About Kombucha: the Only With Love Way
19th July 2021... by Steve Keegan, co-founder
Why Are We Making Kombucha?
My partner Bethany and I have been making booch for over 10 years now... and when Roger and I first thought about opening a brewery, I pitched the idea to do kombucha too. Although Roger wasn’t a booch head back then, it didn’t take him long to get on board.
The main reason we do booch is that we didn’t want to be just another standard brewery. We wanted to create a broader range of flavour-first drinks that’d allow us (and our customers) to have more fun - with as many different categories and formats as possible - and we really, really wanted to have a healthy, low/no alcohol product. Prior to starting the brewery, I’d also seen how well kombucha is done over on the west coast of the USA - and I felt strongly that it was being positioned in the wrong way over here in the UK.
So, What’s Wrong with UK Booch?
You can read my blog post on this subject here. In short, a lot of the booch companies here pitch it as a health- and fad-first drink and tend to do nothing with the actual taste. Kombucha seems like a lifestyle brand and a crazy hipster/ middle-class mash-up of a product that ends up preventing many people from even trying it - it’s just ending up too niched to get our heads around. Also, some kombucha producers fake how they make it: mainly because it is hard to get a good shelf life on the product without cutting corners and/or pasteurizing it to death. They cut, we don’t!
The Only With Love Way
We don’t tend to bang on about the health benefits of booch with people who don’t really care about that side of it. This is pretty easy for us to do, because our booch is a fun, tasty soda - with very little sugar, but a very sweet flavour.
- We make an amazing Lifebuoy Lemonade - and it tastes tangy, like a San Pellegrino lemonade.
- We also have a Rhubarb and Custard booch that tastes just like a rhubarb crumble and custard.
- If you had a sneaky bottle of Bacardi and a bunch of mint… you’ll get pretty close to a Raspberry Mojito when you mix it with our Raspberry Rouser booch
- Does a healthy drink need to taste bad?? Heck no, our Kickstart Kombucha is a true booch... with no fruit or flavouring, it has an almost apple juice tang, but doesn’t taste like tea. (Amazingly, the tea is the food for the booch and adds a flavour but not a tea flavour!)
Basically, our Kombucha is a full-flavour fizzy pop that’s actually good for you.
How We Make Our Kombucha
We don’t cut corners and we use all of our brewing experience to create a true raw kombucha and also keep the alcohol level down so that kids can drink it.
Our booch ends up being less than 0.5% ABV, which is less alcohol than a ripe banana!
We ferment our kombucha for one year to make it 0%, but packed full of good acids. Then we make a ‘starter’ which takes 2-3 weeks to ferment. This starter is a big booch, full of bacteria and all of the good acids. We then make a big batch of booch (about 1,000 litres) - using Green Tea, Sugar (sometimes from fruit if we are using fruit: rhubarb/ raspberry/ lemon/ lime/ etc), plus our SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bateria and yeast) and our aforementioned starter. This ferments for around 3-7 days to a very specific gravity (ie, the amount of sugar in it) and pH (ie, how acidic it is). Once we hit the levels we want, we add in our one-year-old booch to beef up the goodness of the final product.
When we get to circa 1,000 litres of booch we then pass it through a rough filter to take out the chunks of fruit and big bits of SCOBY. Then we put it in a tank and carbonate it (ie, make it fizzy). This is an important step because if we let it naturally carbonate in the bottle, the alcohol has nowhere to go and it can make the booch more alcoholic (which we don’t want to do).
The test for how ‘real’ a kombucha is, is this:
- Take a bottle of booch and drink ⅔ of it. Enjoy!
- Make a strong sweet tea, and let it cool until room temperature
- Put the rest of your booch in the tea
- Leave it slightly covered for a week or so.
If a SCOBY starts to form on the top of the resulting drink, then it’s real. If not, then the initial ‘kombucha’ ain’t real - it’s probably been over-filtered or pasteurized and/or all of the good stuff has been taken out in order to get flavouring or improve shelf-life. BOOO!!
Why Does Only With Love Kombucha Taste So Good?
We love BOLD flavours… so we treat our booch as a tasty soda first, but with all of our fermentalist know-how to give it the goodness. Sweetness is something we balance and get from a small amount of fruit sugar, but this also gets boosted by the acid-twang of the booch. We also use a lot of fruit juice/ puree/ real squashed fruit, and we tend to balance that flavour profile out with a little bit of natural flavouring such as vanilla.
A lot of kombucha companies hold off on fruit and just use flavouring to create a simple taste, such as ginger or hibiscus. When we do our ginger booch (watch this space!), we will be sticking a lot of real ginger in there which we will juice ourselves - just to get it nice and spicy!
Is Kombucha Really Good For You?
I could bore you with the history of pharmaceuticals and how the big US petroleum lords of yesteryear made natural remedies illegal by rebranding them as ‘alternative’ by petitioning congress.
I could also tell you about the billions that have been spent by these companies lobbying governments to not recognise any health benefits from non-petroleum-based western medicine.
These companies always lobby against a product that is natural, because by law you can’t patent nature - and then licence it and charge massive fees. So, if I say that kombucha has a real health benefit - eg, it helps with joint pain - then I’d kind of be breaking the law… because the FDA or the WHO haven’t had a clinical trial to prove that claim.
However, people do drink a lot of this stuff - and lots of people feel a lot better in many ways.
Kombucha is a fermented product and high in probiotics - which are proven to help aid gut health which is now thought to be a big factor in mental health.
Kombuchaw is high in antioxidants - Antioxidants are substances that protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are a normal by-product of processes in the body, but the key is to minimise their impact by having a diet rich in antioxidants.
Even though it’s acidic, when we digest kombucha it aids in making the body more alkaline - and one of the big benefits of being more alkaline is that this aids the immune system.
Kombucha is super low in sugar - The sugar we put into the booch turns into alcohol and then the alcohol turns into acid. So our sugar ends up being around 2.9g/100ml. Coca-Cola has 10.9g/100ml. The new sugar tax puts a levy on drinks above 5g/100ml, so you will see a lot of drinks companies (including booch companies) start here and then add artificial sweeteners to get sweetness. Aspartame is the leading sweetener - and this stuff really isn’t very good for you.
How Much Caffeine is in Kombucha?
Generally speaking, ⅓ of the caffeine from the tea remains in the kombucha after fermentation. Since we work with a blend of three batches, and the last (and biggest) batch of these three is a weak tea, the end product has about as much caffeine left in it as a decaffeinated coffee.
Kom-parisons (See What I Did There!?) - How Much Caffeine?
Kombucha 4-40mg (ours is circa 12mg)
Starbucks Flat White 150mg
Breakfast tea 42kg
Coca-Cola Classic 18.1mg
Red Bull 80mg