Over the years I had heard a few folks talk about kombucha through my experience with the traveling music culture. I had tried it a few times, and while I had been told it was a health tonic, I was not interested in pursuing it much more. Although my interest dropped, the kombucha seemed to be interested in seeking me out.
In 2012, I embarked on a through-hike of the Appalachian Trail. At the end of this 2,184 mile journey, I stayed in Maine to work on a small organic farm. Both of my co-workers were “kombucha-heads,” and it wasn’t long before a trip to the co-op for a post-work kombucha was part of our every day routine. Perhaps my system was craving a living food after so many processed trail meals. One of my co-workers told me he had heard that kombucha was fairly easy to home-brew, and I became totally fascinated with learning the process. Once I had done enough reading to feel confident, I set to work putting together the simple ingredients to grow a “SCOBY”, which is an acronym for “symbotic colony of bacteria and yeast.” Unfortunately, this was also at the end of Maine’s growing season and before it had a chance to grow I was on a plane back to North Carolina after being away for over 6 months. I left that SCOBY growing with my friends in Maine, but the kombucha bug had bitten me. I quickly went from brewing in a 1/2 gallon mason jar to scrounging my family’s basements for old wide-mouth glass vessels to increase my production. A breakthrough in flavor came for me when I put a little money into a beer bottler, which allowed me to form a tight seal on my bottles and leave them to “bottle condition.” This process leaves the bottles at room temperature for about 5 days after the primary fermentation, melding any flavors you add and giving the drink a pleasant fizz.
As I shared my hand crafted kombucha with anyone brave enough to try, I was met with more compliments. At the encouragement of many of my friends who wanted to buy bigger quantities, I started selling small batches. My relationship with this ancient pH balancing drink continues to grow organically as I now offer a small batch CSK (community supported kombucha) to Durham residents.
If you’re reading this, you probably have some interest in the upcoming kombucha workshop. I’m excited to share that sweet Saturday morning space with you (May 2nd); you’ll enjoy a relaxed atmosphere where we’ll sip home-brewed kombucha, talk about its interesting and enchanted history, dive into the multi-faceted health effects, and of course – learn how to brew delicious small batches for yourself! Everyone will go home with the makings for their own SCOBY (please bring a pint sized mason jar with lid), and maybe even a bottle of freshly flavored kombucha.
I hope to see you there!
About the Author:
Grant Ruhlman studied Natural Resource Management and Environmental Studies at UNCW before working at Piedmont Biofarm and Edible Earthscapes in Chatham County. He now lives in Durham and works for the Durham Public Schools “hub” farm.