It’s called Kombucha. (com-boo-cha) It’s what you drink if you like being that quirky guy at the office who’s known to partake of strange food and drink, munch on dried seaweed as a snack, or recite the elemental symbols from the Periodic Table. If you’re not that guy, you may drink it for its purported benefits to digestion, detoxification, immune health, or overall energy-boosting power. You may drink it because you like its polarizing, either-love-it-or-hate-it, slightly vinegary, slightly carbonated taste that’s like no other. Or, like the ancient Chinese, you may be keen on investing in in the future, and choose to do so with what they called the “immortal health elixir”. (Let’s turn to our trusty friend, Wikipedia, for more.)
Whatever the reason for drinking it, you might find yours in the dairy case of your natural foods store. Or, like many others, you can brew your own. Guess which direction we decided to go after trying (and loving) kombucha for the first time. After a healthy initiation period with store-bought bottles, I found that our food coop offered a class on making it, and our kombucha adventure soon began. I located a SCOBY, (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) the “starter” necessary to ferment the brew. I chose some tea, a green tea that we had on hand, steeped it in a gallon of boiling water, added honey to feed the scoby, and tucked it away in a warm place to sit and think for a week. I learned that bottling it after that week and storing it in the fridge for another week allowed it to build up a delicious carbonation.
I soon came to appreciate the self-sustaining process. As the brew ferments, the scoby grows a new layer, so that with each brew, the amount of scoby increases, allowing you to split it up amongst more batches brewing simultaneously. It’s the key component of the Scoby’s “Plan to Take Over the World.” (insert mad scientist’s evil laugh here)
Well, the journey began with the usual fervor that accompanies new and exciting adventures. It was the latest and greatest thing to rock our world, and our universe orbited on the sheer excitement of kombucha for about 6 batches. Anyone we talked to during that time was likely given an exuberant tour of my brewing operation. Then Life crept in, bringing with it other New and Exciting Adventures which necessarily stole all of the Kombucha’s bandwidth. Namely, Finding a New House, followed by Packing, Purging, and Preparing and finally, Moving. The scobys were relegated to their off-season location: refrigerated in a bath of enough kombucha to sustain them until they’re tagged in for action again. They took up new residence in a new fridge and sat quietly waiting for that moment when they would again be called into service. One dark day, however, during a Refrigerator Inspection and Inventory exercise (the one where 2/3 of the fridge’s contents are discovered to be inedible and are swiftly purged) it was discovered that the Scoby had mutated into a Mmoby, or a Moldy mess of bacteria and yeast. Inviting Mold to a Kombucha party ruins it every time, leaving no choice but to evict the whole thing. Mmoby joined the sad procession of expired leftovers en route to the garbage.
And so we remained in a Kombucha-less state for many months. Many sad months, I should add, for extra dramatic effect. After some time, however, rumors started spreading amongst the countryside that a King would soon arrive to claim his rightful title and return the land to Kombucha harmony. And indeed, he soon arrived on horseback one crisp and glorious day, with a fresh Scoby in his saddlebags and strong, capable hands. (I should also mention that he was exceedingly handsome.) In the ceremony that followed, the Golden Manilla Folder of Culinary Wisdom was opened, the Kombucha Formula was extracted and bequeathed to him and, amidst the chorus of the Royal Troubadours, he was dubbed the Kombucha King.
His reign endures today, bringing harmony, good health, and immortality to this Five Green Acres kingdom. His legacy is fated to endure well beyond his own reign, as he’s taken on an apprentice and is instructing him in the mysterious fine art of the brew.
And the people of the village rejoiced!