Monday, March 19, 2018

Speaking for the Tea

It's time somebody spoke up for the tea.

Too often I see people give the following advice:  Use a ton of cheap teabags, throw them in boiling water, and leave them in until the water is cool.  Usually not in those exact words but that's generally the gist of it.  In this style of brewing the real flavor always comes from outside sources like fruits and herbs.  It works fine and it's relatively cheap and easy, and it's how most of the national Kombucha brands work which is probably why homebrewers like to copy it so much. In my opinion it also ignores the base ingredient of Kombucha; the tea. 
From left to right:  Blue Butterly flower, Jasmine/Green blend, and Monk's Blend. 

A closer look at the Blue Butterfly.  The tea is blue at first and becomes a deep violet as it acidifies, in the same process used by litmus paper.

Kombucha is fermented tea, not fruit punch, and without the tea it doesn't exist.  With that in mind I think we need to stop treating it like it isn't important.  A good, properly steeped tea contains complexities and depth that you can never achieve by adding some fruit to Hannaford tea bags.  On a philosophical note, to me the point of homebrewing is to explore and attempt things you can't buy in a store.  The idea of homebrewers copying brand flavors is like beer brewers trying to copy Budweiser.  We need to rise above if we want to move forward.

This is not to say the other way has no validity, just that it is far too dominant because it's easy and creates something that's usually drinkable and enjoyable.  It's how almost all of us started and it's where far too many businesses and homebrewers have stayed, and that's the true tragedy.  We don't grow without learning and we don't learn without being curious enough to risk failing, and lord knows I've failed plenty in this journey.  I've also succeeded in creating some truly delicious and artful drinks using nothing more than leaves, sugar, and a culture.  More importantly, beginning this learning process has driven me to learn more, and while I wouldn't describe myself as anything more than a novice, I still value the process.

Over the next week or so I would like to break down as many types of teas as I'm familiar with and give any insights I've gained over their transformation by the SCOBY.  As always, comments and feedback are welcome.

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