Guess what it is:
- It doesn’t like direct sunlight.
- It doesn’t like to be poked with metal.
- It doesn’t have a heart but is still alive.
- It’s like super old (two thousand years or so).
- It makes you sparkle.
Na? Any ideas? Eric Northman the vampire from the TV-show “True Blood”? Very good guess I must say. Very good 😉 But no, I’m not talking about the blond Viking vampire who walks around in leather vests and skinny jeans. No, I’m talking about SCOBY.
What? You don’t know Scoby? Scoby sounds a bit scary just like Eric Northman, doesn’t it? I must say at first I was very, very enthusiastic and excited about owning a Scoby. Until Scoby sat on my kitchen counter. Then I was terrified. Scoby looked at me through the glass of a Mason jar asking “Now what, Ms. Knapp? Are you gonna let me out?”
Well, I always thought: “There is no such thing as having too many pets.” So before Scoby arrived I was assessing possible names. But my dear friend Terry, who had initiated the adoption, assured me that this would be an unfruitful exercise because Scoby would be fertile and multiply so I would never be able to keep track of who’s who’ in the Scoby-zoo. Multiply? Ahm, *gulp*? Oooookay.
Was I really ready for this? I mean I always had a blooming curiosity for the greatest mysteries of science. In chemistry class we made Christmas ornaments out of test tubes, which was fun, pretty and useful. But experimenting with a living object on my kitchen counter compares pretty well to the feeling you have when you’re feeding your hamster Marshmallows or Vodka for the purpose of science.
Am I starving and strangling the kombucha Scoby to death?
I tried to ignore Scoby for two days until I felt terribly sorry that I maybe starving and strangling Scoby in its tight closed jar to death. My nutritionist’s instinct was to place Scoby into the fridge the minute it arrived. Which apparently is the least favorable place for it. My knowledge about Scoby was obviously negligible. Finding an appropriate name for it was the least of my problems.
And then I remembered a quote from Richard Branson: “Screw it, let’s do it. You don’t learn to walk by following the rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” I mean what could go wrong? After all there were just four possible outcomes for this experiment:
- I would kill Scoby.
- Scoby would kill me.
- I would be responsible for an uncontrollable Scoby epidemic.
- Everything would work out just fine and Scoby and I would form a happy symbiosis of producing and consuming homebrewed kombucha.
I was shocked at all the experimental equipment that was necessary to keep it alive. What have I gotten myself into? Turns out, Scoby is the absolute antipode of my nutritional believes.
It thrives on foods that I prudently have eliminated from my diet.
Table sugar, black tea and white vinegar!!!!!! And okay, pure water.
I thought refined table sugar (kind of an equivalent to cocaine) would never ever cross the front door of this apartment. Antioxidant rich green tea had long been swapped for black tea (even though we still have a Costco family pack way back in the pantry). And white vinegar I considered as magical stuff to kill bacteria and clean glass and windows magnificently free of streaks.
I’m antsy when I drop Scoby carefully into its new sugar-black-tea-vinegar-elixir. The 3-liter glass carafe will be its home for the next 7 to 10 days. I watch Scoby for possible reactions. But I can’t tell if it’s happy or not. Like you try to get a fish’s attention in a fish bowl I tap the glass a couple times. Until the warning words of the blog post “How to make Kombucha” come to my mind. Scoby doesn’t like that. Nor does Scoby like direct sunlight or to be touched with metal equipment.
I find a shady, room temperature spot for Scoby and like someone who has enabled a bomb I pack my bags and leave the crime scene for the long weekend. We need some time apart and rest.
The apartment block is still standing when we come back. We also found nothing suspicious when we exit the elevator at our apartment level. There is no slippery slime that oozes out from underneath the apartment door. Nor help seeking screams from our cat left behind with Scoby. Everything seems peaceful but I still envision Scoby devouring everything in the kitchen like the jelly monster from Ghostbusters.
I guess you could call it a disappointment or not living up to my worst expectations.
But Scoby floats amicable in its fishbowl paradise and tiny bubbles tell me that it’s blissfully fermenting sugar, while spawning new yeast and bacteria cultures. I also get a vibe that it’s glad that I’m back home.
I’m delighted with Scoby and regard it with the proud curiosity of a crazy professor discovering that the complex theory of creating a different species is not so complex after all. I encourage my better half to step into the role of the taster by holding a straw and pointing to Scoby. After all my emotional and dedicated involvement I can’t be a fair judge of the first kombucha brew.
First he hesitates. I guess he hasn’t bought into my new acquired skills of the higher art of kombucha making. But a persuasive smile linked with the unspoken threat of not cooking dinner tonight due to upset emotions he cautiously pokes the straw under Scoby’s slippery body and slurps up the liquid kombucha gold.
His eyes widen and sparkle at the taste of this incredible homemade creation. And he notices a common expression on my face: The look of an explorer filled with both relief and excitement.
I have bottled the first batch of kombucha.
Scoby I and Scoby II are already working on a more delicate and refined composition of kombucha, while hatching Scoby III and Scoby IV at the same time. Kombucha volume II with a touch of licorice tea is going to be released in …. Hm? When did I …? Anyway. None of your concerns.
If I sparked the pioneer in you I suggest you go ahead and find yourself a Scoby. There are Scoby exchange groups on Facebook. Or simply knock on my door in probably 5 weeks when my excitement has emaciated because of a Scoby overflow. Then you can become your own boss of a kombucha mass-producing family of Scoby’s to start your business.
The question I’m now left with is: Does age matter? Who produces better kombucha? A young enthusiastic or an old experienced Scoby? Let me know if you know.
If you don’t know anything about kombucha I suggest you find out more about its health benefits on diverse websites.
However, be aware that ingesting probiotics even though they are beneficial can upset your digestive system at first. Don’t blame the kombucha. Blame your unbalanced intestinal flora. It should be fine once your gut bacteria have adjusted. The key is moderation. Gallons and gallons of kombucha won’t promote any health benefits.
Because of its distinct flavor it is an acquired taste. If you’d like to expose your taste buds to the sparkling beverage for the first time you can do so buy buying kombucha. These brands are available where I live and experiment:
Happy experimenting! And if it blows up than it blows up. Live and learn.
By the way, SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast.
I knew it. Now I’ve ruined your appetite for kombucha. Didn’t I?
Thank you Terry, for this enthusiastic Scoby and your belief in my experimenting skills.