Reconstruction of Simplified Microbial Consortia to Modulate Sensory Quality of Kombucha Tea
Kombucha is a fermented tea with a long history of production and consumption. It has been gaining popularity thanks to its refreshing taste and assumed beneficial properties. The microbial community responsible for tea fermentation&mdash;acetic acid bacteria (AAB), yeasts, and lactic acid bacteria (LAB)&mdash;is mainly found embedded in an extracellular cellulosic matrix located at the liquid&ndash;air interphase. To optimize the production process and investigate the contribution of individual strains, a collection of 26 unique strains was established from an artisanal-scale kombucha production; it included 13 AAB, 12 yeasts, and one LAB. Among these, distinctive strains, namely Novacetimonas&nbsp;hansenii T7SS-4G1, Brettanomyces&nbsp;bruxellensis T7SB-5W6, and Zygosaccharomyces&nbsp;parabailii T7SS-4W1, were used in mono- and co-culture fermentations. The monocultures highlighted important species-specific differences in the metabolism of sugars and organic acids, while binary co-cultures demonstrated the roles played by bacteria and yeasts in the production of cellulose and typical volatile acidity. Aroma complexity and sensory perception were comparable between reconstructed (with the three strains) and native microbial consortia. This study provided a broad picture of the strains&rsquo; metabolic signatures, facilitating the standardization of kombucha production in order to obtain a product with desired characteristics by modulating strains presence or abundance.