The Ultimate Guide to the Best Types of Sugar For Brewing Kombucha
The microorganisms that make up a kombucha SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast) are a bit like young children – they’ll go for anything sweet. In fact, they do best when all they have to eat is sugar! Other than the tea you use to make up to use as the liquid base for your kombucha brew, and the water you use to make that tea, a SCOBY doesn’t need anything other than a good source of energy, and that energy comes from the sugar you add to the tea. In this article, you’ll find out about the different types of sugar that SCOBYs can use in the kombucha brewing process.
NOTE: The action of the SCOBY will change depending on the type of tea you select, so each different combination of tea and sweetener will create a different brew. To learn about the different types of tea for Kombucha brewing, read our Best Teas for Kombucha. The water you use will also affect the kombucha and the SCOBY. Find out more here.
Basic Sugar Chemistry and Kombucha
The reason that SCOBYs need sugar is that they’re made up of yeasts, and yeasts need sugar to survive. The yeast microorganisms transform sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. If they don’t have any sugar, many yeasts can break down starches into sugar and then use that sugar, but without some source of sugary nutrition, all yeasts will die.
There are several different names for basic sugars molecules – glucose, fructose, lactose, dextrose, sucrose, and so on – depending on their exact chemical compositions and where they’re found in nature. For example, fructose is found in fruits (as well as in honey and other sources). However, all sugars are chains made out of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon atoms. Each type of sugar has slightly different properties, and each breaks down in slightly different ways.
Why Does the Sugar Type Matter for Kombucha Making?
While it’s true that all yeasts need sugar to live, it’s not true that one specific type of yeast will be happy with any kind of sugar.
You’ll get the best results, in terms of brewing speed and SCOBY health with white sugar (see below) because it’s easiest for the SCOBY to break down, although you can make a excellent brew with other types of sugars too.
While white sugar gives the best SCOBY health and fastest brewing time and the most ‘neutral’ flavor Kombucha, the other sugar types can add in unique flavor profiles and extra nutrients (enzymes, minerals, vitamins, etc) into your Kombucha.
What’s the Best Sugar for Making Kombucha? Well that entirely depends on how you define ‘best’ when it comes to your Kombucha? Are you trying to brew the quickest Kombucha? Are you a beginner? Do you want a neutral flavored Kombucha, or a Kombucha with a strong, unique taste to it? Do you only have 1 SCOBY or extra SCOBYs? Are you against GMO foods?
Different sugars will do different things to the Kombucha, so the best sugar is, unfortunately, a bit of a relative and depends entirely on what you are trying to do and how you are trying to flavor your Kombucha, and your answer to the above questions.
The type of sugar you choose will affect the brew time, the flavor, and the nutrient profile in your kombucha. In addition, some types of sugar may affect or even harm your SCOBY if it can’t easily break that sugar down into something it can process. That’s why it’s a good idea to stick to basic white sugar until you have a good supply of backup SCOBY’s in your SCOBY hotel. If you don’t know what a SCOBY hotel is, read this article.
Another thing to keep in mind is that SCOBY, while gobbling down sugar like young children, can also get stuck in a rut, like adults. They’ll get used to one type of sugar, and might have trouble adjusting to a new type of sugar. While they can definitely work with several different types, you might find that you get a slower brew and a different result when first changing the sugar type. So keep in mind there may be a time period of adjustment IF you change up the sugar types.
To make things a bit easier, here’s our reference table that gives you some of the different sugar options you can use with Kombucha during the primary ferment as a means of flavoring, and the effect each type of sugar has on the brewing process.
Kombucha Sweetner GuideThe complete tabulated guide to flavoring Kombucha through sugar replacement...and the effects of each sweeter on the brewing process. For more information about the types of sugar and Kombucha brewing, please read our Types of Sugar to Use for Brewing Kombucha article.
|Sugar Type||Brewing Time||Amount to Use||Effect on Flavor|
|White Sugar||Temperature dependant – the average brewing time for white sugar kombucha is 7 to 10 days||1 cup to 1 gallon of tea.||White sugar results in regular tasting kombucha, and steady fermentation results. Good levels of carbonation etc.|
|Honey||Shorter than white sugar, apt to sour quickly – 5 to 8 days.||7/8 of a cup to every 1 cup of pure cane sugar.||Can produce light bubbly ferments which carry the flavor of the honey used – citrus, almond, etc.|
|Molasses||Usually longer than white sugar – 7 to 14 days.||Same as that of regular refined sugar: 1 cup to 1 gallon of tea.||Can produce a strong tasting and sometimes slightly bitter brew. The overall taste: malt.|
|Raw Forms of Cane Sugar||Usually longer than white sugar – 7 to 14 days.||Same as that of regular refined sugar: 1 cup to one 1 of tea.||Raw forms of cane sugar can add in a richer flavor profile, but not as intense as that of molasses|
|Evaporated Cane Juice||Very similar to ordinary processed sugar.||Same as that of regular refined sugar: 1 cup to 1 gallon of tea.||Good choice for great tasting ferments and good SCOBY Health|
|Maple Syrup||Similar to that of white sugar – 5 to 8 days||1/2 - 2/3 of a cup to every 1 cup of pure cane sugar.||The taste is – you guessed it! Yummy maple syrup.|
|Agave Syrup||Shorter to that of white sugar – 5 to 7 days||2/3 of a cup to every 1 cup of pure cane sugar.||Can give really nice flavors that hint of caramel|
|Raw Sugar Cane Juice||Slightly longer than that of white sugar - 7 to 10 days||Recommended: Mix with 25% of sugar usually used.||Neutral, similar to regular sugar. Mostly unprocessed and a healthier source of sugar.|
|Coconut water||Often quite a bit shorter than white sugar - 5 to 8 days.||When fermenting coconut water, the naturally occurring sugar acts as the sugar source. You can also aid the fermentation by mixing in 25% of usual amount of sugar.||Coconut water flavored kombucha which has fermented successfully can be a beautifully light and refreshing ferment.|
|Raw Fruit (pureed or diced)||Shorter - 5 days usually.||Fruit replaces the sugar. Use about 1 cup of fruit in lieu of the 1 cup of sugar.||Completely changes the flavor, giving it a strong, fruity flavor with a hint of a fermented bite. This is a good experiment for those who want to try a completely 'natural' combucha|
|Fruit Juice (freshly juiced, store bought, concentrate)||Shorter - 5 to 7 days||The juice replaces the sugar & tea OR is blended with existing tea, but replaces the sugar. Use 1 cup of raw or store-bought fruit juice per 1 cup of sugar. If concentrate, use 50%. Make sure you use double the starter and / or stronger started from a SCOBY hotel.||You get something like a second fermented, but a deeper version due to the longer fermentation time. The flavor will vary depending on the type of juice you use and if you completely replace the tea with the juice or blend the juice. If the later, you get a fruity tasting Kombucha. If the former, you get a fermented fruit juice drink that does NOT taste like Kombucha.|
Types of Sugar (for Kombucha and everything else)
This is a list of sugars (from most process to least processed) that you can use to brew your kombucha. Keep in mind the type of sugar you choose will ultimately affect the brewing time (easier sugar to digest by SCOBY = shorter brew time) and the flavor profile of your kombucha. We don’t recommend some of these sugar choices unless you want to experiment with flavors and you have spare SCOBYs.
