What’s a SCOBY? And Other Kombucha Questions

kombucha-1074594_1920.jpgFor the last few months I’ve been brewing kombucha at home. For those unfamiliar with it, kombucha is a fermented tea product. It really just stems from sugar, tea and a SCOBY (we’ll get to that soon). At its roots, it’s simple, which is what drew me in – along with the fact that I love tea.

Many people drink kombucha for the touted health benefits, including improved digestion and detoxification. (You can read more about kombucha and its possible health benefits here.) I drink it because I generally like how it tastes — although there are almost endless flavor possibilities — and it makes my stomach feel better than when I don’t drink it.

I wanted to start brewing from scratch, meaning I didn’t want to cut any corners. But in order to brew your first batch, you need a SCOBY. What is a SCOBY, you ask? Good question. It’s an acronym that stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (yum!) and this is what one looks like. SCOBY1 (2).jpg

The purpose of a SCOBY is to digest sugar and turn it into vitamins, animo acids, enzymes and probiotics. I won’t even pretend like I have a grasp on all of the chemical reactions that take place within a ‘bucha brewing jar, but essentially, that’s what a SCOBY’s job is.

But how does one obtain a SCOBY? You either buy one or make your own. Since I wanted this process to be as authentic as possible, I decided I was going to make one. Off to Google: “How do you make a SCOBY?” It turns out that approximately 99.99% of valid directions on how to make a SCOBY involve using existing kombucha tea. Is it possible to grow one without the help of kombucha? Possibly, but it sounds like a LOT of work and I didn’t seem to have the resources to even try going that route.

So I gathered my ingredients: 6 bags of organic black tea, 1 cup of raw beet sugar, a few cups of water and 1 SCOBY (2).jpgbottle of raw kombucha (purchased at Wegmans). After boiling the water, I used the 6 tea bags and sugar to create a small batch of very strong sweet black tea. Then, after it came down to room temperature, I combined both the tea and the raw kombucha into a mason jar and tied a coffee filter around the top (to let the gases that occur during fermentation escape). Then I waited. And waited…..and waited. Growing your own SCOBY is not for the impatient. It took me about a month to grow a thick, healthy specimen. Since I used black tea and green kombucha, the color was a little funky, but the color doesn’t affect the brewing capabilities. Bubbles and irregularities don’t either.

Cheers (2)I’ve gone on to produce five gallons of kombucha, some winners, some not so much. I just recently brewed a super sour batch that I could only stomach by drinking one part ‘bucha and one part cranberry juice. My favorite flavor that I’ve produced so far is Strawberry Maple, although Apple Cinnamon is a close second.

‘Bucha brewing can be a fun hobby, and can help your body feel better! If you’re willing to put the time in (and deal with touching SCOBY’s) , you can reap the rewards!

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