Fruit Juice Kombucha

A reader of this blog named Heidi noticed the discussion of “kombucha” made by fermenting fruit juice with a kombucha culture (SCOBY) started by Parker Bohn. She wrote as follows:

I read somewhere on the internet that kombucha was traditionally brewed with rosehips and elderberries.  Since then I’ve been combining tea (either green, black, or raspberry leaf) with several kinds of wild fruit and making some absolutely amazing kombucha!  (Before then I experimented with lots of different herbal kombuchas with different medicinal properties.)  Black current, rosehips, elderberries, sumac berries, autumn olive berries, black cherries, and raspberries all made excellent kombucha.  The best results seemed to be from tea combined with two different fruits, one tart and the other with a unique flavor.  I also tried wild grape juice and hawthorn fruits but wasn’t as happy with the results, though the kombucha was still good. Also the SCOBY grows thicker with the tea and fruit combos.

I still used the same amounts of sugar and tea that I had been using, but I was using tart wild fruits that weren’t as sweet as store brought juice.  My brew of tea, wild fruits, and sugar was a lot stronger and more flavorful than the weak tea and sugar combo that most people use. I would have two or more people sample the results.  Different people would have different favorites, but everyone agreed that the fruit and tea combos were the best kombucha they’d ever had.

I also created herbal kombuchas to target different health issues that people had. For example I made a kombucha with wormwood and other parasite killing herbs. After awhile, I pushed it too far with the herbs though, and the SCOBY stopped fermenting well and started to mold.  I was able to nurse it back to life though. Certain herbs work much better than others.

Perhaps a mixture roughly half tea and sugar, half fruit juice will work best. At least, that’s where I’ll start exploring these possibilities. I may never go back to traditional kombucha. Because they are more complex, I can easily believe these newfangled brews taste better. It’s interesting they aren’t available commercially. Flavored kombucha drinks in stores are kombucha with small amounts of fruit juice added at the end.

9 Responses to “Fruit Juice Kombucha”

  1. Alex Chernavsky Says:

    Seth, can you ask Heidi for more-specific instructions? It’s not clear whether she includes whole fruit/berries with the tea, mashes it the fruit first, squeezes juice out of it, etc. I’d like to have enough detail to reproduce her kombucha myself.

  2. Seth Roberts Says:

    okay, I’ll ask for more details.

  3. John Eels Says:

    You might be interested in this drink: http://www.carpediem.com/en/products/kombucha

  4. Tom Says:

    I’m wondering if some of the health benefits attributed to wine may not have more to do with the fact that it’s a fermented beverage.

  5. Seth Roberts Says:

    John, yes, it sounds like they ferment the fruit juice for a long time. The product I said didn’t exist.

  6. Heidi 555 Says:

    Alex, I processed the fruit in different ways depending on what it was and the form that I had it in. For example with the sumac, I steeped the fresh berries in the fridge for 1-4 days. With wild grapes and autumn olive berries I blended the fresh fruit and poured off the liquid. The rosehips and elderberries that I had had been dried, so I steeped them in hot water. The black current and raspberries were part of a green tea blend. The black cherries I cooked, but if I could find a simple way to remove the pits, I would process them differently. If possible I tried not to heat the fruit to preserve the vitamin C. In general I processed the fruit separate from the tea and sugar and then mixed them both together at room temperature. Occasionally, I steeped dried fruit with the tea and then strained it all off.

    My kombucha brew would be stronger than the weak tea and sugar that is typically recommended. Different fruits combined better with different kinds of tea. I always made two different blends at a time, plus I saved a few bottles from a previous batch. So I did a lot of direct comparisons, and as Seth would say I became a kombucha snob or connoisseur.

    I stockpiled a lot of kombucha in my fridge and stopped brewing it for the winter. The kombucha SCOBY can just rest dormant for a long time. I gather most of my own fruits. So it was a labor intensive process. But I have lots of new ideas and combinations that I want to try next year. I would be curious to hear what combos other people discover to be exceptionally good.

  7. Seth Roberts Says:

    Thanks, Heidi. The way you combine fruit and tea to make kombucha reminds me of the lambic beers I like so much. They involve two fermentations: beer and fruit juice. Also the way I got good results from using three fermented sources of flavor in soups: e.g., miso, fermented black bean sauce, and stinky tofu.

  8. Alex Chernavsky Says:

    Heidi, thanks for the additional information.

  9. Heidi 555 Says:

    You are both welcome. I look forward to hearing about your results.