Kombucha is a type of sweetened fermented tea, taking centre stage as people realise its potential health benefits. Naturally carbonated and only very slightly alcoholic, it usually tastes nothing like the tea that it’s made from – anything ranging from a vinegary cider to fizzy pop. Like water kefir it is delicious just as is, but it can be flavoured in infinite ways. It contains a rich complement of bioactive compounds, many of which in laboratory tests have shown to be able to influence various aspects of cellular health.
Kombucha is now available bottled and even on draught in pubs, restaurants and health food shops often for a fantastic price, where it is popular partly because of its low alcohol content: under 25s in the UK drink less alcohol than any other generation in recent years. But beware, not all kombuchas are “live” – some are filtered to remove bacteria and yeast to make them shelf-stable, and some are even pasteurised.
Kombucha is formed by the action of a SCOBY containing acetic acid bacteria and various yeasts, upon a vat of sweetened tea. It’s similar in principle to milk and kefir grains, but different microbes are involved and they grow in a thick cellulose mat, instead of little lumps. Although there’s little proven clinical research as yet on its health properties, it’s been passed around the world for the past 2,000 years, and it’s huge fanbase will happily regale you with anecdotal tales of how wonderful it makes you feel (me included!). Kombucha often raises eyebrows if it’s brewing on your kitchen worktop – the SCOBY is a startlingly unappealing looking thing!
Kombucha is as cheap as chips and incredibly satisfying to make at home using the most basic of ingredients; sugar and tea. As we don’t sell kombucha we don’t generate huge numbers of SCOBYs but we have just set up a small SCOBY farm so they will be available soon!
What is a SCOBY?
SCOBY is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast; an expression coined by American kombucha expert Len Porzio in the 1990’s; it’s certainly much easier to remember than the proper botanical classification for the culture which is Medusomyces gisevii 1. These days we also use the term SCOBY to talk about our milk and kefir grains – they don’t look the same, but the principles of microbes growing symbiotically are identical.