The first time someone (a small store owner – the store, not the owner, although the owner was small, also) asked me if I have ever tried kombucha, I replied, “No. I don’t dance.”
The person said, “It’s a brew made from fermented tea.”
I said, “Wow, you can make beer out of anything these days. My uncle makes it from cardboard.”
He went into the back (I assumed he wasn’t coming back) and returned with two mason jars. He handed me one and said, “Try this.”
I must admit, at first I was skeptical but I took a sip and to my surprise it tasted very much like a blend of sweet and sour fruits and my socks left in the laundry hamper since 1983.
I said, ‘Wow. How do you get that unique after bite?” (What I really wanted was the antidote.)
“It’s a probiotic.”
I thought, What is that, another word for formaldehyde?, but my stomach had shot up to my larynx so I was rendered speechless.
He said, “Notice how fizzy it is?”
I thought, Yeah, I could use a quart of Eno with an extra dose of sodium carbonate at this moment, but it was shut up or jump off the roof.
Swallowing my stomach, I decided to be polite and lie to him: “I can’t believe that something this… uh… zesty… is made from tea.”
“I knooooow! And you can make it at home with only a few basic ingredients.”
And old socks.
He then showed me the second mason jar. “This is what ferments the tea. It’s called a SCOBY.”
“I used to have an aquarium with lots of scobys.”
“No, a SCOBY is an acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.”
I studied the contents, a rubbery, floating, brown, thick fatty substance that looked not unlike a square of raw chicken, and said, “Do you cook it first?” (To kill the bacteria which explains the after bite.)
“It’s very similar to what is used to make vinegar.”
I thought, I would rather drink a glass of vinegar.
He said, “The bacteria and yeast eat the sugar leaving a refreshing and sour brew.”
Refreshing and sour; which word does not belong?
I stared at the guppy or scoby or whatever they call it, looking for it to suddenly lurch, and glad that it had a lid on it.
He said, “It’s very low in calories, great for diets.” (Yes, especially after you swear off eating for a month.)
“So,” I said keeping a steady eye on the scoby lest it break out and morph into The Blob and eat us, “what is a probionic?”
“Probiotic. Filled with stuff that makes our intestines happy.”
“I was not aware my intestines were unhappy. (Perhaps they need an intervention).” I had no doubt this brew could straighten out 40 miles of intestine.
“It is said that kombucha can cure almost anything.”
“How is it with removing rust?”
Ignoring my obvious struggle with that lingering after bite which seemed to be increasing as we spoke. (In fact, I’d swear it was making more kombucha in my lower tract) he went on: “It does have a bit of alcohol as a by-product of the fermentation process.”
Reaching for the first mason jar, I said, “In that case, let me have another sip.”
I took another sip, winced, and said, “Needs more scoby.”
He said, “Would you like to know how to make it?”
“Sure,” while I wondered if I would wake up the next morning as a 190 pound slab of scoby.
For the next half hour, he went through the process drowned out by my screaming digestive system.