A friend recently introduced into the wonderful world of Kombucha. This is a fermented tea which is gaining popularity due to its alleged health/probiotic qualities. One of my buddies from residency is a giant freakin’ hippy. OK, he’s not really a hippy, but he does brew his own Kombucha and offered me a glass.
“Why are you serving this to me in a non-see through glass?” I asked.
“Trust me, just drink it,” he said. Sounded like a dare, but against better judgement, I took a swig.
It actually tasted pretty good. He added apple juice to his fermented bacteria concoction and it tasted like a smooth, slightly thick, cidery tea.
I finished the glass and he gave me another. His wife, who exudes kindness and love, told me to be careful. I didn’t know what she was talking about. I drank some of my second glass. Still tasted great. Then I found out the hard way that one of the key ingredients in Kombucha is dinosaur snot.
When I took a big swig, an ooze-ball the size of a dead carp entered my mouth like a punch in the face by Slimer from the ghostbusters. I managed to politely “hbrleerg” the solid sneeze back into the glass. His wife told him he should strain the stuff before serving, but he just laughed.
Kombucha comes from the Japanese words Kombe: meaning jar full of, and Uchua: living phlegm. Though if we’re talking etymology, Kombucha and KamaSutra are awfully similar sounding and that’s just gross.
SCOBY stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. This is the magic behind Kombucha that potentially provides its health benefits. It is the wad of slime that lives on top of the fermenting liquid.
The SCOBY looked like the offspring of a mutant tapeworm and squid hybrid that had been aborted and shoved in a mason jar.
With each batch of Kombucha, a new SCOBY grows on top of the fermenting liquid. After making several batches of the Kombucha, the old SCOBY’s can be taken off and put in their own separate jars. You can give these jars to friends and they can start their own Kombucha. If people refuse, you can use them to decorate your haunted house, or you can use it to make artificial leather (as per Wikipedia).
You are drinking tea and bacteria, which sounds disgusting at first. But lots of things have bacteria in it. Yogurt is pretty much milk, sugar, and bacteria. Heck, beer has yeast growing in it and nothing ever went wrong in the history of mankind by drinking beer. But is it really good for you?
Currently no definitive studies have been performed, yet hundreds of claims have been made. What few studies that have been done show that at least it doesn’t hurt you, most of the time. It is possible for Kombucha to go bad, I’m not sure what this means, but I have seen the Blob and I envision something similar. In my mind I picture giant living Kombucha SCOBY ooze terrorizing a city and trying to promote colonic health.
Sometimes the Kombucha bacteria can replace some of your normal GI flora, but this may not be a bad thing since usually Kombucha has “good” bacterial in it. The public en mass seems to feel that if you make it at home, it automatically is good for you. This is of course true. Home made meth has way more nutrients than that store bought crap. Anything bought in stores just has too many chemicals.
Naturalists seem to have this terror over the word “chemicals.” I hate to break it but the world is made of chemicals. Yes, poisons and toxins are made of chemicals, but so are apples and tofu. This neither proves nor disproves that Kombucha is good for you. One of my favorite authors, Dave Barry, has great insight into the world of chemicals.
“Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.” – Dave Barry
So drink the stuff if you like the taste, just don’t expect it to magically make you feel fantastic everyday. And, if you see a giant snot ball the size of a garbage truck attacking your city, don’t say you weren’t warned.