Flavored, fermented tea is as popular as a home brew, too

Kombucha has been everywhere lately, from lining the shelves at your local Fred Meyer, to the Culture Café at Kombucha Town opening in Bellingham’s own historic Herald Building. Haggen even offers kombucha growler fills for the trendy fermented tea.

Making your own kombucha has become a popular hobby among people who’d rather do the work themselves rather than buying it in stores.

Though it seems like it’s a relatively new phenomenon, kombucha is an ancient Chinese tea that’s been around for more than 2,000 years. Kombucha is created by a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, or “scoby.” Some refer to the scoby, or live culture starter, as a “mother,” since it is a living being.

Julie Kamin is the founder of Oly-Cultures, a company that sells and supplies people with starter kits to make their own fermented products at home. The kits sold are kombucha starter kits, milk kefir starter kits, water kefir starter kits and mozzarella and ricotta cheese starter kits. Each kit includes the scoby to create the fermented drink or food of choice.

Scoby grows in pancake-like layers, with newer material growing atop older, Kamin explains. To brew kombucha, add sweet tea, a gallon-sized glass jar and the scoby, and let it ferment under a towel or in a dark cupboard for seven to 30 days.

Kamin says older scoby creates a more vinegary taste. If you like your kombucha mild, use younger scoby.

Ellie Stephenson has been making her own kombucha since last year, when she worked at a summer camp. She got the scoby from one of her roommates and started from there.

Kamin explains that after fermenting the kombucha for seven to 30 days, you can either drink it right then, or ferment it a second time for two or three days with berries and herbs in flip-top bottles.

One of the best parts about making kombucha yourself is experimenting with flavors. Some delicious combinations include ginger and mango, or Kamin’s favorite, raspberry and a sprig of chocolate mint.

Stephenson says making kombucha is pretty easy and the work involved varies from person to person. Sometimes it’s better —and more fun —to just improvise.

“One of my friends says hers is more of an art than a science, whereas other people are really specific about the measurements,” Stephenson says.

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"Though it seems like it's a relatively new phenomenon, kombucha is an ancient Chinese tea that's been around for more than 2,000 years. "