To some, the idea of sipping a fizzy, fermented drink with bits of yeast straggling at the bottom of the jar just seems downright weird. To others, it’s a refreshing, health food beverage promising to lead the enlightened ones to the Promised Land where there are no stomachaches or free radicals.
221 BC marks the first recorded account of the living (yes, living) drink known today as kombucha. At the time, the Chinese referred to it as the “Tea of Immortality.” Since then, similar beverages have been brewed in Japan (recognize the word “kombu” in there?) and also Russia (kvass, anyone?).
As bottles of this purportedly magical elixir can cost up to 4 US dollars, brewing at home is a somewhat sensible solution for anyone who isn’t afraid of what their friends will say when it looks like there is a science experiment happening on their windowsill.
Kombucha consists of four ingredients: a SCOBY (don’t worry, we’ll get to that), tea, sugar and water. Really, that’s it. The type of tea is up to you, but black or green is usually a safe bet.
Now, back to the SCOBY. It stands for a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. This somewhat alien-looking hockey puck of microorganisms eats up the sugar in the mixture and produces a tangy taste that leads some first-timers to wonder if something has gone terribly, horribly wrong. Relax, it (probably) hasn’t. But if at any time you are concerned about the color of your SCOBY, you can consult this helpful website.
As an added bonus, with each new batch, your SCOBY will produce a baby. Over time, you may or may not develop the desire to name each one. This is also a good opportunity to recruit your friends to the pro-probiotic cult promising to save you from everything including arthritis and hangovers.