all kinds of weird science experiments with it in my kitchen (clabbering it, making sour cream, cultured butter, etc), and in general getting more comfortable with the idea of eating strange things. So, one day when I came across a citrus flavored kombucha at the store, I thought, why not?

It was so amazing.

Delicious. Wonderful. I definitely loved it.

I’m not sure what made my taste buds change so drastically. Maybe it was because I was eating a healthier diet. Maybe because I was eating a lot less sugar and no processed foods. Granted, this was a flavored kombucha, not plain, but still, I shouldn’t have liked it that much. I bought another bottle. Then another. I tried different flavors–they were all good. My little boy shared in the enjoyment with me and I smiled knowing he was getting some good probiotics into his body.

Mango flavored kombucha

Mango flavored kombucha

And then I discovered it was made with tea.

Yeah, I know, I was drinking something and didn’t even know what it was. The list of ingredients didn’t say “tea.” Instead, it said “GT kombucha,” and I didn’t know what kombucha was made out of. And then I found out–it was a fermented tea.

I was torn because here was such a nutritious beverage, but my religion has a health code that proscribes tea. Some people in my church think that is because of the caffeine content, and I had learned that the caffeine in the tea gets eaten by the kombucha microbes, so maybe it was okay? But no, I decided that for me, it was not okay. I later learned that tea contains tannins and oxalates and other stuff that isn’t good for the body, which makes me extra glad I decided not to drink it.

One day I was telling my friend Carrie about the kombucha, and she suggested making rooibos kombucha. I, of course, had no idea what rooibos was, so I looked it up. Rooibos (pronounced like the name “Roy” and the word “boss”)  comes from a bush in Africa and means “red bush.” Rooibos tisane (herbal tea) has been consumed in Africa for a long time and has traditionally been used medicinally for colic, asthma, allergies and skin conditions. It can also aid digestion. It is rich in antioxidents, flavonoids and other good stuff, and has low tannin levels. (see wikipedia, “Rooibos”) “Research by Japanese scientists has shown Rooibos tea to have beneficial effects relating to constipation, liver function, blood sugar levels, skin diseases, depression and anxiety. This tea may also have other stomach and indigestion benefits, possibly relieving nausea, vomiting, and heartburn” (babybellies.ca). It is safe to consume during pregnancy.

I then looked up how to make rooibos kombucha and had a hard time finding information on it. I did find one article that suggested rotating between tea kombucha and rooibos kombucha in order to keep the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) healthy. In my experience, I have learned that it is indeed important for the SCOBY to feed off of tea in order to be healthy, but I didn’t want to be throwing away tons of tea kombucha in order to have my rooibos kombucha, so I’ve figured out a way that produces the least amount of waste.

The rooibos kombucha is different. It has a more earthy flavor, it’s a red-orange color, and unfortunately, it doesn’t fizz very much. But I believe it’s healthier. And it does taste good.

kombucha rooibos

My first brew of red-orange rooibos kombucha

Step #1 – Grow some healthy SCOBYs

You’ll want more than one, so you can keep one in the tea kombucha to keep it going and grow babies out of, and one to brew your rooibos. If you don’t know how to brew kombucha, click here. SCOBYs reproduce themselves, which is the saving grace of making rooibos kombucha.

A healthy-looking SCOBY

A healthy-looking SCOBY

SCOBYs can get stuck together

SCOBYs can get stuck to their babies. Just tear them apart

Step #2 – Brew some rooibos

You’ll want 4 Tbsp of loose rooibos leaves in 3 quarts of water. I usually only boil half the water, then add the rest of the water later, to help it cool faster. You will want to boil the rooibos leaves in the water for about 10 minutes.

Rooibos leaves in filtered water to be boiled

Rooibos leaves in filtered water to be boiled

Step #3 – Add some sugar

After the rooibos is brewed, you can add 1 cup of sugar right to the pot. I like to use organic, unrefined cane sugar (other unrefined sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup apparently slow the fermentation process–raw honey might actually ruin it–and they would also affect the flavor). The microbes will eat most of the sugar. Stir the sugar in until dissolved.