Note that it’s always best to chose ORGANIC sugars over non-organic if you can.
1. Raw Sugar
…also called Natural Brown Sugar or Whole Cane Sugar
The less processed a sugar is, the more essential nutrients remain in the sugar. Raw sugar contains higher levels of minerals like iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. While the kombucha doesn’t need these to thrive, you do!
That’s why many people choose to use raw sugar or even brown sugar for their kombucha tea.
Raw sugar, unlike white refined sugar, still contains a lot of the stuff that was in the original sugar cane liquid — specifically, the left over molasses.
There’s a lot of flexibility with the “raw sugar” label. Sometimes it means that the sugarcane juice has been left in something close to its natural state, but sometimes it means that the manufacturer has refined the sugar but later added some of the extracted molasses back into the mix. If you want the least processed version, make sure you check specifically for the non refined version of raw sugar.
If you want the least processed, commercially available sugar, look at Rapadura sugar or as second choice, Sucanat. These have pretty much all the molasses content and are created only by pressed the sugar cane then evaporating the liquid which leaves behind crystals. The difference between the two is (maybe) in how the evaporation happens. Sucanate may opt for high boiling temperatures to evaporate the cane juice which changes the resulting crystals (perhaps leaving some nutrients out). Rapadura opts for low temperature evaporation with the mix stirred with paddles.
Unrefined Sugar Recommendation for Kombucha
If you want the most unrefined, unprocessed natural sugar (meaning nothing is added or taken away and the processed used to extract the sugar is very low tech), look no further than the Rapunzle brand of Rapadura sugar. Remember, Rapadura sugar is created via LOW heat applied to the raw sugar cane juice while the mix is stirred with paddles. This is often a very labor intensive processes, and it takes a while, which is why it’s expensive.
But it’s about as low tech, and the least process you can go when it comes to making sugar — short of grabbing some raw sugar cane from the stem, peeling it, and squeezing in the juice as your sugar! Yes, it’s expensive at about $17 for a 32 oz bag, but it’s hard to find a sugar this unprocessed in the US and this brand makes a sugar that’s about as unprocessed a sugar you can find.
So if you want the best sugar option for your Kombucha, I recommend Rapunzle Rapadura.
As you increase the amount of molasses, two things happen: the sugar gets darker, which doesn’t affect your kombucha; and the non-sucrose elements increase — such as the molasses content, which does affect it.
In general, the more non-sucrose molecules that the kombucha has to remove from the sugar in order to feed, the slower the process of the brewing will be.
And there’s a third effect as well, which you’ll notice in the finished kombucha: flavor. All of the vitamins and minerals and other non-sucrose compounds in unprocessed sugarcane juice have their own particular flavors, and the more of them you leave in the brew, the more you’ll taste them in the tea. Take advantage of this added flavor factor to create delicious recipes like these.
So keep in mind that the more unrefined a sugar is that you use to brew Kombucha:
- the brewing time will increase
- the mineral and vitamin profile will change (there will be MORE, though very minor amounts)
- the taste of the kombucha may change slightly
Types of Raw Sugars
There are several ‘varieties’ of the raw sugar. These are basically have different names depending on some different exhibited characteristics. But the main difference is that raw sugars either have all the molasses (i.e. these sugars are not yet put through the centrifuge) or only minute amounts removed. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a maze in terms of the labeling with companies trying to trick you through clever world play when they describe the sugar — natural, brown, cane sugar, organic — all these tags can be used to cloak the fact that the sugar might STILL be processed. For example, even in
The Least Processed Raw Sugars (Natural Raw Sugar)
These are the sugars that have been minimally processed or not at all AFTER the sugar crystals are extracted out from the source. They contain all or most of the molasses.
- Rapadura (least processed): Portuguese name for Panela. Of all the commercially available raw sugars, Rapadura is probably the least processed and retains the most nutrients. Unlike the other sugars, the traditional method involves pressing the sugar cane to extract the juice, then stirring the mixture with paddles over very low heat until the liquid evaporates. The sugar cane juice is not boiled with high temperatures (like other raw sugars) nor is it put through a centrifuge. No other raw sugar can claim the same. If you want to best, least processed raw sugar, we recommend Rapadura (the Rapunzle brand on Amazon is a good choice)
- Sucanat (nearly same as rapadura): another minimally processed of the raw can sugars. Sucanat is basically just a trademark name that refers to evaporated cane juice. It has a higher molasses content than some of the other raw sugars. And as such it has a very strong, burnt taste. The process of Sucanate is similar to Rapadura though I have read claims that the molasses and the sugar are initially separated then added back in. However, this likely depends on the brand of Sucanat you buy (so check sepecifically). For more information about Sucanate vs Rapadura, check this webpage which explains it well. We recommend the Wholesome Sweeteners brand (get it in bulk in 12 packs)
- Pilocillo: One common variety of brown sugar is called piloncillo, and it’s a common sight in Mexican groceries. This is one of the more unrefined of the raw brown sugars made from sugarcane, and has the highest levels of essential minerals like potassium and iron. If you’re looking for a kombucha that has more medicinal qualities, and are less concerned about flavor, you can try using piloncillo in your brew. If you want to try piloncillo, then we recommend the Goya brand on Amazon.
- Panela: similar to Pilocillo, but hails from Columbia while Pilocillo comes from Mexico. You can look at Just Panela Unrefined and Organic Artisanal Cane Sugar on amazon or the Goya brand of Pilocillo, which is actually shipping from Central America.
