A DIY Herbal Kombucha Recipe

By Nick Polizzi

Why is it that almost every culture around the world eats fermented foods?  Is it an inherent love of the tangy and sour?

That’s part of it, but there’s an evolutionary reason that our taste buds crave these flavors… it’s because fermented foods are extremely good for our digestive health, which plays a HUGE part in our overall well-being.

Your digestive health rules over your immune system, detoxification processes, cellular respiration, skin quality, and mental function. Every single one of these systems (to name but a few) hinge on your ability to effectively convert your food into fuel.

So naturally, you’ve got to do everything you can to make sure the enzymes and friendly bacteria in your belly are thriving. 

It turns out that one of the best ways to nourish healthy digestion is by eating the right fermented foods — which are actually the most neglected dietary component in our modern world. Foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi… all have the same healing powers. They introduce new healthy bacteria to your gut so that the trillions of helpful microorganisms in there (also known as your microbiome) stay well balanced.

The hottest fermented food on the market right now is a tangy beverage called kombucha.

This deliciously fizzy tea has become a superstar in the wellness world because it can heal your gut, normalize your bowel movements and boost your immune response, when consumed daily.

As much as people rave about it, most don’t know that it’s actually very easy to make your own kombucha at home. 

And the magic all starts with something called a SCOBY…

Shorthand for Symbiotic Cultures of Bacteria and Yeast, SCOBYs are rubbery, pancake-like living cultures that make kombucha the powerful drink that it is. Your SCOBY eats the sugars in your tea blend, turning them into the amazing antioxidants, vitamins, and probiotics that kombucha is well known for.

The first step to making kombucha at home is to find a SCOBY.

You can get your SCOBY (and the liquid it came in) either from a trusted natural food retailer or a kombucha-crazed friend. These can be divided and given to friends for their own kombucha starter kits — so if you know someone with an affinity for home-brewed kombucha, they’ll likely have one to give you. 

The second step is to prepare your tea.

For your tea, you can put together any combination of healing herbs and flavors you love as long as you add the proper amount of sugar. You’ll need 1 cup of sugar for every gallon of tea (do not use honey!).

Follow this kombucha recipe to a “tea” and you’ll be well on your way to a delicious digestive tonic in no time.

DIY Herbal Kombucha

Ingredients

  • 1 SCOBY
  • 1.5 cups starter liquid that the SCOBY came in
  • 1 gallon filtered water
  • 2 TBSP green tea 
  • 1 TBSP peppermint
  • 1 TBSP holy basil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-gallon glass jar (or other sealable glass vessel)
  • Cheesecloth or a tea towel

Instructions:

  1. Brew your tea (in the filtered water) for at least 10 minutes
  2. Add sugar and stir until dissolved
  3. Strain out loose herbs
  4. Allow to cool — at least 30 minutes
  5. Add tea/sugar mix to your jar
  6. Place the SCOBY on top
  7. Add starter liquid
  8. Cover with cheesecloth
  9. Place in a dark, clean cabinet where no critters or light can damage the brew
  10. Wait 2-3 weeks
  11. Taste test – It should be slightly acidic, but sweet. It should be a little bubbly, but not overtly so.
  12. When your kombucha tastes just right, you can decant into smaller bottles. This tea should yield a nice peppermint / holy basil  taste with the bitterness of green tea.

If you’re a visual learner like me, here’s a Kombucha Tutorial by Wellness Mama that is straightforward and easy to follow.

Last, but not least, be sure to save the SCOBYs (there should be two now, if you’ve done it right) when your kombucha is ready to be bottled. That way you can start your next batch ASAP!

Stay curious,

Nick Polizzi
Founder, The Sacred Science

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124 Responses

  1. I love my kombucha! Great article. Only thing I would mention is that kombucha can attract fruit flies and that the recommended cheesecloth could allow those little critters to enter your brew. I cover my jar with any cotton with a closer weave- I use a cotton handkerchief but other things would work as well.

  2. Any recommendations on keeping the alcohol content down to as low as possible?
    Any substitutions for processed sugar?? I was thinking fruit or dates, or agave?

  3. I understand many people believe in Kombucha but I have never found benefits
    from consuming it (after trying several bottles). Perhaps I just do not like sugar. I do
    however believe in sauerkraut and kimchi which I make my own. Just make sure
    to purchase the best fermenting jars (not one’s which let air in and create mold)..
    I use the pickl-it jars and believe in their quality.

  4. Hi,
    I was doing some related reading on Kombucha, & it’s a favourite out on the West Coast too. However, I wonder if you have heard of a similar fermented beverage called Jun Tea. It uses a cooler brewing temperature, less time, and is made with Green Tea and Raw Honey. It can also be fermented twice for more effervescence.
    History suggests that it was made in Tibet 1,000 years ago as an aid to enlightenment. There are similar probiotic properties to both brews, but some discrepancies exist regarding the source of Jun Tea, claiming that Kombucha was the original beverage. Honey and Green Tea have been around longer than sugar or Black Tea possibly, but we may never know which beverage came first and it likely doesn’t matter.
    Since we seem to be edging into a type of age of enlightenment, with world populations waking up to the idea that they may have some collective healthy impact on the future, perhaps these beverages may also aid us individually. ( I just scrolled down and noticed that someone has already mentioned Jun Cha.)
    PS. It is possible to put less sugar in your Kombucha batch, you can add 1/4 C. brown sugar to your cup of sugar, and experiment with using 2/3 cup sugar altogether. It can sometimes change the fermentation process though, depending on the temperature in the room. (The online Kombucha Brewing site I found, strongly suggests using fair-trade sugar for brewing.)

  5. For those of you questioning the use of sugar, here’s my take. I used to help My Mother make wine. Yes, she was a wine maker. Remember her explaining if you don’t add enough sugar after the brewing of the grapes, the final beverage would taste more like vinegar. The amount of sugar was definitely an important factor because the brew has to age. Since there are more options for sweeteners today, then when my Mother made her wine, organic sugar and possibly coconut sugar may be a good substitute. But sugar is probably a necessary ingredient or as in one commentor stated, use less sugar.

  6. Be careful if you are pregnant or trying to conceive- holy basil is not recommended during these life stages. Please do your due diligence if you are pregnant or trying to conceive, as there are many herbs and other foods that should be avoided during such times.
    Blessings to all!
    Jen

  7. Questions (riffing on some earlier comments too):
    1- if honey is not to be used, what did traditional cultures use to grow their kombucha? (I doubt they all used refined sugar, and most probably had no access to sugar cane at all.)
    2-Is Jun Cha made with different strain(s) of SCOBY than Kombucha? or are they ALL a little different, evolving over time?
    3-Is “cha” at the end of these words referring to “tea” which is like words for tea in Russian, Chinese, and some languages spoken in India? If so, what is the meaning of “kombu-” (like the seaweed?) and “jun-“?

  8. Hı Dear Sir,
    I have a question.
    ı used to use 1/2 glass of honey as a source of glucose. But you warn us not to use honey .
    Could you tell me why we not to use honey.
    thank you.

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