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Different Tea - Different Taste
It is hard to believe, but all tea comes from essentially the same plant, the Camellia Sinensis. The differences between the many types of tea come from variations in soil and climate conditions, picking time during the season and how the leaves are processed and fermented.
The type of tea you choose to make your kombucha with will effect the taste of the kombucha. There are so many different teas to choose from, each brings it's own flavour and health benefits to your kombucha. But your tea must be tea, not herbal tea. The vitamins and minerals as well as the purines in tea are needed to maintain a health kombucha culture. The results will also vary with the strength of the tea you make and how long you let it brew. What follows is a very general guide to the types of tea and the kombucha flavours it produces.
Black tea is made from tea leaves that have been fully fermented. It gives a strong apply taste and beautiful amber colour to the kombucha. Strong fruity tastes reminiscent of cider are common but you can get woody, earthy and smoky tastes too.
Oolong tea is half way between green tea and black tea. It's gently rolled after picking and allowed to partially ferment until the edges of the leaves start to turn brown. Depending on the variety of Oolong you use, the kombucha can be a fruity amber like black tea 'cha or light and grassy like a green tea 'cha.
Green tea is withered then steamed or heated to prevent oxidation and then rolled and dried. It is characterized by a delicate taste, light green colour. Kombucha made from green tea is lighter in taste and colour than black tea 'cha. Taste varies depending on the particular green tea your choose. From fruity to grassy, buttery or nutty, green tea 'cha is more like a white wine than a cider, or more like a Normandy cider.
White Tea is the rarest and most delicate of tea. Plucked forty-eight hours or less between the time the first buds become fully mature and the time they open. White teas are expensive but they produce the most wonderful light flowery teas and the taste comes through in the 'cha. More like a champagne, the white tea 'cha can be flowery or grassy bringing a natural sweetness and delicacy from the tea to the 'cha.
Teas to Avoid
Don't use teas like Earl Grey that use essential oils (Bergamot in Earl Grey) to add flavour. This can upset or even kill the kombucha culture. Smoked teas like Lasang Suchong are best avoided too. They make a very odd tasting kombucha. Herbal teas should not be used on their own unless they are a blend of real tea and herbs. You can add herbal tea bags to real tea to add a flavour to the kombucha. But make sure they don't contain essential oils or artificial flavourings or sweetners. They should only use dried herbs and dried fruit.
Teas for Health
Around the world research into tea flavonoids and their healing properties is a hot topic. Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA performed a study to demonstrate that tea consumption, both black and green tea, can extend years of life after a heart attack. Antioxidants in tea, may have a protective role to play in rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and some cancers, reduce the risk of strokes and minimise damage from smoking.
Vitamins and Minerals
Tea is also a dietary source of vitamins and minerals. Tea contains Carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, vitamin B1, Riboflavin Nicotinic acid, Pantothenic acid, vitamin C, vitamin B6, Folic acid, Quercetin, Rutin, Manganese and Potassium. As well as Theanine - an amino acid that produces tranquillizing effects in the brain.
part of a large class of chemicals called polyphenols that occur naturally
in plants. Flavonoids, which are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables
well as in tea and red wine, are thought to boost health in part by combating
oxidation. That's why they're called antioxidants. Antioxidants
help the body's cells resist damage by free radicals. Tea has one of
total flavonoid contents of all plants at 15% of the leaf by dry weight
and is the major source of flavonoids in the UK diet, providing
approximately 80% of dietary flavonoids for the population as a whole.
Black and green teas both contain similar amount of flavonoids but they differ in their chemical structure. Green teas contain more of the simple flavonoids like catechins, while the oxidisation that the leaves undergo to make black tea converts these simple flavonoids to the more complex varieties called theaflavins and thearubigins. White tea contains the most catechins as it has the least processing of all the teas. Research is starting to suggest that white tea might be the healthiest of all.
The longer the tea is left to brew, the higher the concentration of flavonoids. One study concluded that at the typical UK daily consumption of 3 cups a day has approximately the same antioxidant power as eating six apples.
Varieties of Tea
But it's not just a case of black, green or white, there are many different varieties of tea, each with it's own taste and list of health benefits that you can use to make kombucha. Here are a couple to look out for.
A favourite for kombucha making is Pu-erh. Pu-erh is a strong, earthy tasting tea from the Yunnan province in China. The tea is collected from growers of a special large leafed tea tree which is said to be related to ancient prehistoric tea plants. Pu-erh tea is carefully processed using a type of second fermentation. A little water is added to the tea before being buried for several weeks. During this time a bacterial fermentation takes place giving Pu-erh its strong earthy flavour and aroma, and its deep colour. Pu-erh can come in black, green and white versions.
Pu-erh tea has been highly regarded in China as a general tonic, as an aid to digestion of fatty foods and relieves hang-over symptoms. Modern research has shown that the health benefits of Pu-erh tea may be more than just Chinese folklore. Scientific studies in China, France and Japan suggest that this tea may help reduce body weight and help reduce cholesterol in the blood stream.
People who brew their kombucha with Pu-erh are reporting better circulation and relief from the pain of varicose veins. Pu-erh kombucha seems to provide relief from symptoms of digestive problems, IBS, Crohn's Disease and other related ailments.
Sencha Green Tea
Rich in vitamin C, sencha has all the health benefits of green tea. Sencha is harvested several times a year but the first harvest is in late April and produces "Shincha" tea, these first leaves are the most tender and produce the highest quality tea. Sencha makes a light, grassy, dry kombucha.
Teas scented with Jasmine blossoms have been a favorite in China since the Song dynasty. In the traditional production method, layers of blossoms are spread between layers of tea in wooden chests to let the delicate flower scent penetrate the leaves. It adds a wonderful flowery note to the kombucha.
Getting Rid of Caffeine
All teas, black green and white, contain caffeine. If you are concerned about the amount of caffeine in your tea or in your kombucha you can get rid of much of the it by pre-steeping the tea. Caffeine is highly soluble, so usually 80% of the tea's caffeine content is released from the leaf within the first 20 to 30 seconds of steeping. You can have virtually caffeine-free tea, without sacrificing much flavour, by discarding the water after the first 30 to 60 seconds of steeping and adding fresh hot water to the now-decaffeinated leaf. This will not affect the flavonoid content of the tea. Flavonoids develop over a period of minutes. Steeping the tea for five minutes or more will allow the flavonoids to develop.
of white tea Diana Dyer, MS, RD