Tea is one of the most important ingredients used to make kombucha. But with so many different brands, colors, and types out there, how do you know which kind of tea to use?
The best tea for brewing kombucha is pure, organic, and caffeinated loose leaf tea. Most kombucha brewers will either use only black tea, or a combination of black and green, although oolong and white tea work as well. Different teas have their own flavors and health aspects that can be useful depending on what the brewer wants out of their kombucha.
If you’re in search for the best tea for your kombucha, you've come to the right place. In this article, I'll walk you through everything you need to know about tea and kombucha so that you can make the best kombucha possible.
If you're short on time or just need a quick review, heres a quick table with the main advantages of every color of tea.
Ok, let’s get started!
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a probiotic drink made from fermented tea that has become quite popular in recent years due to its great taste and many health benefits such as improved digestion and gut health, detoxification, and immune system strengthening.
What Exactly is Tea?
Tea is the second most popular drink in the world, behind only water. What many people don't know though, is that all tea, whether green, black, white, oolong, or pu’erh, actually comes from the same plant: the Camellia sinensis.
The differences in the color and flavor of tea comes from how it’s oxidized. Oxidation is a process in which the green tea leaves are exposed to the air in order to dry and darken. It’s the same thing that happens when you leave a half eaten apple out on the counter for a few hours and it turns brown.
The length of oxidation will affect a tea’s strength, flavor, and aroma. When tea is fully oxidized it becomes black tea, and when it’s only slightly oxidized, the leaves remain mostly green and are used to make green tea.
The Role of Tea in Kombucha
All kombucha actually begins the brewing process as sweet tea, usually a mixture of black and green teas. What turns this sweet tea into the sweet and sour probiotic kombucha that so many love is a culture of living bacteria and yeast.
This culture of bacteria, known as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast), eats the sugar and caffeine from the sweet tea and produces acids, carbon dioxide, and alcohol.
Once it has eaten enough sugar to make the kombucha bitter tasting, the SCOBY is removed and the 1st fermentation is complete. At this point the kombucha can be drunk, but it's not carbonated or flavored yet.
The carbonation and flavor is added in a 2nd fermentation. During this stage, the kombucha is sealed in glass fermenting bottles that are filled with fruit, juice, or herbs for flavoring.
Over the course of a few days, the kombucha in the bottles develops carbonation and flavor. It’s then refrigerated and ready to be drunk!
What Kind of Tea to Use to Brew Kombucha
I'll talk about what color of tea to use in a minute, but first it’s important to point out that whatever type of tea you use to brew your kombucha, it needs to be organic, pure, and caffeinated.
It turns out that the first time tea leaves are washed is when you brew them! This means that if the tea you use isn’t organic, pesticides and chemicals are likely going to end up in your kombucha.
Even if you’re not worried about consuming these chemicals yourself, you should be worried for your SCOBY. Because the SCOBY eats basically whatever you give it, if there are chemicals and pesticides in your tea, it’s going to eat these things.
And because of how sensitive the SCOBY is, (even touching it with unwashed hands could damage it) if you give it something it’s not supposed to eat such as pesticides or chemicals, it’s going to get either killed, or weakened to the point where it can’t fight off mold growth
Pure tea leaves will give you the cleanest flavor and most nutrients possible out of the tea. These extra nutrients are not only good for you, but will also be great for keeping the SCOBY healthy.
Another reason to use pure tea is that the chemicals in scented or flavored teas can hurt the SCOBY, leading to your kombucha tasting funny, the SCOBY dying, or your brew becoming moldy.
It’s important that the tea used for brewing kombucha is caffeinated because caffeine is one of the most important nutrients for keeping the SCOBY healthy and functioning.
Tea Bags vs Loose Leaf Tea
I recommend you always use loose leaf tea when brewing kombucha, since it’s generally considered healthier and better tasting than tea bags.
The biggest difference between loose leaf and tea bags is that loose leaf tea has larger, higher quality leaves, while tea bags are packed with tiny, broken, lower quality leaves known as “dust” or “fannings.”
The reason larger and higher quality tea leaves are better is because their large surface area and the extra space around them allows them to absorb more water and expand as they infuse, which leads to more water flowing through the leaves and bringing out more nutrients, minerals, aromas, and flavors from the tea.
The small particles of tea in a tea bag are limited in their ability to infuse by their surface area, and also by the small size of the tea bag, providing a less flavorful and nutrient rich tea.
Tea bags can be good for making kombucha since they are easy to use and relatively cheap. I’ve used them before and my kombucha came out just fine. But if you’re looking to make the highest quality kombucha, with the best health benefits and taste possible, loose leaf is the way to go.
If you plan on using loose leaf tea, you're going to need an infuser or strainer. I got my tea strainer on Amazon. It’s made of stainless steel so it’ll last forever, and it has an extra fine mesh to keep all the tea inside and prevent little pieces of leaves from getting into your booch. You can find it on Amazon here.