- Muscovado (Barbados sugar): from sugar cane and has a strong molasses flavor with a moist texture. It tends to be popular in England. This is usually made from evaporated sugar cane juice. Though you see Muscovado readily available (it seems like any sugar that’s brown or dark is slapped with the label of Muscovado sugar with the price raised), REAL Muscovado comes from either the Phillipines or Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. For LEGIT Muscovado, we recommend Billington’s Natural Light Brown Muscovado Sugar which sells Muscovado origionating from Mauritius.
The Slightly More Processed Raw Sugars
These are raw sugars that are minimally processed. While the type of processing varies depending on the sugar type, it typically means the raw sugar crystal is run through a centrifuge and some of the molasses is removed.
- Turbinado: less processed than brown sugar with the sugar only partially pressed. It’s created by pressing sugar cane to extract the sugar and the top layer of molasses is washed off. It has a light caramel flavor and is milder than Muscovado. Turbinado is popular in the US. The most common commercial brand of Turbinado is Sugar in the Raw.
- Demerara: a sugar can sugar that’s large grained and a pale amber color. It has more of a toffee flavor and is much more mild than some of the other varieties. Demera is popular in the UK.
- Jaggery: comes from palm, coconut or java plants. It has a sweet earthy flavor. Jaggery is popular in places like India, Asia, and Africa. It looks like a solid lump of hard sugar blocks. We’ve used Organic Jaggery by Pure Indian Foods, which is a legit Jaggery and very high quality.
2. Evaporated Cane Juice
You might also see this labeled as “evaporated cane sugar” or “whole cane sugar” or “natural cane sugar.” More than anything, this is a catch all marketing term for ‘raw sugar’ which is why I’ve included it under the ‘Raw Sugar’ category above as well.
To clear this up, I’ve made Cane Juice a separate category. The reason is that you can technically have ‘raw sugar’ but sourcing from different than sugar cane, such as sugar beets, which is the other popular source for refined sugar production.
Keep in mind that Cane Juice sources from Sugar Cane which is one of the pure sources of sugar (there are other sources used as well, such as Beetroots).
Here’s what sugar cane looks like when it’s growing:
Here’s a look at sugar cane when you cut it open:
Keep in mind that many companies that sell evaporated cane juice are less than forthcoming about the exact process of how they get the end result sugar. True evaporated cane juice should simply be pressing the sugar cane then using evaporation (heating the cane juice — either to high temperatures or low temperatures + stirring it) to remove the liquid, leaving the crystals behind. Many companies are deceptive about how they do this and the evaporation process might actually include other processing. SO it’s important to check up on the company and the process used by that company. Don’t just take the brand label advertising, actually look into it if you want to make sure.
Here’s what it looks like when you crush sugar cane, extract the juice, then apply heat to the vats of cane juice, which causes the liquid to evaporate, leaving the crystal sugars behind:
Typically, Evaporated Cane Juice is less processed than refined cane sugar, because it has not been heated and treated several times over to remove all other components of the sugarcane. Instead, this type of sugar is simply crystallized and separated from most, but not all, of the molasses. The best evaporated sugar cane comes from the process where you stir the liquid over LOW heat.
Evaporated cane juice is a light golden color, and still retains many of the vitamins and minerals in the original sugarcane juice.
Note that Evaporated Cane Juice is just a label. There are a number of ‘raw sugars’ that are evaporated cane juice such as rapadura and sucanat.
Keep in mind there may a risk of evaporation losing some of the (minute) benefits over refined white sugar depending on the evaporation process. If in doubt and you are picky, opt for low boiling evaporation, such as rapadura sugar.
Evaporated Sugar Cane Juice and Kombucha: What’s the Brewing Effect?
Because of this minimal treatment used, the molecules that make up the sucrose (a combination of fructose and glucose) in the sugar are larger and more complex, and take longer for the SCOBY to break down. However, since they are broken down as needed, it means that the SCOBY has a constant supply of new sugars to feed on little by little, giving you a longer but more even fermentation over time. By contrast, the simple sugar compounds in the more easily-digested refined white sugar cause the SCOBY to go through a first round of heavy growth, and then slow down after the first “sugar rush” is over.
Recommended Evaporated Cane Juice for Kombucha
We recommend either Rapadura or sucanat, due to the minimal processing.
Our go to, FAVORITE sugar that we love using in Kombucha. While you can get away just fine with organic white can sugar, we love how unprocessed this sugar is. The rich, slightly toasted taste adds a nice flavor profile to the Kombucha brew. So if you pick one sugar and you don’t mind paying a premium for it, then this is our pick.
We love this brand of Sucanat. It’s organic, minamally process, and your SCOBY will love it. We use this for kefir, kombucha, and any banking. I prefer Rapadura, but truth be told, both sugar types are very much similar and you are fine with either one of them. It’s also a bit more processed than Rapadura, but it makes up for that with a cheaper price, so it’s a more affordable, unprocessed sugar choice.
If you want an unprocessed sugar, but don’t want to pay the higher cost of Rapadura, then get teh Sucanat. Just make sure you pick a legit brand that does not LIE about how the process the sugar. Wholesome Sweetners is a legit brand.
3. Beet Sugar
Another type of sugar sources from the Sugar Beet, predictably called beet sugar.
While the end product extracted is sucrose (99.5 percent is sucrose), there is a a slight difference in chemical makeup (.05 percent). It is this ‘difference’ of .05 that separates cane sugar and beet sugar and the source of contention between chiefs regarding how the sugar acts when you heat it for baking.
Besides the .05% chemical difference between cane sugar and beat sugar, there is also a difference in the process used to extract sugar from beet sugar compared to that of sugar cane.
How Beet Sugar is Made
Sugar beets are often grown on large farms, underground. Once they are removed from the ground, they are cleaned, diced up, and put into a diffuser machine. This processes the sugar, extracting the raw sugar liquid. The left over beet slices are then further processed to extra any left over sugar juice with the left over beet slices are squeezed to further extract the left over sugar.
After this, the sugar juice is processed by adding in sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. This creates the sugar crystals. The chemicals are later filtered and the resulting juice is boiled to separate the molasses, sugar crystals, and the left over water. This leaves only the crystals, which are the final results. These crystals will the be sold as refined white sugar.
Keep in mind that the molasses extracted from Sugar Beet is generally not fit for human consumption — at least not the highly processed version of it which contains chemicals used to extract the sugar — which is why it’s is extracted away from the raw beet sugar juice.
