Classic Southern Sweet Tea Kombucha Recipe
A staple drink to any southern meal or just a breezy summer afternoon
In the south, nothing screams summertime more than an ice-cold glass of sweet tea. A staple in any southern kitchen, sweet tea is a traditional drink with its first published recipe attributed to the Southern Cooking cookbook in 1928. Over the years, sweet tea has transformed itself from a high society drink to an everyday drink enjoyed year-round.
Classic sweet tea is brewed with three simple ingredients- water, sugar, and of course, black tea. As sweet tea grew in popularity, so did the creativity, adding in mint, peach, raspberry, and so many more ingredients. It seems as if every southern family has its own secret recipe. This recipe can easily be altered to fit your flavor pallet; just swap out the lemons with your favorite fruits and herbs. But trust us – you’re going to love this twist on a classic.
PRIMARY VS SECONDARY FERMENTATION
It’s important to note that brewing homemade kombucha is almost always a two-step fermentation process. Brewing kombucha is only a one-step process for those who prefer an unflavored flat kombucha. Otherwise, the steps consist of a primary fermentation and secondary fermentation.
- Primary Fermentation: The primary fermentation is the first step of the kombucha brewing process. This is where your SCOBY transforms regular sweet tea into the tart and slightly sweet kombucha we love. At the end of this stage, you will have finished kombucha, but it will be flat and unflavored. Have you skipped this step? Then check out our guide on making kombucha at home or our guide on making jun kombucha at home. Traditional kombucha is going to yield a bolder brew, while jun kombucha is milder and a bit more tart.
- Secondary Fermentation: The secondary fermentation is the step where you bottle, carbonate, and flavor your kombucha by the addition of sugar and flavors. This step is essentially adding a bit of sugar/flavor to each airtight bottle and letting it ferment a little longer, allowing the yeast to carbonate the beverage in an airtight environment naturally. How exactly does this happen? See our post on kombucha secondary fermentation here.
Since this recipe is for the secondary fermentation, to make this recipe, you’ll need to have kombucha that has finished the primary fermentation and ready to bottle.
- Kombucha: You need kombucha that has completed primary fermentation and is ready to bottle and flavor.
- Black Tea: We recommend using our Assam Black Tea.
- Sugar: The more sugar you add the sweeter your tea will turn out. We recommend organic cane sugar for the best final flavor.
- Lemon Juice: When looking for this ingredient at the grocery store, make sure to pick a yellow or yellowish-green lemon that is firm to touch. Fresh is always best but bottled lemon juice will do as well.
SECONDARY FERMENTATION PREPARATION
This recipe makes four 16 fluid ounce bottles. For a 1-gallon batch, make 7 16 ounce bottles of kombucha or times the ingredients by 2 and save any excess ingredients for future batches (trust us, you’ll be coming back for more of this one). Before beginning this recipe, you will want to:
- Reserve 12 – 16 fluid ounces of kombucha and your pellicle from your completed primary fermentation and set aside. It’s best to pour from the top of the brew jar as the bottom will have a much higher yeast concentration. You will use this as your starter for your next gallon batch of kombucha.
- With your kombucha starter tea and SCOBY placed aside, you will now have enough kombucha left to make seven 16 oz bottles. These bottles are the most popular as they are considered the best bottles for kombucha secondary fermentation, but any other airtight bottles made for carbonation will work.