What Kind of Tea is the Best for Kombucha?
Kombucha can be brewed with one type of tea, or a combination of a few. The 4 colors of tea that can be used to brew booch are black, green, white, and oolong. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, and your choice of what color to use will depend a lot on what kind of kombucha you want to make.
Let's talk about each color of tea and why or why not you may want to use it.
Black tea has the longest oxidation process out of any of the 4 teas, and so it generally has the strongest and most intense flavor.
Black has been the color of choice for kombucha brewers ever since the drink started. A lot of brewers like the strong flavor it gives their booch. And, because its high in caffeine, it’s really good for the SCOBY's health.
Plain, organic black tea is the best to use for brewing kombucha, but Ceylon and English Breakfast also work well. DO NOT however, use Earl Grey or Chai since they have oils and spices which will negatively react with the SCOBY.
According to Healthline.com, black tea has antioxidant properties and may boost heart health, lower bad cholesterol, and improve gut health and focus, among many other benefits.
My favorite black tea is Vahdam's 100% pure loose leaf Darjeeling black tea. This tea is grown in the Himalayas, makes strong kombucha with a lot of flavor, and will give your SCOBY all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
You can find large bags of Vahdams 100% pure loose leaf black tea for a bargain on Amazon here.
Green tea is much less oxidized than black tea, giving it a more natural, earthy, and grassy flavor. It's known for being high in antioxidants, especially the antioxidant EGCG, which has been found to help treat many diseases.
Green tea has less caffeine than black tea, but still enough to keep the SCOBY healthy.
Brewers that use green tea for their kombucha do so because they believe it has more health benefits than the other teas. Those against its use claim that green tea doesn’t give their kombucha a strong enough flavor.
Green tea and its antioxidants may improve brain function, increase fat burning, lower the risk of prostate, colorectal, and breast cancer, and protect the brain from aging, among many other benefits.
If you decide to go with green tea, I recommend Davidson’s 100% organic gunpowder Chinese green tea. This tea will add tons of antioxidants to your booch. And because it’s “gunpowder” there is more caffeine than most green teas, which means you don’t have to worry about mixing in black tea to get your SCOBY enough caffeine.
You can get a pound of Davidsons 100% organic gunpowder green tea for less than $10 on Amazon here.
White tea is one of the most minimally processed and most natural tea varieties. It actually isn’t oxidized at all and is harvested even before the tea plant leaves open fully.
White tea has even less caffeine than green tea, and is almost always used in combination with another tea to brew kombucha.
The flavor is described by some as delicate, floral, grassy, and fruity.
White tea is rich in antioxidants and may reduce the risk of heart disease, aid in weight loss, protect teeth from bacteria, protect against osteoporosis, and combat skin aging.
My favorite white tea is Vahdam’s 100% Pure Imperial Himalayan White Tea. Vahdam’s tea is grown in small quantities in the Himalayas, so it’s super high quality. And they make their tea with big leaves, which means extra infusion of nutrients, antioxidants, and flavor into your kombucha.
At only $15 a bag, Vadham’s is easily the best bang for your buck when compared to any white tea out there. You can find it on Amazon here
Oolong tea is best described as a bridge between green and black tea, since its flavor and caffeine content lie somewhere between the two, depending on the leaves, brand, and how long it’s been oxidized.
Oolong can be used by itself to brew kombucha, or combined with another variety of tea.
As for the health benefits, oolong tea may help relieve eczema, promote tooth and bone strength, improve brain function, improve heart health, and help prevent diabetes.
If you choose to use oolong for your kombucha, I recommend Davidson’s Organic Quilan China Oolong. You can get a 16 ounce (1 pound) bag on Amazon here.
What is the Best Tea for Kombucha?
As you can see, different teas are going to be better for different people depending on their health goals, the flavor they want their kombucha to have, and what nutrients they think their SCOBY needs to stay healthy.
I will tell you that the tea I use to brew kombucha is a half and half combination of black and green.
Black tea is so great for the SCOBY because of the extra caffeine it has, and it gives the kombucha the strong flavor that I really like. But green tea has so many great health benefits, especially with its antioxidants, that I can't leave it out.
With just green tea my brew wouldn’t have enough flavor, but with just black tea I’d miss out on all the extra health benefits that green tea provides. It’s this type of customization and experimenting that makes kombucha so fun to brew!
Although green and black tea are the go to choice for most kombucha home brewers, there really isn’t a best tea for making kombucha. At the end of the day, the tea you use depends on what you want out of your booch.
If you’re still not sure about what tea to use, black tea is simple to use and makes some great kombucha. And if for some reason you don’t like it, there's plenty of other options.
Thanks for reading and happy brewing!
If you want to learn more about kombucha, how it relates to your health, and even how to brew it yourself, check out the rest of my website!