1 cup of sugar per 3 quarts of filtered water

1 cup of sugar per 3 quarts of filtered water

Step #4 – Jar it with a SCOBY

You will want to use a gallon size jar or a large glass bowl. It is important for the container to have a wide opening so that air can get in. Strain the sweetened rooibos tisane you made through a fine mesh strainer into your jar. You should be pouring in 3 qts of liquid here. Do not pour hot liquid onto a SCOBY unless you want to kill it. Make sure the tisane is no warmer than tepid. Place a SCOBY into the jar and cover the jar with a clean cloth or a coffee filter and secure with a string or rubber band (this keeps bugs out).

Sweetened rooibos tisane with multiple SCOBYs

Sweetened rooibos tisane with multiple SCOBYs for faster brewing

Small coffee filter and large rubber band work perfectly

Small coffee filter and large rubber band work perfectly to cover the opening of most jars

Step #5 – Brew your kombucha

Put the jar in a dark, warm place (such as the cupboard above the fridge or next to the oven, etc) and away from other open ferments such as kefir or sourdough starter. Brewing time depends on conditions such as temperature and the strength of your SCOBY, so you will want to check on it every once in a while. It can take anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks to brew.

Step #6 – Taste test and flavor brew

The easiest way to taste test your brewing kombucha is to stick a straw in it. Once it tastes slightly too sweet (according to your taste preferences), you can pour it into individual bottles and flavor it with juice or ginger. To do ginger, slice a fresh ginger root into little coins or chunks and put into a bottle. I use the equivalent of several nickel-sized pieces. To do grape, put in a small amount of grape juice concentrate (approx 2 Tbsp) into each 16 oz jar. Then cap the bottles and allow them to brew a couple more days or until they taste just right. You can skip the flavor brew, of course, and just bottle the kombucha when it tastes right to you.

I like to use a stainless steel straw to taste test the kombucha

I like to use a stainless steel straw to taste test the kombucha

Bottled kombucha with chunks of ginger (one on left also has some grape juice in it)

Bottled kombucha with chunks of ginger (one on left also has some grape juice in it)

Step #7 – Refrigerate (or not) and enjoy

When it’s ready, you can drink it straight away, or you can refrigerate to stop the fermentation. Sometimes I just leave it out until I drink it all, allowing some of it to get more sour. It’s up to you.

Step #8 – Keep your SCOBYs healthy

You will need to make a new batch of green tea kombucha to keep a supply of healthy SCOBYs going. The SCOBYs will multiply in the rooibos, but they are nasty, slimey things. Nothing to be scared of, but they are very thin and weak. So you have to also brew green or black tea kombucha. You can stick the used SCOBYs back into the green/black tea to rejuvenate them, but I prefer to just keep them in the rooibos batch, adding in a fresh SCOBY as needed, and discarding used SCOBYs as they become expired (they will look really gross).

The "SCOBY hotel" - where I keep healthy SCOBYS in green tea kombucha until I need them

The “SCOBY hotel” – where I keep healthy SCOBYS in green tea kombucha until I need them

SCOBY getting worn out from brewing rooibos kombucha

SCOBY that has been used in brewing rooibos kombucha and its flimpsy “baby”

If you enjoy drinking green or black tea kombucha, then super great for you, you can drink those batches. If you are generous, you can give them away. If you are like me and don’t want to drink tea but want to get the most out of it, you can let it brew until it turns to vinegar. This way the SCOBYs you are growing will get maximum nutrition out of the brew. You can use the vinegar for cleaning if you don’t want to throw it out. As a vinegar, you don’t have to refrigerate it.

Step #9 – Make more rooibos kombucha

When you finish a rooibos kombucha brew, be sure to save about a cup of the liquid to start the next batch. If you forget to do this, you can always steal some from your green tea brew. I keep a stash of green tea kombucha in the fridge for just such an emergency. Add a fresh SCOBY if you have one ready to use, or you can keep using the current one.