Beet molasses is used for animal feed and not usually used for human consumption on it’s own, due to the bitter taste and chemicals used in the extraction process. This beat molasses differs from the molasses in sugar cane, which in fact can consumed on it’s own once it’s separated from the sugar in evaporated cane juice.
Many sugar beets are GMO foods (genetically modified) as well, grown on artificial farming plots, while Sugar Cane is NOT. Sugar Cane is also grown outdoors in large swaths of land in South East Asia — a more ‘natural’ form of farming.
Some chiefs do find that beet sugar does not caramelize as well as sugar cane sugar, when cooking with it. So though both sugars are similar, once you extract the sugar, there is a small difference with the .05 chemical makeup on the real world ‘usage’ of the sugar.
Beet brown sugar, unlike brown sugar sourced from sugar cane, has had molasses (which comes from sugar cane) added back in to the white refined beet sugar. This can mean that when you bake with brown beet sugar, since the molasses is not fully penetrated into the sugar (remember, it’s not actually part of the sugar but has been artificially added back in), the molasses can rub off during the backing process.
White Beet Sugar vs White Cane Sugar
I’m not going to say either is better, depending. IF you are using refined white sugar, then the end result of the sugar is pretty much the same, regardless of it’s source. Refined white sugar is pure sucrose, and it doesn’t matter where it comes from and for practical purposes, the same. Either way, 99.9% of the sugar will be the same when comparing refined white sugar from sugar beets vs refined white sugar from sugar can. Though, again, that .01 percent may make a difference when baking with the sugar or heating the sugar.
- There IS a difference in Brown Sugar from Sugar Beets vs Brown Sugar from Evaporated Sugar Cane. The evaporated sugar cane has molasses as part of it while the brown beet sugar has molasses (from sugar cane) added into the sugar after the sugar has been fully refined. This means when cooking, the molasses may rub away or leak to the surface.
- Growing conditions: sugar cane is grown differently and in different climates
- GMO vs NON GMO: sugar cane is non-GMO while sugar beets are USUALLY GMO, unless specified otherwise
- Processing: the way sugar is extracted from sugar beets vs sugar can is very different. Chemicals are used in the sugar beet process while chemicals are NOT used in sugar cane to sugar processing.
The end result is, if you use white refined sugar that does NOT say it’s from sugar cane, it’s likely from sugar beets.
Brown Beat Sugar vs Brown Cane Sugar
Brown beat sugar has some of the beet molasses (taken during the extraction process) added back in to the refined white sugar.
Considering that the beat molasses is used in animal feed and the possible trace amounts of chemicals used in the molasses extraction from the beet sugar juice present in any molasses added back into refined white beet sugar, there may be some concern about the quality of brown beet sugar vs brown cane sugar, with beet sugar arguably LESS healthy because of this.
White Refined Sugar from Sugar Beets and Kombucha: What’s the Effect
You can use it interchangeably with white refined sugar from sugar change. The 05 percent difference (we are talking less than a tenth of a percent here) between the sugars won’t affect the SCOBY. However, you may want to consider your stance on organic foods, GMO, and crowing conditions as part of your decisions as to what sugar to choose.
Taking the fact that cane sugar can be organic, is grown naturally in the tropics, and is far less processed with no chemicals added, we recommend sugar sourced from Sugar Cane over Sugar Beet, even if in the refined state, they are almost the same. We also don’t recommend using Brown Beet Sugar because of the potentially chemical laden beat molasses that’s added back into the sugar to make it brown. However, some people find they are allergic to cane sugar. As such, you may find beet sugar better for you in this case.
Recommended Beet Sugar
If you want to give beet sugar a try with your kombucha, here is our recommendation: a non-GMO beet sugar. Most of the beet sugars have gone the way of GMO, so stick to this brand to be sure, if you want to avoid GMO’s.
4. Brown Sugar
Moving down (or up) one more step on the processed/refined scale, we come to the many varieties of brown sugar.
This is sugar that still has at least 3-10% of the molasses elements in it. IN most cases, it’s simply white refined sugar with molasses added back into it. Natural Brown sugar is NOT the same as Brown Sugar, as Natural Brown sugar is another word for raw sugar (see section about Rae Sugar).
There is also a difference between Brown Sugar that comes from the Sugar Beet and Brown Sugar that come from Sugar Cane.
Specifically, Sugar Beet has a form of molasses in, when the beets are squeezed into sugar juice, BUT, that molasses must be extracted via chemicals from the liquid because it’s not fit for human consumption. To form brown sugar, human-friendly molasses (which comes from Sugar Cane) is added back IN to the white refined beet sugar, which gives you the brown sugar.
Brown Sugar from Sugar Cane includes Molasses, but there is a difference in how that molasses gets there.
- Evaporated Sugar Cane Sugar: If your sugar comes from evaporated sugar cane juice (raw sugar), then the molasses is LEFT OVER from the evaporation processes. The less processed the sugar cane juice is (i.e. the less times the mix is heated and re-heated), the more molasses will likely remain. But it’s the original molasses.
- Brown Cane Sugar: if your sugar is Brown Sugar from Sugar Cane and not from Evaporated Sugar Cane, then what’s happened is the refined white sugar from sugar cane has had all molasses stripped away and molasses has been added back in.
Yes, it’s confusing, so you’ll have to read the wording VERY carefully to determine what’s been done to the sugar.
Brown Sugar and the effect on Kombucha
As noted above, the more non-sucrose molecules in the sugar, the harder it will be for the kombucha to process the sugar. Again, this may be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on your personal brewing situation and preferences. Before starting to experiment with any type of brown sugar, you’ll want to have a good back-up store of SCOBYs. We do NOT recommend you use BROWN sugar for your initial Kombucha brewing, especially if you are new to Kombucha. However, if you want to change things up or you are experimental, then you can certainly use brown sugar and get a fine-tasting Kombucha — just realize the brew may turn sour quicker or your fermentation may be weak (though not always, it depends!).
For new brewers, you are better off with white sugar (from sugar cane) or the less processed evaporated sugar cane, which will be brown or darker but contain the original molasses rather than be white cane sugar with molasses added back in.
