Yesterday I bottled my first batch of rooibos kombucha. I made it just like my regular kombucha, but with 1/2 cup of loose rooibos rather than two family-size decaf tea bags.
I’m not sure what to think of it. The scoby that formed on top was relatively thin, and I was able to squeeze a lot of kombucha out of it, whereas my usual scobys are pretty solid. Conventional wisdom is that this indicates that while it may ferment fine for a batch or two, that it cannot sustain itself. I’m not convinced that this is true.
I have an ongoing experiment with scoby-free Kombucha, in which I’m now in my third batch. If I can continue inoculating each brew solely with a cup of the last batch, it doesn’t matter if it produces a scoby. There’s also a question of scoby mechanics. In my last post, I briefly mentioned that there are specific yeast and bacteria that deposit cellulose in a pellicle on the surface (grow a scoby). Most acetobacter bacteria do not produce cellulose, so it is completely feasible for me to have kombucha with a healthy, vigorous culture that produces no scoby or one that is weak, while still tasting very much like kombucha.
And what about the taste. Well, that’s where I was most surprised. I tried it after two weeks and it still tasted very much like rooibos. Interestingly, it was filing the room with a scene reminiscent of unflavored pipe tobacco (white burley). At three weeks, it still tested very much like rooibos, but more complex and “grassy”. It wasn’t sweet, had some fizz, and a slight “bite”, but was missing the expected acetic (vinegary) tang. I don’t necessarily mind the lack of vinegar, but I’m finding this a wee bit bland. There’s not as much depth of flavor and richness as I had with the hojicha kombucha, or even just my usual brew. The thing thats really unique for me is that this pretty much tastes like rooibos tea, and almost doesn’t taste like kombucha at all. The fizz, lack of sweetness, and typical pH3 all tell me that it should be done, but I’ll have to try it again – letting it ferment longer – just to see what happens.
Since my kids and wife find the acetic nature of kombucha particularly objectionable, this may actually indicate a worthwhile variation to explore. Unfortunately, I received negative comments about the odor of the steeping rooibos, so this may ultimately be a dead-end even if I’m successful in reducing the acetic acid. Perhaps flavoring it with something especially aromatic would do the trick.