As a girl who grew up drinking pickle juice, Hannah Crum fell in love with kombucha at first sip. A sophisticated upgrade to the vinegary liquid of preserved cucumbers, kombucha inspired Hannah to become The Kombucha Mamma, and co-founder of Kombucha Kamp, and co-author of The Big Book of Kombucha with her husband and partner, Alex LaGory.
Hannah has done a ton to elevate kombucha, build the industry, and inspire everyday people to overcome their fears and brew their own fermented-tea concoctions. Making kombucha at home is fun and easy, but flavoring it is where the real magic happens; that’s when things get creative, messy, sticky, and colorful, and the possibilities are seemingly endless.
We invited Hannah to share some of her flavoring wisdom. If Hannah herself were a kombucha flavor, she says she’d be Love Potion, a mix of blueberries, lavender, and rose. Why? “It’s just so floral, and it’s deep, and purple, and rich,” she says.
Maybe it’s time you found your flavor! Here are seven tips from The Kombucha Mamma herself to get you started.
7 Tips For Flavoring Kombucha
First and foremost, Hannah advises us all to trust our gut (microbiome pun intended), but be open to surprises and crazy combinations.
Tip #1: Get Outside For Inspiration
Hannah loves to go into her garden for flavoring inspiration. In fact, her early recipes included culinary herbs like oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Don’t have a garden of your own? No problem. Your local farmers market is a great place for new ideas. Cucumber mint is one of Hannah’s favorite summertime garden-inspired flavors.
Tip #2: Keep It Simple
Hannah explains that when you’re flavoring kombucha, a little bit goes a long way. In fact, it turns out that adding too much sweet stuff to your brew will make it sour more quickly. Hannah recommends filling no more than 10% of your bottle with herbs and fruits.
Less is also more when it comes to the number of ingredients to include. Many of her favorite recipes call for just two to four flavoring ingredients. Her husband’s all-time favorite is Pink Lemonade with strawberries, lemon, thyme, and a touch of hibiscus.
Tip #3: Size Does Matter
When you add fruits and herbs, be sure to chop or dice them into small bits. The more surface area you create, the more flavor and nutrition you can extract from the ingredients. Also, keep in mind that if you’re using fruit juice, instead of fruit chunks, you won’t need as much because the juice is so concentrated.
Tip #4: Go Fresh and Whole When You Can
In general, Hannah prefers fruit pieces instead of juice, and herbs instead of essential oils. Exceptions to this rule include carrots and beets, since extracting the flavor from the roots can be difficult if they’re not juiced.
Tip #5: It’s Not All About the Flavor
Hannah reminds us that kombucha has vinegar properties as well as trace amounts of alcohol. These naturally extract the health-giving properties of the herbs and other edible things you add to your ’booch, making them more available for your bod. For example, you may choose to use turmeric less for the flavor than for the anti-inflammatory benefits that are extracted by the kombucha and made available to you when you drink it.
Tip #6: Don’t Forget the Savory Options
Believe it or not, you can use ingredients like bacon, mushrooms, seaweed, and cayenne to create a scrumptious brew. Because of the vinegar properties in kombucha, pairing the native flavor with something savory isn’t as crazy as it sounds.
Tip #7: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
In The Big Book of Kombucha, Hannah provides hundreds of kombucha recipes. She explains that she turned to traditional flavor pairings for some of her inspiration.
Now let’s have some fun experimenting.
Below is a little flavoring inspiration from The Big Book of Kombucha. Having read the book, I can tell you that it is beyond comprehensive and leaves you with so many creative ideas ranging from how to make a great-tasting brew with unexpected ingredients, to how to ensure that you never compost another SCOBY (which stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, the kombucha culture) again.
Flavor Inspiration: Wise Elders Kombucha
The ingredients listed below should be added during the second ferment. Confused? Not sure what I’m talking about? If you’re new to kombucha making and just want to understand the basics, visit Kombucha Kamp to download their DIY Guide and get a basic recipe to use with the flavor inspiration below, and read our earlier blog post, 5 Tips For The Budding Kombucha Brewer from Caleb Hanson at Upstart Kombucha.
Please note, the quantities listed below assume a kombucha yield of either 16 ounces or 1 gallon.
Excerpted from The Big Book of Kombucha, © Hannah Crum © Alex LaGory. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.