Read our article How to Brew Kombucha with Brown Sugar
Molasses can be used as a substitute for sugar in Kombucha, or combined with sugar. The effect changes the taste of Kombucha quite substantially and is not recommended for NEW kombucha brewers. However, if you want more exotic tasting Kombucha, Molasses is a great to experiment with. You can get some amazingly exotic tasting Kombucha brews, but you can also get some pretty bad tasting ones too. Make sure you use BACKUP SCOBYs if you want to start doing first ferment brews using Molasses.
What is Molasses?
The goal of a sugar refinery is to remove the non-sucrose elements of sugarcane from the clear white sucrose crystals. What the refinery is removing is commonly called molasses, and it’s a powerhouse of essential vitamins and minerals. However, your results may vary if you use this alone as a sweetener in your primary kombucha brewing cycle, partly because it’s less sweet, and partly because of those extra minerals.
There are actually three types of molasses, with each types progressively less sweet, but more mineral rich.
1. Light Molasses
This is the least process of the Molasses and comes from the first boil of the sugar cane boil during sugar processing (to get white sugar). It contains the highest content of sucrose in it and is thus the sweetest. Because it’s the sweetest, you may be able to substitute light molasses for sugar in your Kombucha, but, it will contain less sugar than, well, sugar, so you may need to use double the amount you use in sugar. You’ll have to experiment with the ratio. Typically Light Molasses is 65% sucrose.
2. Dark Molasses
This comes from the second boil of the sugar cane processing. The cane is boiled once with the sugar crystals removed and the left over liquid (which forms Light Molasses) is taken and boiled again and the crystals removed (sugar) and the result is Dark Molasses. Dark Molasses is less sweet than light molasses, but can still be used to substitute in for sugar, though you’ll need to adjust the ratios to compensate. Dark Molasses is more mineral and vitamin rich than Light Molasses and has a more robust, stronger flavor flavor. Typically, Dark Molasses is about 60% sucrose. It also has more powerful, more rich flavor. Most recipes that call for molasses without specifying what types, probably mean dark molasses.
3. Blackstrap Molasses
The darkest and most mineral-rich molasses is called “blackstrap molasses,” and it’s the sugarcane opposite of refined white sugar. In other words, it’s everything from sugarcane EXCEPT the pure sucrose crystals. Because it has gone through the most processing, it’s actually the easiest of the molasses types for the kombucha to handle. Blackstrap molasses is the result from the THIRD boil, when evaporated sugar cane is boiled over and over to separate the molasses from the pure sugar crystals.
Blackstrap Molasses contains about 50% sucrose (sugar). You’ll need to use at least double the amount of it in place of sugar to get the same level of sweetness. It also has the strongest flavor and we don’t recommend using that much.
Choose Unsulphured Molasses vs Sulphured Molasses
If you choose to use molasses, look for unsulphured molasses to avoid any potential allergic reactions. Depending on where you live, the molasses might also be a byproduct of sugar from the sugar beet, or even from sorghum. However, most common brands of molasses are made by sugarcane refineries.
Molasses and the Effect on Kombucha Brewing
There is a radical change of flavor if you use Molasses. It will also take your SCOBY significantly more time to brew. Keep in mind that molasses, depending on the grade, requires more quantity to substitute for sugar, as it contains less sugar. Remember, if you short your SCOBY the required sugar amount (about 1 cup per 1 gallon), you starve it and your Kombucha may not taste proper. So adjust the ratio if you want to use molasses.
Light Molasses & Kombucha: Light Molasses is roughly about 65% as sweet as sugar, so you’ll need to keep this ration in mind when substituting for sugar in Kombucha. Use 30 to 40 % MORE Light Molasses in Kombucha than you would equivalent sugar. So if your 1 Gallon so Kombucha calls for 1 cup of sugar, you’d need to use 1 1/3 cups to 1 1/4 cups of molasses per gallon of Kombucha. And I’d opt for the higher ratio, since it’s HARDER for the scoby to process it.
Dark Molasses & Kombucha: this gives a more full flavor, more powerful taste Kombucha. Done wrong, it can also give you a sour tasting brew. 1 Cup of Dark Molasses contains about 60 percent sugar, so we recommend using about 1 + 2/3 cups of Dark Molasses if you want to substitute it for sugar. You could even do 2 cups of Dark Molasses per 1 gallon without issue. The more molasses you add though, the stronger the extra flavor will be added to your final brew, so you’ll have to experiment to taste (and see how your SCOBY reacts).
Blackstrap Molasses & Kombcuha: this has an intense and powerful flavor. It’s also bitter sweet in taste. As such, we do not recommend you substitute all sugar in place of blackstrap molasses. Not only is this expensive to use, but you’d have to use 50% percent or more (maybe even 75 percent) more to get the equivalent sugar content for your Kombucha SCOBY. And because it’s so concentrated in flavor, this will add an overpowering molasses taste to your brew. Try it if you want to experiment, but you may not like the results. If you want to try, use 2 to 2.5 cups of blackstrap molasses per gallon of kombucha. Also expect the brew to take much longer (50 percent longer).
Alternatively, you can add in 1 or 2 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses to your regular Kombucha brew — this adds in some of the extra nutrients and adds in a nice molasses flavor without overpowering the taste or effecting the SCOBY development.
Read our guide how to brew Kombucha with Molasses
Recommended Molasses for Kombucha
This is a light molasses and sweeter than the dark molasses or the blackstrap molasses. If you are wanting to try out a molasses substitute for sugar, I recommend you start with THIS one as it contains 65 percent sugar rather than the 60% of the dark molasses or 50% of the blackstrap molasses. The flavor is not as strong as well, which won’t overpower the Kombucha.
This is a Dark Molasses that’s not as bitter as the full flavor version. If you want a middle of the road molasses, then this is the one to use. You can use it subbed for the sugar at a 1 and 2/3 cup ratio per gallon.
If you want the much stronger, more full flavored (almost to the point of bitterness) Blackstrap molasses, then I recommend the Plantation Molasses. It’s organic and high quality and it’s tasty. However, I recommend adding a couple of tablespoons to your brew (a sugar molasses blend), rather than doing full substitution of molasses for sugar if you want to use Blackstrap. Too much and it will be too strong a flavor in the Kombucha and the brewing time will be longer. If you do use it, sub in 2 to 3 cups of this for 1 cup of sugar and keep your fingers crossed.
