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Choosing Ingredients for Making Kombucha

Kombucha Ingredients

Making kombucha tea requires five ingredients: water, tea, sugar, starter tea, and a kombucha starter culture (scoby). While a number of options exist for each ingredient, choosing the right ingredients creates a healthier environment for the scoby. Using different tea and sugar can change the flavor of the final product, as well.

Choosing Water for Kombucha

Kombucha cultures best using water that is as free from contaminants as possible. A high mineral content is not important for kombucha and may be harmful to the scoby. 

Use filtered water to remove as many additives, chemicals and contaminants as possible. If filtering is not possible, aerating or boiling the water for 20 minutes may remove at least the chlorine. Letting the water stand for 24 hours will also allow the chlorine to evaporate. Chloramines must be filtered. Fluoride must be removed by special filters.

Water that is structured, alkalized, or pH-adjusted is not appropriate for making kombucha.

Learn more about choosing the right water for culturing.



Choosing Tea for Kombucha

Brewing kombucha requires real tea (camellia sinensis) for both minerals and nitrogen. We recommend using organic tea whenever possible, to avoid chemical contaminants. The type of tea used to brew kombucha can affect the health of the scoby as well as the taste of your finished brew.


 Tea Description  Notes 

Black (Ceylon, English Breakfast, Darjeeling, etc)


Fully oxidized tea leaves; provides all the nutrients for the scoby; makes a bold, fruity-tasting kombucha

Avoid Earl Grey and other black teas containing oils and added flavoring. Best choice for activating a scoby and making kombucha regularly.




Partially oxidized tea leaves; makes a milder flavored kombucha, somewhat fruity and grassy

A CFH favorite for brewing kombucha! Works well for activating a dehydrated scoby and making kombucha regularly.

Green (Jasmine, gunpowder green, etc)


Withered and steamed tea leaves;  minimally oxidized; makes a lighter, softer kombucha

Avoid green teas with oils or added flavoring. Use in combination with black tea or on its own. 



Baked and dried tea leaves, minimally oxidized; flowery and delicate flavor


Use in combination with black, green, or oolong tea. Not recommended for activating scoby or making first 4 batches of kombucha.


Red (Rooibos)


Usually refers to an herbal tea from South Africa; fresh, almost nutty flavor

Use in combination with at least 25% black tea for brewing kombucha. Not recommended for activating scoby or making first 4 batches of kombucha.

Yerba Mate & Other Herbal Teas


Made from plants other than camellia sinensis; flavor varies

Use in combination with at least 25% black tea for brewing kombucha. Avoid herbal teas containing oils or added flavoring. Not recommended for activating scoby or making first 4 batches of kombucha.


Note about Caffeine: While it was previously believed that most of the caffeine is released in the first few minutes of steeping tea, this idea has proved false. If caffeine is a concern, use decaffeinated tea for making kombucha.


Choosing Sugar for Kombucha

While it can be tempting to try to find ways not to use sugar in recipes, sugar is required for the fermentation process and cannot be bypassed or substituted. Using less sugar than required may starve the scoby. Keep in mind that the longer the kombucha is fermented, the less sugar remains. Brew from 7-30 days, tasting along the way, to find the best balance between sugar and flavor.


Sugar Description Results

White cane sugar

Pure white, free of minerals

Good choice for brewing kombucha

 Organic Cane Juice Crystals  Unbleached white sugar; very low mineral content  CFH best choice for brewing kombucha.
 Brown, raw, or whole cane sugars  Sugar that is less refined and contains molasses  Hard on the kombucha scoby. Produces a yeasty kombucha and may shorten the scoby's life. Not recommended.
Honey  Natural sugar from bees; may be raw or pasteurized  Results may be inconsistent; If used, always have a back-up scoby available.
 Agave, Maple, coconut, palm sugars or syrups  Sugar extracted from various plants or trees  Results may be inconsistent and hard on the scoby. Not recommended.
 Stevia, xylitol, or Artificial Sweeteners

Sugar substitutes 

Do not contain nutrients or proper food for the kombucha scoby. Not recommended.

Choosing Starter Tea and Vinegar for Kombucha

The addition of an acidic liquid is critical to the health of the scoby and the safety of the batch of kombucha. The most desirable acidic liquid to use when brewing a batch of kombucha is properly brewed kombucha tea from a previous batch. 

If starter tea is not available, there are two options:

  • Use a bottle of store-bought raw, unflavored kombucha tea. 
  • Use white distilled vinegar. Vinegar can make up all or part of the acidic liquid portion needed to brew a batch of kombucha.

Obtaining a Kombucha Scoby

A healthy kombucha scoby is important to making a good batch of kombucha tea. If you do not have a healthy scoby, try our Kombucha Tea Starter Culture or check our our information on obtaining or growing a kombucha scoby



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