I find that I can make enough SCOBYs from my “SCOBY hotel” to supply the needs of two ongoing batches of rooibos kombucha, as long as I use the SCOBYs until they expire. They expire after about four brews.

This may seem like a complicated way to make kombucha, but if you want the health benefits of kombucha without the problems associated with tea, it’s worth it. Plus, I think it’s a really tasty way to get the benefits of rooibos as well, so it’s like a win-win-win for me.

UPDATE: I have now discovered Red Raspberry Leaf Kombucha! Red raspberry leaf is a wonderful herb for fertility and pregnancy, and has a sweet flowery taste to it. Making it is the same process as making rooibos kombucha–simply substitute the rooibos for dried red raspberry leaves, using as much as you like (I don’t even measure the leaves, I just put in an amount that looks good!).

About these ads

About Lisa C

I'm a mindful mama, loving wife, self-driven photographer and writer. I live in Oregon.

27 responses »

  1. For me, especially ttc, it is the alcohol that gives me pause more than the caffeine.

    Reply
    • Oh interesting, I had never known anyone to avoid it for that reason. (Although I know alcohol sensitive people will avoid it.) The Synergy brand of kombucha is supposed to have no more than .05% alcohol, but I guess under the right conditions, kombucha can be as high as 1%. Normally the sugars end up converting to a vinegar rather than remaining alcohol. I should read up more on this to make sure I’m getting the lowest amount of alcohol, even though I’m not really concerned. I’ve never gotten a buzz off of it or anything, and I don’t taste alcohol in it. I think my kombucha must be on the low end. Many people give kombucha to their kids.

      Reply
      • When Whole Foods did testing of various kombucha brands, they found some as high as 3%. From what I’ve read, the first fermentation is usually around .5-1%, but if you add any juice to it afterwards for flavoring there is a secondary fermentation that takes place and can bump the alcohol content up to 2-3%.

        Even at the .5%, for me personally as someone ttc, I worry about its effects on the development of alcoholism. Genetically, I, and any children I have, will be very prone developing alcoholism. There are multiple generations of alcoholics in both my and my husbands family. And even small amounts of alcohol produce the dopamine response in the brain that is one of the main factors in addiction.

        It has also been well-studied that exposure to alcohol in-utero effects the brain and increases the chances of alcohol dependance later in life, plus children in the womb experience double or more the blood alcohol level of their mother. So, if kombucha is .5%, the child’s exposure is 1%, if the kombucha is 1.5%, the child’s exposure is 3%, or greater.

        Also well-studied, especially for those of us with a genetic per-disposition towards alcoholic, is that the early a person begins drinking alcohol, the greater the chance of developing dependency later in life. Again, even small amounts of alcohol produce the dopamine response that begin the addiction process.

        While I don’t judge people who give kombucha to their children or who drink it while pregnant, because I like and believe it is healthful, for people like me who lost the genetic roulette when it come to addiction, I feel it unwise to drink it while pregnant or to give it to my children. I intend to limit the exposure of my children’s brain to alcohol as much as possible. Addiction is multifaceted and much goes into whether or not a person develops addiction, but early exposure does seem to be a trigger point.

      • Wow, thanks for that sobering info (no pun intended). I had not heard of the alcohol content getting that high unless it was intentional. I’ve avoided alcohol all my life but I believe I would have had a tendency toward alcoholism, too.

    • There is ample research to show that tiny amounts of alcohol will have zero negative effect on a developing fetus, and that as long as alcohol consumption is kept to less than 3 servings per week or 1/2 serving per day, there is zero observable side effect. In fact, in studies that looked at the effects of moderate consumption vs. zero consumption vs. heavy drinking, the group with the least problems was the group that consumed some, vs. no alcohol.