When you think about honey, you probably get the mental image of beautiful flowers and happily buzzing bees, not a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. But yes, raw honey contains enzymes that metabolize to form hydrogen peroxide, which will harm your SCOBY. In addition, raw honey also contains “wild” yeasts that are different from the ones in the SCOBY and may harm or compete with them. Finally, raw honey also contains bacteria (again, not the same ones as in your SCOBY) and sometimes those bacteria can be harmful to your health.
If you want to use honey in your kombucha brew, choose pasteurized honey, either alone or in combination with cane sugar. Raw, unpasteurized honey will cause problems with your Kombucha due to the antibacterial properties of the honey (and you know, your SCOBY is part bacteria right).
Honey and the Effect on Kombucha
It makes a great Kombucha with a different sort of taste and with additional health benefits (the extra enzymes and minerals from the honey are passed into the Kombucha). Generally, you’ll have a subtle honey flavor in your kombucha tea if you replace the sugar with the honey for the first ferment. Just remember, use unpasteurized honey or you are likely to kill or damage your SCOBY. For honey, you can use about 3/4 a cup per 1 gallon of Kombucha, if replacing the sugar. Or you can combine the sugar with honey that’s half and half.
FUN FACT: The ancient Greeks and Persians used something called “oxymel” (a mixture of vinegar and honey) as an all-purpose curative. If you want the health benefits of raw honey without risking your SCOBY, let a batch of kombucha tea get vinegar-level sour, and then mix one cup of kombucha vinegar with one cup of raw honey. You can drink it as is, or dilute it with sparkling water and ice.
If you like the taste of honey-brewed kombucha or you want to brew a more subtle Kombucha that only lives on honey, consider brewing Jun Tea, which is a cousin to Kombucha and is created via a Jun SCOBY which eats honey instead of sugar! It’s a more subtle, more complex flavored Kombucha that many people say tastes better!
Read our full guide how to brew Kombucha with Honey
Recommended Honey for Kombucha
This is one of the best tasting honey products I’ve found. You can get it online fairly cheap — it’s organic, pasteurized (so it won’t kill your SCOBY) , unprocessed, and even kosher. Even better, it taste phenomenal. This is high grade honey, and the honey you should use if you want to try out Honey with your Kombucha.
7. Agave Syrup
Agave nectar, or agave syrup, is produced from the spiky leaves of the agave plant, the same plant that’s used to make tequila and mescal. It has four to five times more fructose than glucose, which makes it easy for the human body to metabolize.
However, this lack of glucose means that the SCOBY will not have the sucrose molecules it’s expecting (sucrose = glucose + fructose) and this will change the way your brew ferments. You want to make sure you use an EXTRA scoby if you want to experiment with Agave when brewing. It’s possible you may get a sour tasting brew. You can also play around with mixing regular sugar and agave.
If you want to use Agave, you may want to look at Yacon syrup which is similar (comes from a root in south america) and has no glucose. It’s also less processed and arguably healthier than Agave.
8. Maple Syrup
Pure maple syrup is made by evaporating the water from the sap carried through the spongy bark layer (xylem) of the maple tree. It’s only about half as sweet at refined white sugar, and contains high levels of zinc and manganese. Some brands sold as maple syrup are actually a combination of corn syrup or cane syrup mixed with maple syrup, so check the labels before you buy. Pure maple syrup is mostly sucrose, which means the SCOBY will break the sugar down easily. Whether you taste a maple syrup flavor in your kombucha tea will depend on the type you use, and the quantity.
We find that maple syrup really adds a unique taste to your brew, different than sugar, honey, molasses, or anything else. It’s a subtle, but very noticeable taste — and it’s one of my favorite sugar substitutes, either for the First Ferment or added to the second ferment. My only complaint is that Maple Syrup is so expensive. A little bottle will only get you 1 or 2 brews at most. If you want to really experiment, I recommend you just pony up and buy maple syrup in bulk. If you want to use Maple Syrup, you can use about 3/4 a cup per 1 gallon of brew — keep an eye on the Kombucha though and use a backup SCOBY at first.
Read our full guide how to brew Kombucha with Maple Syrup
Recommended Maple Syrup for Kombucha
It’s about 24 bucks for a 32 ounce jug here (1/4 a gallon) but it’s a worthy investment. This maple syrup has a nice deep, robust flavor. Note that you’ll only get about 4 cups of syrup out of this container, which means about 4, maybe 5, gallon brews to experiment with.
This is half a gallon of Maple syrup and about 8 cups straight. If you really want to get down and dirty playing with Maple syrup, go with this 64 ounce. You’ll get 8 to 10 full 1 gallon brew with it and it’s good to have extra maple syrup that you can also use to experiment with second ferment, if you wish. It’s cheaper to buy this bulk rather than as the 32 ounce.
9. Coconut Sugar / Palm Sugar
Sugar made from from the sap of various types of palm tree is called “palm sugar,” and sugar made from the blossoms of the coconut palm is called “coconut sugar.” Both of these are high in nutrients like zinc and potassium, and also have a lot of natural B vitamins. Because these are unrefined sugars, treat them like brown sugar, and experiment with extra SCOBYs.
This sugar is made when a cut is made into the coconut palm flower and leaking sap is then collected into jars. The thick starchy sap is heated until the water boils off, leaving the coconut sugar behind. This type of sugar is often used for cooking, specifically dishes like Thai food.
Tip: Coconut Sugar is the most SUSTAINABLE and environmentally friendly of the sugar sources — if this sort of thing matters to you. Coconut palms live in many different ecosystems around the world rather than the corporate style, environmentally harmful single-crop farms that only grow sugar beets or sugar cane.
Difference between Palm Sugar and Coconut Sugar
Palm sugar and coconut sugar are used interchangeably, though some semantic differences exist. A few different species of palm are used, and the type of palm affects the labeling choice. IN terms of process, all the processes for extracting the sugar from the sucrose-rich palm sap are identical (sap drained from cuts along the flower area of the palm), except for Thailand where a slightly different process is used. Thailand, for example, uses palm sugar where the sap is cut along the base of the tree trunk rather than the palm flowers (also called inflorensces).
Coconut sugar also has a lower GI (Gluclomic index of 35) than does refined white sugar. Combined with the minor extra nutrients, it’s a healthier alternative to plain white sugar, roughly along the lines of Honey. It’s also more expensive than regular sugars. If you have to choose, Coconut sugar is better than regular sugar for your health. For your SCOBY, it’s about the same.
