So maybe you aren’t thrilled with the idea that kombucha is made with white sugar and black tea. Is there a way around your SCOBY’s strict diet? Yes! You can brew kombucha with honey or maple syrup. And you can make kombucha herbal tea.
There is really only one trick… your SCOBY won’t be happy. The SCOBY needs the tannins found in teas and it needs sugar. So as long as you have a healthy SCOBY grown in tea and sugar, then you can sacrifice one of its babies to a life in herbal tea or honey.
- 1 rooibos tea bag
- ¼ cup of pasteurized honey (unpasteurized honey has it's own bacterial culture)
- 4 cups of filtered water
- Kombucha SCOBY
- ½ cup of leftover kombucha (or cultured apple cider vinegar)
- Boil 2 cups of water and make a sweet tea with the tea bag and sugar (steep until the sugar is dissolved).
- Add the remaining 2 cups of water to cool the tea down to room temperature.
- Place tea, SCOBY and leftover kombucha in a glass jar or measuring cup.
- Cover with a tea towel and use a rubber band to keep it in place.
- Allow it to ferment in a warm location for 7-15 days (it will take longer than regular kombucha).
- Pour off a little liquid to taste it. It is finished when it has reached the desired level of sourness (it starts really sweet and becomes sour).
- Pour it off into a plastic bottle or a swing top beer bottle leaving the SCOBY.
Rules for Brewing sugar-free, caffeine-free kombucha
- After brewing kombucha without tea and/or sugar then you will either need to throw away that SCOBY or try to revive it by following the basic kombucha recipe. I recommend keeping a healthy SCOBY in the usual sweet tea while making your sugar free/tea free batches.
- Rooibos tea is better than other herbal teas because it doesn’t contain any volatile oils, however, you can experiment with other teas if you want.
- Don’t try to use low calorie sweeteners (like xylitol, stevia, splenda) as there won’t be anything for the SCOBY to eat. Also avoid high fructose sweeteners (like agave or rice syrup). You can add these sweeteners after bottling the kombucha for a second ferment.
You can see from the photo that the new SCOBY growing across the top is not very thick and healthy, and this is after quite a long time culturing. However, it still grew! And I really enjoy my honey rooibos kombucha.