Kombucha, baby!

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Guest article by Andrew Ritchie.

Maybe you’ve seen it on Portlandia, noticed it on the shelves at your local co-op, or heard about it from your hippie friends. (Or perhaps you are the hippie friend). But what the heck is kombucha, anyway?

It’s not a fungus, even though it may appear to have a giant mushroom floating on top of it. It’s not seaweed, despite the stringy tendrils and the Japanese word for kelp being kombu. In fact, the effervescent beverage originated in China, and is produced by allowing a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (known by the lovable name of SCOBY) to ferment black or green tea. Many fans of kombucha swear by its probiotic and medicinal properties, however no scientific evidence yet exists to support these claims.

Kombucha is simple enough to make, requiring only organic tea and sugar once you acquire a SCOBY from another kombucha enthusiast, website, or local commercial brewer. The SCOBY is initially known as a “kombucha mother” and will begin reproducing layers of new SCOBYS (called babies) with each successful brew. The resulting beverage is somewhat sour, reminiscent of apple cider vinegar and contains a very small amount of alcohol, typically less than one percent by volume. Once it has fermented for a few weeks, it can be enjoyed as is, or with nearly any combination of fresh fruit and herbs added during the bottling phase. House favorites include additions of ginger and fresh peach, strawberries and basil, and blackberries and grapefruit mint.

Now that you have an idea of what exactly it is, here are some directions on how to make kombucha for brewing your very own one gallon batch:

1. Acquire a beautiful SCOBY specimen and some of the leftover liquid from a previous batch (if you don’t know anyone who’s down with the ‘buch and you feel weird about finding a SCOBY mother on Craigslist because, yeah, that’s pretty weird, there are plenty of places to buy them online.)

2. Sanitize a one gallon jug (mason jars work great) by boiling or using a food grade sanitizer such as Star-San (also handy to have around if you are interested in brewing beer or just being a cleaner person in the kitchen.)

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