Coconut Sugar with Kombucha Brewing
Since coconut sugar is brown sugar like, the brew will take longer to make. However, you do benefit from additional vitamins that are not in regular cane (or beet) sugar. I love playing around with these exotic sugars and they do add slightly different tastes, since they are unrefined and from different fruits.
Recommended Coconut Sugar
Yes, yes yes. Have you tried coconut sugar? If you haven’t, it’s a fantastic alternative to cane sugar with arguably more nutrients. This is a good coconut sugar for your Kombucha brewing. Even better, it comes from sustainable, environmentally farms.
10. Date Sugar
Of all the sugars, Date Sugar may be the sweetest of the bunch, grain per grain, but also the healthiest, in terms of the amount of antioxidants present. One study ranked all the sugars by the level of antioxidants present; date sugar scored number one.
How Date Sugar is Made
Date sugar, as you suspect, comes from the date. It’s basically dehydrated dates that are ground up and used as a sugar. It does not melt like sugar under heat and will not dissolve like regular sugar when you add it into a liquid. It’s a bit like Muscovado sugar in terms of texture, being dark brown and a bit moist. The flavor of date sugar is delightful, with a mild, flavor with a lot more subtle tones than regular white or brown sugar. Date sugar is sucrose (just like sugar cane or beet sugar).
Health Tip: dates have the most antioxidants of all the common sugars available and they are the least processed, being made by grinding up dried dates.
Date Sugar and the effect on Kombucha Brewing
Because it’s sucrose, you can use it just like regular sugar in Kombucha. Treat it like you would brown sugar, however and use a backup SCOBY to see how it does. This is a great, if rather unusual sugar to use for your Kombucha, but you might get a nice, rich taste out of it. Since this sugar is simply ground up dried dates, it’s by far the most unprocessed of all the sugars on this list and, according to the study linked to, the most anti-oxidant rich of all the sugars. Based on this, you’ll be imbuing your Kombucha with a lot of extra anti-oxidants IF you use date sugar in place of regular sugar.
You can use it in place of brown sugar in a 1 to 1 ratio.
Recommended Date Sugar for Kombucha
If you want to try date sugar out, use this one. It’s tasty and good quality. There are not a lot of options when it comes to finding date sugar, but this will do the job right. If you want to save money, consider buying the pack of four — it’s cheaper.
Date sugar is one of the more expensive sugars out there, but you may find it one of the better sugars, and arguably, the healthiest sugar of the entire bunch. You’ll have to see how your Kombucha does with it though because it’s a very unprocessed sugar and your SCOBY is going to have to break down the date pieces in the liquid — almost like it has to extract sugar from cut up fruit added in the second ferment.
11. High Fructose Corn Syrup
Look, many health types will probably blast me to pieces for daring to put this up here. But the fact is, HFCS will work for Kombucha. I don’t at all recommend it over using white sugar or any of the other sugars (why would you when you can get any other sugar for pennies on the dollar). But for sake of completion, Corn Syrup does contain mostly sucrose and the SCOBY will eat it just like sugar.
So it works.
Considering that, unless you go out of your way to avoid HFCS, you probably consume at least some HFCS if you drink sodas, eat deserts, eat out, or each any sort of sweet processed food.
The common health mentality is that this stuff is poison for your body. The chemical process to extract sugar from corn is complex, and the result, HFCS, is, by some health types, claimed as a toxic brew that imitates sugar but wrecks havoc on your body. Studies link it to obesity even, in over consumption. But then again, over consuming raw organic sugar will do you just as bad! Studies do show that there is really not enough evidence to say Corn Syrup is worse than regular sugar.
However, practically speaking, HFCS nearly identical to regular table sugar with slightly more fructose and some structural changes. Because of this, you can replace regular sugar if you want to use it. You’d want to use 3/4 a cup per gallon of Kombucha in place of 1 cup of sugar.
I don’t recommend you use it, simply because you can easily use any other sugar rather than having to go out of your way to put Corn Syryup into your Kombucha. But, it will work, and if you have the mad need to experiment with flavors, then by all means do it and see how you like the taste. And the taste IS different than sugar mostly, so you will get an interesting flavored Kombucha.
12. Exotic Specialty Sugars Natural Syrups
There are natural syrups and sugars taken from other plant products.
- Yacon Syrup: like agave, it’s also referred to as a natural sweetener. And like Agave, it does not have any glucose in it, meaning your kombucha brew flavor will be affected (perhaps sour). You can play with this, but you may have to mix in regular sugar to get something tasting good. You should also have a backup SCOBY.
- Sorghum syrup: comes from the sorghum cane and is a bit like molasses. You can experiment with it, but have a backup SCOBY.
- Rice Syrup: extracted from rice, this has a nutty flavor. You may try using it experimentally, but use with caution.
Replacing Sugar with Fruit
Another option is to substitute sugar during the primary ferment with fruit, be it fresh cut up fruit, dried fruit, fresh fruit puree, fresh fruit juice, or fruit juice concentrate.
Yes, fruit can be used during the primary ferment in place of sugar. This is an advanced brewing technique flavoring Kombucha during the primary ferment INSTEAD of the second ferment.
This is highly experimental and you may get a brew that goes sour quicker or a weak fermentation. You may also have issues with your SCOBY reproducing a new baby and, if you do this over multiple brew cycles, your SCOBY may become weak, or even die.
You should only do this with SPARE SCOBYs from your SCOBY hotel.
If you want to do this, read our full guide in our How to Brew Kombucha With Fruit instead of Sugar.
These are artificial or natural sweeteners that doe NOT contain sugar molecules: Stevia, Xylitol, Aspartame, Saccharin.
And you don’t want to use them to make your Kombucha.
Do NOT use these sweeteners in your Kombucha. Your SCOBY will die.
Stevia and xylitol are sweet chemical compounds that naturally occur in specific plants. They don’t contain sucrose, so the SCOBY can’t use them, and you won’t get fermented kombucha.
Aspartame, saccharin, and other artificial sweeteners don’t have any sucrose either, but do have lots of potentially toxic chemicals in them. Absolutely don’t use any of these in your primary or secondary fermentation.
If you really want a natural sweeter, you can add natural sweeteners like Stevia to the finished tea, if you like.
High Fructose Corn Syrup: I’ve talked about this, and it’s a sugar that will work. But due to all the controversy and potential hormonal risks HFCS might have (or not have — we are still not sure at this point), I say, don’t use it. It WILL work, yes, but unless you want to experiment with the arguably good taste of corn syrup, you can do just as well with another sugar type.
