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My pet mushroom

A batch of kombucha, ready to drink

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I’ve developed a little addiction since returning to San Francisco. Like many addictions, it started slowly – just a little here and there, maybe as an afternoon pick-me-up. Soon enough though, I was partaking every day – sometimes several times a day. I finally reached rock bottom when I realized how much money I was spending on my habit. 

We’re talking tens of dollars a day.

And so, I did what any fix-needing foodie would do: I started growing my own.  Kombucha, that is. Wait, what did you think?

Although kombucha has been enjoyed in China and Japan for thousands of years, it’s only recently gained more visibility in the US as the latest in the exploding category of live/probiotic beverages. It’s a fermented drink that develops when sweetened tea resides under a “mother,” a mushroomy composite of yeast and bacteria. Kombucha is refreshing, lightly effervescent, and has a tang reminiscent of cider vinegar. Some folks think that is has therapeutic, tonic-like powers, but I just really like the taste, and any health benefits are kind of a bonus to me.

To make your own kombucha, you first have to find a mother. Handily, the mother duplicates itself every week or two, so anyone who makes their own has a steady supply of extras. Because I travel in kombucha-prone circles, it was easy enough for me to get one from a coworker, but you can also order them over the internet. Then you make a big batch of tea, sweeten it, and toss it into a wide-mouth jar with the mother. Cover with a cloth and then forget about it for a while. After a week or so, it starts to taste a little tangy, but I like to give mine a solid two weeks so that it’s more zippy than sweet.

Here’s the catch: making your own kombucha is kind of like keeping a sourdough starter, or, as I prefer to think of it, like having a pet fish: it pretty much takes care of itself, but it does require a little regular maintenance.  That means as soon as you decant a ready-to-drink batch of kombucha, you have to keep the mother going with a new batch of tea. Otherwise, the mother will die. (How sad!)

I’m still pretty new at it, and correspondingly gung-ho, so I actually have two batches going at once, staggered in their “ageing” so that I have a steady supply to meet my demand. It’s a tasty and fun ongoing project,

The best part? I keep a little cash in my pocket, and I still get my afternoon kombucha fix – only now as a DIY, BYO affair.



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  • User avater
    LisaWaddle | 03/24/2009

    Yeah, and I guess you can't just leave a dog in a jar....

  • User avater
    dabneyg | 03/24/2009

    I would love a dog, Lisa, but I'm afraid that would be way too much responsibility for me! It's enough for me to maintain a colony of bacteria ;)

  • User avater
    LisaWaddle | 03/23/2009

    Hey Dabs, have you thought about just getting a dog?

  • User avater
    SharonAnderson | 03/23/2009

    not gonna lie, Dabs, this sounds like a sci-fi movie drink. the mother duplicates itself while fermenting a special tea with a name that could be more easily pronounced in ork or wookie tongue than human :)

    but i bet it's tasty, i trust your buds. save some for me, i'm coming to visit!

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