The kombucha tea craze has been sweeping the nation this decade, and it's not hard to figure out why. There are many reasons why kombucha is good for you, including being good for your heart, having anti-inflammatory properties, and giving you energy. If you're wondering how to flavor kombucha though, you probably already know all this. What you are desperately trying to figure out though, is how to make that vinegary taste a little more tolerable. I know I can't stand plain kombucha, no matter how good it is for me, so I need to add some yummy fruits and herbs to make it not only tolerable, but maybe even good if I get lucky!
Don't try and add flavors to store bought kombucha though.
Store bought kombucha is already done being made. Adding something to it may mess up the tea, and you don't know what entire process behind the bottle you're holding in your hand, therefore you don't know what they have already done. You could be starting at any point in the process, and if something goes wrong, your tea could be nearly undrinkable. So this means you're going to have to make the plain kombucha yourself, which is actually pretty fun (if time-consuming).
First, make your plain kombucha.
If you don't know how to make your own kombucha at home already, now is the time to read up. Flavoring store-bought kombucha is not going to get you the ideal taste that you want. However, you can even start flavoring your kombucha at this stage; you don't have to wait until the next. One of the main ingredients in kombucha is tea. Most people use black tea, green tea, or a mix of both. Here's where you can get creative. These won't drastically change the flavor, but adding a fruity tea like passionfruit could help give it a sweeter taste. A strong tea like cinnamon plum can also help cut the vinegar taste with its high spice level. After you add your flavor is when you add your SCOBY (Symbiotic Cultures of Bacteria and Yeast), which actually makes the tea ferment the first time around. Put that baby in a dark, warm place and let it ferment for seven to 14 days.
Take out the SCOBY and start the secondary fermentation.
After waiting seven to 14 days of letting your plain kombucha ferment and come to life, it will be ready to drink if you didn't intend on flavoring it more. I know that's not what you want though since you're wondering how to flavor kombucha tea. Now, you could just add some fruit into your finished kombucha and leave it at that, but it won't really make the flavor profile any more complex.
There are a lot of advantages to letting the kombucha ferment a second time, even though it's going to be annoying that it will take longer. The flavors will meld and create more depth, and you'll have the great fizziness that kombucha is known for. You'll have to take out the SCOBY though since you don't want any more cultures. You are simply letting some fruit ferment in the already-fermented tea now.
Pick a fruit combination and add it to your kombucha.
Now you've got to decide what you actually want your tea to taste like. There are a lot of different fruit combinations to chose from, so just go with your instincts on what you think you will like. Fresh fruit and dried fruit work equally well, so just make a decision based on taste. Personally, I'm a big fan of mashing up some mango and adding a pinch of cayenne. Mangoes have a lot of health benefits all on their own, and cayenne gives the tea a peppery taste that pairs really well with the tangy mango.
Other popular combinations include raspberries and ginger, watermelon and jalapeño, blackberry and thyme, or pineapple and basil. Always try to pair something sweet with something a bit more savory, as the combination will even out the vinegar taste and make the whole thing very pleasant on the palate.
Also consider using juice.
Adding fresh and dry fruit is super delicious, but adding some fruit juice can also be beneficial. For every 3 or 4 cups of kombucha, you would need to add about 1/4 of a cup of organic juice. The best flavors are usually the berry ones, and you can even use the ones from concentrate (just make sure it's organic!) if you want that strong fruity flavor. If concentrated, though, use a much smaller amount—only about a tablespoon per bottle of kombucha. When learning how to flavor kombucha, remember that less is more. A little flavoring can go a long way.
Bottle it and let it ferment again.
It's time to bottle it and wait again, but this time there's a catch that makes the second round of fermentation different than the first. Your tea is going to get very, very fizzy during its second fermentation, even moreso than the first time. This is where you have to keep an eye on what is essentially a mini tea bomb. If you forget about your tea and let it ferment for more than 3 days, it might explode. This can be a serious safety issue. If you want to keep your stuff fermenting, release a little bit of the carbonation over the sink each day. This is known as burping the bottle.
The longer you ferment, the more acidic it will get and the less sweet. So don't go for too long or we're just going to get back to the vinegar taste we were trying to avoid in the first place. Also, more fruit equals more fizz, so keep that in mind when considering how much fizz you might need to let out. Many people who know how to flavor kombucha say that strawberries and pineapple fizz the most.
Strain out any solids and store it.
You don't have to strain out the solids, but I prefer to. I'm trying to drink carbonated tea here, not a weird half-tea half-smoothie thing. You want to totally end the fermentation process at this point so that it will taste the same every time you open a new bottle, so straining out any solids is going to be your best bet. For optimal taste, store your now-flavored kombucha at room temperature for no longer than two weeks.
This is really important to keep in mind when learning how to flavor kombucha so that you don't plan on keeping it stored for months. Just like during the fermentation process, carbonation can build up, or worse, the drink can go flat. And kombucha just isn't any fun without the fizz. When you open the bottle, be sure to open it over a sink with a cloth covering it. There's going to be a pressure release, so some spillage might happen! It'll be worth it for your delicious concoction though. Pour some over ice and enjoy!
Take notes on what to do next time!
Making anything homemade has the chance of going wrong the first time. Maybe you added way too much flavoring, maybe you let it ferment for too long the second time. It probably won't be perfect the first try. Just take notes and incorporate them the next time you are adding flavor to your kombucha. Don't forget to try out different flavor combinations too. I know, that watermelon and jalapeño combination I mentioned earlier sounded pretty gross to the untrained palate, but trust me, it's so interesting and works well in kombucha.