The Slimy Secret Behind Homemade Kombucha
This popular fermented drink relies on a slippery, slimy "mother" to make its magic.
There was a time when the idea of drinking fermented tea with a decidedly vinegary bite would have seemed as odd as downing motor oil, but if you’ve been to a grocery store lately, you know things have definitely changed. Today, it’s not uncommon to see shelves lined with dozens of kombucha flavors.
Formerly relegated to niche health food markets and crunchy co-ops, this fizzy, slightly sour beverage (made by fermenting sweetened black tea) has become a staple everywhere from chain grocery stores to coffee joints. My kids love it—particularly varieties infused with fruit—and I’m happy to indulge them. In addition to its thirst-quenching tang, the drink contains vitamins and probiotics, which are known to be beneficial for overall gut health. Plus it is much lower in sugar than soda. But at more than $4 a pop, it’s a pretty pricey habit.
The good news is that it’s incredibly easy—and inexpensive—to make kombucha at home. One caveat: In order to ferment the tea, you need something called a SCOBY. (It stands for Symbiotic Cultures of Bacteria and Yeast.) You can get one by mail here—but be prepared for what you’ll see. The cloudy, jelly-like disc looks for all the world like a giant ball of snot—which means it’s just the kind of thing kids will go wild for.
And that gross-looking circle is a powerful natural activator! It feeds on sugar, turning black or green tea into a drink full of antioxidants and probiotics. Some SCOBYs come with starter liquid so you can add it to the first brew, much like you add yogurt to a batch of homemade yogurt to jump-start the cultures. But a commercial bottle of plain kombucha works, too.
Once you get your SCOBY and secure a large glass container (at least one gallon) with a wide, open top, you’re good to go. Call the kids over and get ready to hear “Eww, gross!” just in time for Halloween.
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Get the full recipe here.