There’s always time for tea. If you’re in England, there’s not just a time for tea, but an official hour in which you drink it. Hot tea is understanding, it seeks to comfort. Its cousin, kombucha is much less of the empathetic variety of beverages, it’s not even served hot. It’s more of the eccentric, voodoo mama-juju health elixir you probably saw once in a holistic magazine. It’s the crazy aunt of the tea family.
My first experience drinking kombucha was much like the first timid bites of stinky cheese: visceral recoil. It’s not pungent like epoisses de bourgogne, rather it has a misplaced vinegar odor that suits well on mustard greens than in my tea. You see, normal tea — you know, hot tea has been there in every cornerstone of my life. Tea was nothing short of a soothing tonic for all my growing pains: first date, getting dumped, first day at my “Big Girl” job.
I was in the winter of my life. I had drank to the bottom of my tea stash and desperate and sweaty, my brother-in-law held an intervention. Thus, my first kombucha batch came to fruition. To brew your own batch of kombucha, it requires just three ingredients: loose leaf tea, sugar and a SCOBY. A scoby stands for: symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.
At best, a scoby looks like a glob of human flesh. And this meaty culture floats atop the kombucha brew where it sits undisturbed for weeks. As misplaced as the smell and now, floating guts swimming in my tea, so was my heart. What my heart seeked most was warmth. Kombucha couldn’t give me that, I figured. I was seeking some kind of band-aid that was a little more than just a warm beverage to hold between my hands. A hand-aid, if you will.
But, I took my first sips of kombucha. The smell lingered far too long for me to taste it with enjoyment, but the effervescent tingle, then slight burn of acidity went down quite easy leaving a satisfying warmness in my belly. It was a kind of creature comfort that reminded me of what was amiss.
Kombucha requires a careful eye and a clean, gentle hands. In order for a scoby to survive, you must feed it, usually sugar. Feed it enough sugar, it thrives. Feed it too little, you get fuzzy green and black fungus. A scoby requires patience, too. You will likely begin with a small scoby that won’t have much shape and may have ugly patches and gooey tendrils. All perfectly normal for a young scoby. With each proceeding batch, the scoby gets stronger and becomes more uniform and shapely.
Since my first taste of kombucha, I’ve come to nurture my gut instincts. After all, kombucha is high in probiotics — quite good for the gut. I’ve adapted a ritualistic care for these scoby babies and respect the intuition that comes with taking care of these live bacteria and yeast cultures — something I had forgotten to do in myself. Inside each one of these ugly flesh cuts is a community that survives on the cooperation of one another. During that winter, I had found time for kombucha. There is always time for kombucha.