When I first heard about Kombucha, it was from a friend who told me it was made from fermented mushrooms, a piece of misinformation I promptly passed on to numerous friends and acquaintances.
I later found out that the “mushroom” used to make Kombucha is actually a ball of yeast and bacteria called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria And Yeast). While this struck me as being a tad disgusting, it didn’t matter: I was already hooked on the stuff.
Part of it is the taste. Once the SCOBY is mixed with tea and sugar, it creates an effervescent sweet-sour drink with just a slight undercurrent of alcohol — a little like hard cider — that I find strangely delicious. So much so that I am willing to overlook the occasional unidentifiable floating blob (UFB) that is part of the Kombucha drinking experience. Not only do I enjoy the taste, I buy the hype: I am convinced that drinking Kombucha is going to make me a healthier — and yes, better — person.
Maybe it’s the fact that the words “reawaken, rethink, retain, reactivate, relive, rebirth, repurpose, rebuild, reclaim, and restart,” wend themselves across the label of my bottle of G.T.’s Enlightened Organic Raw Kombucha. Or that slogans like “Live long and Thrive” and “Living Food for the Living Body” can also be found there.
You see, Kombucha-drinkers don’t just imbibe this stuff, we believe in it. We are convinced that it is going to detoxify our livers, balance our metabolism and cure us of cancer. I mean, it says so right on the label, right? And even though there is no credible evidence that Kombucha does any of these things – in fact, the Mayo Clinic advices against drinking Kombucha — that does not stop us. (Mayo is not a credible source of information for Kombucha-drinkers; Dr. Mercola and Dr. Weil are our online health gurus.)
Drinking Kombucha is like subscribing to The New Yorker, or listening to NPR; it places one in a very specific cultural/consumer demographic. You will recognize us by our yoga mats and canvas bags, our Priuses and non-paraben body products. You will pass us buying sacks of organic apples at the local Farmer’s Market or scouring the aisles of Whole Foods for gluten-free bread. We drink raw milk and eat grass-fed beef. We don’t believe in flu shots. Our health practitioners are homeopaths and acupuncturists and we nurse our children until they are old enough to ask politely. (It will come as no surprise that many of us reside here in the People’s Republic of Berkeley where I live.)
It’s easy to laugh at us — I laugh at us – but that still doesn’t stop me. Because while it may seem like nothing more than tea and fermented bacteria to you, to me Kombucha is pretty much the elixir of life. Just read the label.