The New Ancient Drink

The history of kombucha is something of a mystery. Lore abounds. Researchers generally agree that it originated in China about two thousand years ago and that ancient kombucha would be unrecognizable to today’s kombucha drinker. My favorite story suggests the first kombucha was serendipitous. Someone in China mixed sweet spirits and tea in a crock and forgot about it for a couple weeks. When they returned it had formed a culture layer, and the person tasted the strange brew, liking it enough to try it again with the same culture and similar ingredients. 

No matter its exact origins, kombucha of today is a cultured, effervescent, sweet and tart probiotic beverage. A living symbiosis of bacteria and yeast, people around the world have been brewing kombucha in their homes and passing it down for millennia. In addition to healthy acids and living probiotics, kombucha contains only trace amounts of alcohol, caffeine and sugar and can be enjoyed as a marvelous alternative to sugary sodas, as well as a fun and festive alternative to beer and wine. 

Sweet, tart earth and fizz

From my first sip of kombucha over 20 years ago, I fell in love with the exotic and delicious beverage. Perfectly balanced in tart and sweet, earth and fizz, the marvelous elixir was like nothing I had tasted before. Add to the mix kombucha’s health-supporting benefits and I was hooked. It was only a matter of time before I set about making it myself. For many years I home-brewed rather ordinary-tasting kombucha, enjoying the multitude of health benefits but missing the fun flavors and fizz factor of my favorite commercial brands. 

Enter pandemic 2020 with its survivalist mentality and shelter-in-place orders. With a little extra time on my hands, I pondered, could I make kombucha more innovative and delicious than my favorite commercial brands?  I decided to start a home brewery and a kombucha cottage food business. During the pandemic I supplied a small clientele of customers with their weekly provisions of small batch, hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind brews.  

Life since 2020 has gotten very busy, so these days I only brew kombucha for fun. But my brews are still ultra-tasty and contain a universe of healthy probiotics in every bottle. I love creating delicious new flavors and being the go-to kombucha aficionado for friends and family.


The gift of the SCOBY

So, you want to brew your own kombucha? You’ll need a SCOBY. Kombucha is made by floating a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) in a crock of sweet tea for seven to 10 days. The resulting beverage is the perfectly sweet and tart kombucha tea that we know and love. 

SCOBY cultures look like a rubbery pancake and are the physical expression of an ancient fermentation practice. As the story goes, every dwelling had a kombucha brew pot that someone in the home tended to, feeding the culture sweet tea every day and gleaning the byproduct of that process—kombucha tea for the whole family.

For detailed brewing instructions and a kombucha starter kit check out: www.KombuchaKamp.com


About Author

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Laurel Podulke-Smith is a kombucha enthusiast and lives in Rochester, Minnesota, with her husband, Darin, their dog, Rudy, and a small flock of backyard chickens. When not engrossed in culinary adventures, Laurel serves her community as an elected county official, and is an advocate for sustainability, resilience and urban farming.

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