Professor Paul Humphries Professor Paul Humphries

The University’s Applied Microbiology Team will examine the properties behind LA Brewery’s kombucha tea, a fermented tea originally from China

KOMBUCHA is a form of fermented tea that has been drunk for centuries in China and is now becoming popular in the West, boosted by claims that it has health-giving properties.  One of the most innovative UK producers has received money under a Government-backed scheme that enables it to team up with researchers at the University of Huddersfield in order to learn more about the science behind the beverage.

One goal is to make discoveries that add to the shelf life of bottled kombucha, which is being stocked by growing numbers of major retailers.

Paul Humphreys is the University’s Professor of Applied Microbiology and he will head the collaboration with Suffolk-based company LA Brewery.  It has created a range of flavoured kombucha drinks and has been named one of the winners of an award scheme operated by the The Food Innovation Network, which is sponsored by Defra and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

It means that LA Brewery shares in a funding pot that enables food producers to collaborate with test kitchens and world-class laboratories, such as the facilities used by Professor Humphreys and the University of Huddersfield’s Applied Microbiology Team.

“We will be looking at the microbiology of the product – the bacteria and the yeast – and how it develops over time, so that we can help the company with shelf life,” said Professor Humphreys.

LA Brewery describes its kombucha as “a naturally effervescent living tea full of friendly bacteria.  Made using high-altitude, chemical-free green and black teas, it is naturally-fermented at 25 degrees to produce a raw, living and delicious fizzy drink.”

It is created by fermenting sweetened green and black teas with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY).   After fermentation, there are only trace levels of alcohol.

“The company’s vision is to provide a complex-tasting, non-alcoholic drink,” said Professor Humphreys.

LA Brewery has developed a secondary fermentation technique that allows it to add flavours, including lemongrass, ginger and strawberry and black pepper.