The pancakes that Avon resident Andrea Koehler makes in her kitchen are not your classic flapjacks.
“The SCOBY will grow in whatever container you put it in, whatever shape and size,” Koehler said of the acronym for a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (pronounced sco-bee) that turns brewed tea into a drink known as kombucha. “I use a big circle bowl, so each of mine look like a pancake.”
Kombucha is a raw, fermented, probiotic and naturally carbonated tea beverage. It’s created with brewed tea, fermented with raw sugar and a SCOBY, the starter culture, also referred to as the “mother” or “mushroom.”
Koehler has been making her own kombucha batches since 2012. She said she had been spending $3 to $5 per bottle when she started drinking it in 2007 in Seattle, and now that she consistently makes it herself, she said she finds it both financially and physically beneficial. After start-up material costs, she said it now costs her an average of 35 cents a bottle.
“I think it’s more than just the savings,” Koehler said. “I know exactly what I am putting into my tea, and exactly how it’s being made. It’s like making your own spaghetti sauce instead of buying a jar of it.”
She shared how she didn’t get sick at all in the first year that she was making and consuming her kombucha and that she notices her energy level is higher when she drinks it.
Get your enzymes
Kellie Krasovec, owner of Kellie Krasovec Acupuncture in Edwards, said that while she enjoys any beverage with bubbles in it, consuming kombucha clears her head. A much better option than drinking coffee and then crashing, she explained.
Krasovec has been making kombucha since the late ’90s when she lived in Boulder, before its popularity hit the mainstream. Beyond the bubbles, she said kombucha helps aid healthy digestion, providing natural enzymes and probiotics to help break down food and absorb nutrients.
“Immunity comes from your gut. The better your gut is, the better everything is,” she said. “Who wants to take another pill when you can drink something or eat something that helps?”
Ben Henson also makes his own kombucha out of his home in Eagle-Vail.
“It’s definitely a lot cheaper than buying kombucha,” Henson said. “I like the tart and vinegary taste that it has, and I definitely feel better after drinking it.”
Henson said a kombucha drink offers the carbonation that soda drinkers often crave. He likes adding berries and a lot of ginger, sometime candied ginger, and lime and lemon to his kombucha batches.
“It’s much better than drinking pop and has the same carbonated taste that pop has,” he said. “There is just a lot of history behind kombucha, and it has a lot of antioxidants and B vitamins, which gives you that natural boost.”
Kombucha’s benefits are the same that a consumer will get from cultured vegetables, explained Delling Zing, owner of Freshies Organic Foods in Edwards.
“Kombucha is a cultured beverage,” Zing said. “If you’re completely deficient of enzymes and probiotics in your system, then it will help you immensely, but so will cultured vegetables like carrots, cabbage and beets.”
While he agrees that drinking a kombucha is better than drinking a cola, Zing said that the sugars in flavored versions of the drink can outweigh the benefits of the cultured part.
“But compared to a Coke or another sugared, caffeinated beverage, this is much better, giving you a natural energy lift from the B vitamins and the enzymes,” he said.
Since SCOBYs multiply, most new kombucha brewers obtain their starter culture from someone who already makes their own batches. Krasovec said if you don’t have access to a SCOBY, use some store-bought or homemade kombucha as a starter — an option that takes a little longer.
Find someone who makes their own batches, however, and you should have no trouble finding a SCOBY starter. Each culture creates its own colony, new SCOBYs, to make continuous batches of probiotic refreshment.
“You can keep reusing them over and over again,” Henson said. “If the SCOBY spends too much time in the open air or something gets into the vinegar you are keeping it in, then it will start turning black and you want to throw it away.”