Kombucha watching

Kombucha tea mother (SCOBY)

Not much to look at, right? Wrong! I spent a good FIVE MINUTES staring at the kombucha tea mother, gently swirling and undulating right after being placed in its tea-and-sugar bath, the watching-chickens effect. I like the look of the mother, although some people find the whole thing kinda…icky. If you’re not familiar, this is a sparkling drink, tartly acidic and slightly sweet, made by floating the mother—it’s also called a SCOBY, symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast—in a solution of tea (black or green or both) and sugar. Let it ferment for around a week and a fizzy beverage is the result. It’s quite impressive. Not surprising, there are all sorts of magical health benefits ascribed to kombucha tea, and from the bit of reading I’ve done, none of it is really “evidence-based,” to use the popular medical description for stuff that’s scientifically proven, whatever exactly that means. In any case, nobody really says it’s BAD for you, maybe it is magical, and I find it…refreshing.

Making it is easy: 4-5 tea bags in some water for a few minutes, top up the hot tea with cold water to about 3/4 gallon (around 3 liters) so it’s all cooled down, then plunk in your SCOBY—any size will do, it grows!—along with a cup or two of kombucha tea (you store the mother in the tea), and you’re done. Cover with a clean cloth to let in air but not dust, stash in a warm, dark place, and taste test in five days or so: if it’s too sweet, leave longer, if it’s too tart (the main bacterium makes acetic acid, which is basically vinegar), well, test earlier next time. It’s all pretty loose and easy, and each batch you get a new, extra mother that you can pass on. Do a search and you’ll find lots of details.

My first mother I was given in a jam jar at a raw food talk, and I made kombucha steadily for a couple of years, for no reason other than that I like it (many people refuse to even taste it?!)—after a couple years off, I’m back in production. Yet another thing to grow!

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2 Responses to “Kombucha watching”

  1. ankle says:

    For whatever it’s worth, some people *do* say it’s harmful. It has been pulled from store shelves in a few places because of its alcohol content. I’m not claiming to agree, I’m just reporting. For instance, in this article it was removed from store shelves:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/14/fermented-tea-kombucha-va_n_645866.html

    … and here, a kid was threatened with suspension from school and referral to a substance abuse program for having some in his lunch:
    http://www.ocregister.com/articles/alcohol-374907-kombucha-school.html

    My family’s experience with kombucha has been quite positive, however I can’t recommend buying a dehydrated starter. We’ve tried twice, and failed each time. Note also that most commercial formulations have quite a bit of fruit juice or some such mixed with them, which mutes the taste and dilutes the alcohol content.

    • Mike (tfb) says:

      > nobody really says it’s BAD for you

      Was hoping that putting BAD in capitals would cover all that. :) Those articles are great, especially the HuffPost one – people can be so…picky. Both of them are concerned with the alcohol content. Lots of people do say there is no scientific evidence to back up any of the various health claims. And others, including DOCTORS, warn against it for various reasons, but none of the warnings I’ve read were actually proven, either – search “kombucha death” and you’ll find lots to read. Reading about kombucha, you also find that is “ancient,” and been around for “2,200 years.”

      As for the alcohol content, I’m not clear exactly how the commercial kombucha companies fixed that, maybe we’re getting…pasteurized kombucha now? Unlike raw vs pasteurized milk, where raw can be like climbing mountains to find if you want it, you can still make good ol’ raw kombucha with ease, and that’s kinda cool.

      My experience with it has also been quite positive. My one claim is that I find it tasty! As usual, informing yourself and coming to your own conclusions is a good idea!!

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