Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Top 5 reasons to love your SCOBY

Andrea's gift
Andrea's Gift
This post is something of an experiment. While SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) has become a bit of a dirty word in blogging recently, I believe there's nothing wrong with making cosmetic changes that increase the chance that people will find and read what you have to say.

One kind of post title that people appear to like promises a list of reasons for something. I've been meaning to write a post about the joys of the fermentation community for a while, and the original title of this post was "It takes a village to grow a SCOBY". But I'm going to use the list format, instead. Tell me whether you like it and I should do more of them, or you think it is just gimmicky.

Just to remind you, a SCOBY is a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast. The acronym usually refers to the culture used in making kombucha, but milk kefir and water kefir grains are also SCOBYs. Yoghurt cultures are not.

5. While there isn't much scientific proof of the benefits of fermented drinks such as kombucha and kefir, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that people with gut issues who drink kombucha seem to feel better. That is certainly true in my case. There was a scare a few years ago in which the FDA linked deaths to kombucha, but there doesn't seem to have been any conclusive evidence there. I've never felt ill after drinking my home-brew. It's also a great source of B vitamins. Of course it is important to make sure everything is clean, etc. - well, duh. They haven't warned people off Pepsi yet, because, you know, it doesn't do anything bad to you.

4. Even if you, like me, can't drink cultured milk directly, you can still make wonderful dairy products with it. I made the most amazing cultured butter from local organic milk I had fermented with milk kefir grains. It tasted just as good as the store-bought butter brought in from Quebec, and was considerably cheaper, which you can't always say for home-made stuff. Just as an aside, if I were able to access raw milk in Manitoba it is entirely possible that I would be able to drink the milk kefir. Again, there hasn't been much scientific research but I've heard many anecdotal reports of people who were supposedly intolerant of dairy doing just fine with the unpasteurised version. Again, you need to make sure everything is clean and safe. Well, duh.

3.  There is something very magical about watching the slow transformation of sweet tea into something resembling cider. You plop your little alien-looking colony into the tea, cover the jar and put it in a warm place. After about a week you will have a new baby SCOBY to share with your friends, and a yummy drink to put into bottles for a second fermentation with fruit or herbs. I usually use blueberries, strawberries or ginger. It's incredibly delicious. Even if it didn't have a single health benefit, it just tastes so nice, especially first thing in the morning. Move over, grapefruit juice.

2. It does take patience, whether you are making kefir or kombucha. You can't hurry it up, although you can slow it down by keeping it in a temperature that is too low. I usually put my jar in the oven with just the light on (and a BIG sign on the door to prevent me from cooking my ferments!). Having to wait on nature is good for the soul in these frenzied times. It can be quite zen.

1. Best of all, you get to interact with an amazing community of fellow enthusiasts. You can't buy a SCOBY in the supermarket. There are websites out there which will sell one to you, but it is much more fun to get one from a local person. I was fortunate to be put in touch with a lovely lady named Andrea, who gave me my first kombucha SCOBY. I am so grateful to her, and to Sarah who gave me milk kefir grains. I was fortunate to be able to pass on some of my baby SCOBYs to others interested in travelling a similar route. You can't buy that kind of experience, either.

So, those are my top reasons for loving my SCOBYs. I'm sure I could come up with more, but I don't want the blog post to be too long. What do you think?


  1. I love my SCOBY too. It's currently pink, from brewing with hibiscus tea! Cheers.

    1. Wow. What proportion of tea/herbal are you using? I'm thinking after a few non-tea brews the SCOBY might get weak.


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