What About Sugar-Free Kombucha?
The yeasts and bacteria in the SCOBY need sugar, because it’s their primary food source. If you don’t add in sugar or you use a sugar replacement that does not contain sucrose, your SCOBY will starve and you won’t get a ferment. You can, instead, choose to reduce the sugar content in your brew.
So let me repeat: YOUR KOMBUCHA SCOBY NEEDS SUGAR TO GROW AND FERMENT, OR IT WILL DIE.
You can, however, reduce the sugar content if you wish, provided that you rotate your SCOBY back into a more sugar rich brew next cycle. For tips on reducing the sugar in kombucha, read this article.
So What’s the Best Sugar for Making Kombucha?
We’ve given you 9000 words and at least 24 hours of writing time and research to give you this huge breakdown on sugar, the differences between all the sugar types (and sweeteners), the effects of your sugar type on kombucha, and what sugar you should choose. This is the best article you’ll find on the web about this topic.
We’ve given over 12 different types of sugar recommendations and listed how they might do with your SCOBY and your Kombucha. There’s a lot of information there, so let’s summarize and make a few broad ‘best sugar choice’ selections to help point you in the right direction if you are trying to figure out WHICH sugar you want to use.
The Most Recommended for Beginners
If you want our top picks for the best sugar, counting price, availability, and your SCOBY health, then it’s your regular old organic White Refined Sugar from Sugar Cane as the best pick for regular kombucha.
Our second pick would be a minimally processed evaporated cane sugar such as Rapadura, my personal favorite, is also an excellent choice that arguably has a few more health benefits (it’s our favorite choice for sugar).
We don’t like White Sugar from Beet Roots, though it’s nearly identical to White Cane Sugar chemically, due to the processing, the GMO beets often used, the artificial farming methods, and the chemicals used in the processing of it. Still, despite all these negative points, and to be objective about it, refined white sugar from sugar beets will work just as well for Kombucha brewing as white cane sugar, and likely better than many of the unprocessed sugars due to it being nearly pure sucrose. You’ll have to decide if you want to use it or not.
The Robust Flavor Choice
If you want to get experimental with your first ferment and add additional flavor profiles, Light or Dark Molasses is a fantastic choice and makes an interesting first ferment Komucha (you can make it even more interesting by using molasses in the first ferment, then doing a nice second ferment with fruits and spices). For the MOST richest mineral infusion of all the sugars, Blackstrap molasses should be your choice, though it’s also the most risky of churning out a sour brew due to the overpowering taste — but you can experiment.
We love the taste of maple syrup substituted for sugar in the first ferment. You get a different tasting, intoxicating Kombucha.
Honey (organic, pasteurized, and unprocessed) is a great choice too with a strong unique flavor, though it affects the brew time.
The Eco-Friendly Choice
If buying environmentally friendly sugar from sustainable farms is your thing, then look at Coconut Sugar. It’s a delicious sugar that will work just fine in your Kombucha, with some additional health benefits from the extra ‘coconut stuff’ left in the sugar. It also comes from natural coconut / palm treas that life in the tropics on diverse and sustainable farms. It’s also rich in micro-nutrients like magnesium, potassium, zinc, and B vitamins and has one of the lowest GI’s of 35.
The Healthiest Choice
If you want a sugar that provides the most health benefits (again, keeping in mind that the healthiest sugar is still poison to your body when you consume too much) both on it’s own and into your Kombucha, we suggest Date Sugar, which has the highest number of antioxidants, fiber, and other good stuff — far more than the regular sugars.
Best Healthy Sugars Sorted By Quantity of Minerals & Vitamins & Antioxidants
I’ve organized your sugar choices by ‘health’ as measured by the number of minerals & antioxidants in the sugar.
#1. Date Sugar
If there is one sweeter that is actually healthy for you, in moderation, it’s date sugar. It has the highest level of antioxidents in it and it has the fiber, minerals, and other benefits of the date fruit, since this ‘sugar’ is ground up dehydrated dates. So if you want the healthiest sugar for Kombucha, Date Sugar is that. The only corollary here is that date sugar may be harder for your SCOBY to process. So while you may enjoy the benefits, your SCOBY may not grow as well from PURE date sugar during the first ferment. But you’ll have to try and see.
#2 Blackstrap Molasses
This is the second choice for pure health. This stuff, while being slightly bitter and containing 50 percent less sugar vs regular sugar, is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (scoring #2 for antioxidant quantity after date sugar in a study). Your SCOBY can process it, but you’ll have to add double the amount as sugar at least, and this stuff is so powerful in taste that only a tablespoon of it will affect the taste of your Kombucha. Putting in 2 or 2.5 cups of this concentrated molasses into your Kombucha may overpower the flavors completely.
Due to all the extra enzymes present, Honey is our third healthiest choice. This is followed by coconut sugar or maple syrup.
Best Healthy Sugars Organized Sorted By GI Index
If you follow the GI Index, Coconut Sugar has one of the lowest index scores of all the natural sugars and sugar extracts. Keep in mind the GI (the rate at how fast the sugar is absorbed by your blood) is not necessary entirely accurate way to measure how bad or good a sugar is for you.
- Coconut Sugar: 35
- Raw Honey: 50 antioxidants, enzymes, amino acids, minerals, and phytonutrients.
- Maple Syrup: 53
- Blackstrap Molasses: 55
- Cane Sugar: 65
- Date Sugar: 68 <—- my overall pick for the healthiest, given the level of nutrients present in date sugar.
The Experimenter’s Choice
If you really want to experiment with sugars, and you’ve tried honey, maple syrup, and molasses sugars already, then look at some of the sugary syrups:
- Yacon Syrup
- Brown Rice Syrup
The Final Word
I hope it should be obvious by now that the type of sugar you choose will affect the way the kombucha ferments, the long-term health of your SCOBY, and the flavor of the finished kombucha tea. But you should also take from this article the fact that pretty much any real sugar will work for Kombucha at the end of the day, regardless of it’s origin. As long as there is sucrose in it, or fructose, or glucose, your SCOBY can eat and you’ll get fermented tea.
For specific recommendations on which types of sugar to choose, why to choose them, and how to use them in the brew, read our Best Sugar for Kombucha Brewing article which also looks at answering the question.
If you find it helpful, please share this article with others! And if you have a favorite sugar type or you’ve experimented with different sugars or sweeteners, share your results in the comments!