By Chris Strait
Since my introduction to the world of fermented tea 7 years ago, it seems as if the “standard operating procedure” has been inclined towards post-fermentation flavoring. This has yielded a myriad of incredibly complex and delicious drinks, for sure. The creativity involved in such conjuration is one of the most enjoyable aspects of brewing kombucha.
But just like in food, the beverage world benefits greatly from the observance of simplicity. Every pot of chili, korma, etc. has its antipode in an onion, in kale, in almonds, etc. - unadulterated, unprocessed, additive-free - you get the picture. The equivalent impulse to simplify, in the realm of kombucha, involves an examination of the unavoidable essentials - sugar and tea.
While I have extensive experience in brewing with relatively “standard” teas (English breakfast, white, gunpowder green, even yerba mate), the effects of kombucha fermentation on fine teas is relatively uncharted territory for me. What happens when you ferment a Dragonwell green tea, a fine oolong of Phoenix Mountain, the fine buds of Silver Needle white tea, or a Pu-erh? What I’m beginning to discover is a world of complexity and flavor I’ve never experienced in kombucha. Tastes of passionfruit, pineapple, coconut, chocolate - all flavors I would have added post-fermentation - and more - are completely attainable with careful tea choice, steeping and fermentation.
This is just the beginning of a long road, paved with SCOBYs, with new discoveries at every turn. In upcoming posts I’ll examine the varieties of teas, their connection with the land (contributing terroir), the important influence of human processing, and their “kombuchatization.”
So, stay tuned, get some ‘buch brewing, and let’s explore. It’s going to be an exciting journey.