If you’re a fan of kombucha then you may already know a little about the kombucha SCOBY or “mother.” But did you know that there are actually different kinds of SCOBY?
If you’re new to this probiotic health drink – never fear – we’re going to examine this phenomenon from the start.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented sweet tea drink with a slightly tangy and fizzy taste. It’s beloved because it’s also considered to be a probiotic drink. This is because it’s brimming with friendly bacteria and yeast.
When kombucha brews, it uses a “culture” just like yogurt. During this process,
bacteria and yeast grow into a large, slimy, mushroom-like “mother” culture. And this is known as the kombucha SCOBY.
Why is a Kombucha SCOBY so Important?
It is only because of the kombucha SCOBY, that the tea will become home to a host of beneficial bacteria and yeasts, B vitamins and antioxidants.1 In fact, the term SCOBY actually stands for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast.2
The kombucha SCOBY is considered to be self-perpetuating, which means that it will always form new starter colonies (or new baby SCOBYs). But it’s also a living entity so it’s going to need food to survive.
This food, in the world of kombucha, is sugar. Which is why kombucha needs sugar to ferment. When a SCOBY eats all of the sugar out of a sweet tea preparation it creates a reaction that results in:
- Friendly strains of bacteria and yeasts
- Carbon dioxide (the fizz!)
- Acetic acid (the tang)
- Ethanol (alcohol). Only trace amounts of alcohol will be found at the end of this process3
Different Kinds of Kombucha SCOBY
If you are looking at how to make kombucha, first you’ll need to find your SCOBY.
But there are different types of kombucha SCOBY out there – and different ways to get your hands on them.
1. Vintage SCOBY
The best way to get your hands on a SCOBY strain is through family and friends who already have a SCOBY. A “mother culture” SCOBY always produces a baby so this baby can be passed onto you. In time will become your mother SCOBY.
You should also ask your provider for at least 1/2 cup of starter tea (some of their just-made kombucha).
Another idea for finding vintage, or heirloom, SCOBY is to reach out to any online fermenting groups that you may follow. Someone may be open to sharing some SCOBY with you.
2. The Homegrown SCOBY
Everybody has to start somewhere. If you can’t obtain a SCOBY, there’s still one way you can grow your own – from a store-bought bottle of kombucha.
To do this you will need to source a strain that’s raw, unpasteurized and unflavored. This is because additives and the pasteurization process can inhibit the growth of your SCOBY.
Here’s a quick and simple method:
- Pour 16oz of kombucha into a glass bowl.
- Cover with fabric or cheesecloth and secure with string or band
- Store bowl in a dark place, at room temperature, where it won’t be disturbed
- Wait 1 – 3 weeks for the SCOBY to form. You will ideally want it to get to about ¼ inch thick.
3. The Tibetan SCOBY
The Tibetan SCOBY strain originated in, yup you guessed it, Tibet, and is traditionally brewed with Pu-erh tea. This produces a dark and earthy, but mild tasting kombucha that’s great if you don’t like a strong taste.
This SCOBY takes a little longer to ferment which means more friendly probiotics, without turning to a vinegar taste as quickly.
4. The Island Girl SCOBY
The Island Girl SCOBY strain originated on Sanibel Island, Florida and is used with oolong tea, creating a smooth and well-balanced kombucha. The Island Girl is very much on island time and tends to ferment the slowest of all SCOBYs. So you’ll need to be a little more patient with her.
Can I Buy a SCOBY?
Yes! If all else fails you can buy a SCOBY online – Amazon has a ton, both live and dehydrated. The dehydrated variety is usually reactivated in a fresh batch of sweet tea. Just be sure to read reviews to get a feel for a trusted seller that lots of people are using.
Time to get brewing! Decide how you’re going to find that dream SCOBY and then get to it. Need a recipe? Read about how to make kombucha over here.
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