When I was younger, I would often hang out with some kids from the nature center where I volunteered. Being around a family of ethically sensitive hippie types in Southeastern Oklahoma was a bit like heaven for me, but I never did understand the stinky and frankly startling brew the family drank everyday. Until now!
While kombucha can be rather off-putting and seeing a giant glob of it in someone’s fridge made me a bit nervous as a child, about a year ago it seemed everywhere I went someone was either drinking kombucha or about to get a bottle. Just last week I visited a friend at The West Cafe in Williamsburg and the stuff was available on tap, and apparently it is available in dozens of other places by the growlerful. The New York Times reported on the growing trend for the drink in March of last year in their fashion section pointing to the Atkins diet craze as the catalyst of its return in popularity as a substitute for sugary drinks.
The fermented tea orgininated in 19th-century Russia and is overflowing with probiotics, bacteria that is said to aid in digestion. Additional health claims to fame are numerous, including the ability to increase energy as well as improve your immune system. While many drink the tea for improved general health and well-being, the CDC claims it may be related to at least woman’s death, and few studies have been completed to back up the many health claims associated with the beverage. Last November the brands Synergy and Honest Tea both recalled their kombucha citing high levels of alcohol sending many of my friends into a tizzy until reformulated versions returned to shelves.
My taste for kombucha is occasional. I’m not exactly sold on the myriad of health claims made for the mushroom tea, but I do feel more energetic after drinking it at times. I’m a fan of the ginger flavored effervescent options from Synergy, but some die hards swear by “starting” your own batch such as the one pictured here and the one witnessed in my friend’s fridge. To “start” up a batch of your own, there are many helpful guides including this online tutorial.
Each batch of kombucha requires a culture of bacteria and yeast from a prior batch referred to lovingly as the “mother”. Ways to rustle up your own “mother” range from buying one online from various sources including Craigslist, or perhaps as a gift from a friendly Russian as was the experience of the author of the above tutorial.
For those readers who have tried kombucha, how would you describe the taste?