The origin of kombucha is as cloudy as its appearance - China, Russia and Japan all lay claim to creating the fermented tea drink in some form. Regardless, kombucha has been consumed for thousands of years, long before becoming available on health-food store shelves.
Kombucha is made by combining tea - usually black or green tea - with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). Similar to mother of vinegar, a SCOBY is kept alive and continues to expand when fed sugar. The SCOBY ferments the tea, producing organic acids, amino acids and enzymes, which is why kombucha is believed to have health benefits, though the science is out on that one.
The fermenting process gives brewed tea a slight fizz and tangy flavour, and those glob-like strands that shift and swirl as you shake a bottle of kombucha are small SCOBYs that are beginning to reform and grow - scoop them out to make your own home brew.
Kombucha can be infused with flavours; Sydney brewer Black Radish creates custom kombucha drinks for restaurants, including Pineapple Sage for Rockpool Bar & Grill, and Rose Geranium for Momofuku Seiōbo, where sommelier Ambrose Chiang has paired it with Northern Territory mud crab and fermented taro between native pepperberry biscuits, as well as jerk-spiced pork chop with lime. These aromatic dishes come with a kick of spice offset by the sweetness and fizz of the flower-infused fermented drink.
Black Radish kombucha is available wholesale and at select Sydney cafés and wholefood stores. blackradish.com.au