“Kambucha,” my husband exclaimed,”is the magic cure for the gut.” After seeking out the mother starter that looked like a large leathery mushroom cloud, we began the task of fermenting our tea into something sour and oddly wonderful. Twelve parts black strong tea; one part sugar; and the SCOBY which stands for “Symbiotic Culture of friendly Bacteria and Yeast” (Smith, 2013) all fit nicely into a glass jar from Canadian Tire. We nestled it under cheese cloth so the nasty fruit flies did not drown in it.
At first, the SCOBY was hanging precariously at the bottom, and we were convinced that it had died, or was no longer viable. He checked on it everyday, and reported that we saw some little tentacle of it shooting to the surface. “I think it is alive,” he updated me, although I was dubious. He literally willed our first batch to live by this daily practice.
After two weeks, Chris announced that the kambucha was ready. We brought the bubbling and smelly brew down out of the warm dark cupboard and took a close look (and a smell) together. Chris smiled like a young boy about to open his Christmas stocking, “Look at the size of this new SCOBY!” he exclaimed. (Since this first batch, Chris always sounds as though he has given birth to a new baby.) “Should I throw the old SCOBY out, or keep it?” he agonized. I shrugged my shoulder, not nearly as enthralled with the whole SCOBY birthing routine as he seemed to be. “Oh,” he sighed, “I’ll keep it. It looks perfectly good to me, “he can not part with this leathery mass that covers this first batch. He pokes and tugs at it in the container, mesmerized by its grossness.
“I think if you keep them all, we will have more jars of slimy SCOBY than we will know what to do with,” I pointed out, not wanting to rain on his bacterial culture parade. “I think you have to let some of these creepy creatures go.”
He pondered my suggestion, unconvinced. Instead, he pulled and lifts this brown headless baby into a large jar with a bit of tea in it and which we have since named our SCOBY Hotel to wait for the next batch. He would then have to decide again which SCOBY would be the new mother of the next batch, and whether he should discard the old SCOBY, or keep it. I envisioned cupboards full of mutating SCOBY’s, but I was happy for his enthusiasm on this new project. We clinked our glasses together and savoured the tangy taste of probiotic while my husband imagined his body healing and transforming from it. I enjoy mine with a bit of cranberry juice and a bit of Stevia. We are going to look at how to do secondary fermenting with fruit, but we are just getting started.
“It is thought that the Kombucha mushroom, a fermented yeast enzyme tea, originated in Asia during the Chinese Tsin dynasty in 212 BC. This Eastern Tea was referred to as the remedy for immortality or the tea of immortality” (http://kombuchacultures.com/kombucha_history.html). There are several benefits reported by kambucha experts, but like all things that are unpasteurized, there are some dangers too. We are careful to take care with boiling the containers and monitoring our recipe and processes as outlined here on this website: Kambucha Kamp: Trust Your Gut: https://www.kombuchakamp.com/kombucha-recipe There are some wonderful benefits that some claim come with a healthy batch of unpasteurized kambucha (Axe, 2016, https://draxe.com/7-reasons-drink-kombucha-everyday/), although many of these health benefits are still not medically proven by Western standards (Bauer, 2014, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/kombucha-tea/faq-20058126). It is reported to fight cancer, strengthens the immune system, weight loss, eases joint pain, detoxifies, boosts energy, and helps the digestive system (Axe, 2016). I think that like anything, if this type of thing is done in moderation, we may experience some of the benefits that kambucha has brought to drinkers of it over the ages. Perhaps we will live forever because of it.