      1 serving= approx 5 oz wine, 12 oz beer, 1 oz hard alcohol. 12 oz of kombucha at the very highest alcohol content would be approximately 1/2 serving of alcohol. Most grocery store kombuchas have a much lower content, less than half a percent alcohol, which does not legally qualify as an alcoholic beverage. If someone is making home brew, fermenting it for a week and then drinking quarts of it per day, then yes, there could be a problem. Longer ferments, and moderate quantities? Not even slightly worried.

      This has been studied over and over again. Study after study fails to find harm in low-to-moderate alcohol consumption where the mother does not binge. Kombucha per se has not been researched, but alcohol has been, and they keep looking for any sign that alcohol causes harm in very low doses, and they keep failing.

      I didn’t “avoid” alcohol when pregnant, but I didn’t feel like drinking and did not have very much. Not none, but not much. When I did have half a drink, I felt zero guilt or concern over it.

      Reply
      • Thank you for your input. I have heard varying things on this. I personally didn’t worry about very small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy, such as in herbal tinctures. I read that a very ripe banana had more alcohol than a tincture serving, so I guess we may be consuming alcohol all the time without realizing it.

  2. I have heard that black tea is better for scobys, but to mix half black half green for a better taste. I am LDS and don’t drink tea, but I do drink kombucha and make it at home too. I also give it to my toddler. But everyone needs to make their own decision on this of course so I am not judging, just sharing.

    Reply
  3. I’m guessing you may be LDS? I’ve started making rooibos kombucha a few weeks ago, but I was never told the scoby wouldn’t grow well! My understanding is that my friend who gave it to me only uses rooibos as well. I’ll have to check and see how many brews the scoby she gave me has been through. It does sound a bit complicated to do it this way, but I’ll look into it if it’s needed to keep it going!

    How would I know if it’s not working? Mine is definitely not thick and solid (at least after the first week I used it), but the resulting kombucha is definitely tart and fizzy after the 2nd fermentation.

    Reply
    • Interesting. Well I guess it could work, I’ve just noticed my scobys don’t grow nearly as well in the rooibos. If it starts taking a long time to brew then you may want to recharge the SCOBY (or grow a new healthy one) with some green or black tea.

      And yes, I am LDS :)

      Reply
  4. Cecilia Powers

    I’m glad I stumbled upon this. I”m LDS too and first started doing a rooibos only kombucha and it was difficult. I’ve since (with new scoby and everything) done a mixture of a little bit of gunpowder green tea and mostly rooibos tea. I’ve done some research that the scoby not only utilizes the sugar and caffeine, the tannin and other negative things have been changed by the scoby. Just throwing it out there as another possibility. I also have never had a problem with the alcohol content even doing the second fermentations. I’ve been doing kombucha regularly for 1.5 years now. My kids love it and help thinks of flavors to add to it. In terms of alcohol content, orange juice has been found to have .1% alcohol content or more as well as some other juices. Most commercial mouth washes also have a higher alcohol content, so I’m not concerned with a drink that I make at home with positive energy and love. Enjoy!

    Reply
    • Interesting about the juice and alcohol content!

      Here’s a thought I have about consuming tea in the form of kombucha. The Word of Wisdom states not to have “hot drinks” and kombucha is not a hot drink. It makes me wonder if perhaps kombucha is a proper use of tea (as the ‘bad’ elements are taken out), and simply brewing it isn’t. But of course I don’t really know for sure if the Lord is okay with my drinking fermented tea, so for the most part I don’t. I find the Word of Wisdom can so easily be interpreted different ways, and I imagine there is a good reason for that. I also don’t think the Word of Wisdom prohibits any and all alcohol–it says no “strong” drinks, but “mild” drinks are fine. So I’m not worried about the small about of alcohol, and I think I’d notice if I was getting a buzz off of it lol

      Anyway, rooibos has so many health benefits, I just feel really good about consuming kombucha this way :) Thanks for your commment!

      Reply
  5. Thanks for working out the details on how to do this! I drink a little tea and since the ferment removes most of the caffeine, I’m not overly worried. But I love rooibos tea, and sometimes I want to have some kombucha before bed, so this gives us a completely herbal option.

    And as far as the alcohol content, my friend who runs a health food store told me one of his kombucha tea reps got a DUI for drinking kombucha that had been in a warm car for a couple weeks. The alcohol level had risen up to beer levels and so he was arrested for driving with an open container. Scary..

    Reply
  6. Thanks for this article and the useful comments. I’ve recently been introduced to kombucha by a friend and am going to start brewing it, but have been struggling a bit to work out how it fits in with the word of wisdom. I’d hoped that as I would be using it for medicinal purposes, brewing with green tea as my friend does, that I would be ok. Feeling much better about it after reading the comments :-D

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Red Raspberry Leaf Kombucha | Nourishing My Life

  8. I make kombucha and love it. I use black, green, jazmine and want to start doing the tasines as well. I am super sensitive to alcohol and this does not get me, it contains only a TRACE amount, so it is NOT an alcoholic drink. The thing with the wow is that they do not allow things that can be beneficial to you (LIKE GREEN TEA) but yet, drinking soda (which has caffeine) and that is is ok? isn’t our bodies a temple, and why would you poison it by drinking such filthy things?

    Reply
  9. Wonderful post. Brewed my first kombucha this week, but just cant justify drinking it due to the tea. I knew there had to be a way to use an herbal tea! Thanks fir posting all this info!

    Reply
  10. Hi, I just stumbled upon your blog. Thanks for the great post! I am LDS and I first learned about Kombucha from a friend who is also LDS. She only buys the stuff from the store but for me it’s way too expensive! I continuous brew my Kombucha using green tea and sometimes Yerba mate and I don’t ever feel like I’m breaking the word of wisdom. But every person has to do what they feel is right for them! My husband and I think it’s fun to have a little toast in the morning in a fancy glass and drink to our health or our marriage or whatever…I have LDS friends that drink big thirst busters of diet coke, dr pepper or mountain dew and others who drink Advocare’s “Spark” which is better than soda,
    yet still has lots of caffeine and artificial sweeteners. Yuck! I love Kombucha and what it does for my body. I think I’ll try your raspberry leaf recipe, it sounds so refreshing and I’ve read of the amazing benefits of raspberry leaf tea. Thanks so much for your blog and your insight!

    Reply
    • I have had many LDS members tell me now that they drink regular kombucha. It certainly isn’t a “hot drink”– makes me wonder if this was what tea was intended for, but I don’t know! Wish I had all the answers! lol

      Reply
  11. Thank you so much for this information!! I have been wondering about kombucha vs. the WoW and was ready to give it up…now I will make your kind and not wonder any more.

    Reply
  12. Femme fermenter

    Hello! I am a huge fan of roobios kombucha :-) I have yet to have an issue with my scobe…After reading r awesome post I just had two points of caution 1) the scobe and it’s liquid should NEVER come into contact with any metal! This will kill your scobe 2)and a dead or dying scobe can make you very ill, you should discard any scobe and the mixture it had been in that has developed any black spots or mold for that matter…I am sure you already knew this but just thought since it wasn’t said it should be! Happy fermenting everyone!

    Reply
  13. So is this 100% rooibos, or rooibos with a small amount of tea?

    Reply
  14. Hi Lisa, thanks for sharing your recipe and views on WoW and kombucha. I was just wondering what other flavours you’ve added to your kombuchas. I’ve found a really lovely Kombucha (to buy) that is an apricot peach flavour and so far it’s my favourite. So how would you get those flavours? Chop up the fruit and add it or use juice? I am considering making my own. Thanks

    Reply
    • So far I’ve only done ginger and grape, but I’ve also made a red raspberry leaf kombucha, which is amazing. But I have done grape by smashing concord grapes and leaving them in the bottle for the second ferment, then straining them out. That’s what I would do for other fruit flavors, but I guess you could also go through the trouble of juicing the fruit first and adding the juice to your kombucha.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 123 other followers

%d bloggers like this: