The gelatinous living organism, reminiscent to the creature from the movie “The Blob,” replicates and produces one of the latest hip and healthy beverages in the country.
Kombucha is one of the fastest growing businesses is the U.S., according to Hannah Crum, President of Kombucha Brewers International and co-author of the “Big Book of Kombucha.” Crum likens the kombucha industry to what the yogurt industry was when it first started.
“The yogurt business is now a multi-million dollar industry,” says Crum. She estimates there are almost 500 companies brewing Kombucha in the U.S. “There is a lot of mythology around kombucha. It likely originated in Asia. In the turn of the century, the Russians claimed they got it from Japan. It may be hundreds if not thousands of years old,” Crum explains.
“Kombucha keeps us healthy and the bacteria helps break down our food to better absorb nutrients.
– Claire Dunlop
Jewelry designer Molly Knickerbocker home brews her own kombucha. She uses either black or green tea as a base and has nurtured her culture or SCOBY, which stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, since 2008.
“The culture likes a mild and warm climate and doesn’t want to be in the sun,” explains Knickerbocker. SCOBY cultures are a flat, yellowish-brown disc with numerous layers that resemble a mushroom and floats on top of the jar of tea.
Kombucha proponents agree that the beverage is helpful in aiding digestion, which enhances the immune system and is purported to help with wounds.
Creating flavor profiles
Jennie Fairchild, Brett Kendall and Uncommon Kitchen’s Doug Baehr are co-owners of Folk Brewing Company.
“We are the original Lake Tahoe Kombucha and source our water directly from Lake Tahoe for our kombucha,” explains Fairchild. “We call ourselves the champagne of kombucha. It’s light and dry and effervescent almost champagney,” she adds. “We slow brew our kombucha in single batches with organic ingredients. We use whole foods to brew and there are no extracts or artificial flavors,” explains Fairchild.
“Doug and Brett are the brew masters and the genius behind it all. Both are longtime Lake Tahoe chefs they brew it like a culinary dish creating different flavor profiles,” says Fairchild.
The company brews 16 different flavors, eight are standard flavors and eight are seasonal. With flavors like Jedi Oolong, Evil Jungle Prince, Roots ‘n’ Culture and Kaffier Coriander, the company has created a cult following. The brew is non-alcoholic and can be purchased at New Moon in Truckee and Tahoe City, Tahoe Central Market and on tap at Alibi Ale, as well as numerous locations throughout Reno. Fairchild says kombucha also mixes well with beer and makes great cocktails.
Home brewing to bottle
Family and friends who loved Claire Dunlop and Sean Nash’s brew inspired the couple to start Nash Kombucha. Their kombucha is made with an herbal tea base and is not caffeinated. They rely heavily on herbs, which Dunlop says are high in antioxidants.
The company produces two standard flavors – Cherry Blossom and Citrus Ginger – and rotates their seasonal flavors; currently they are pouring Blueberry Bliss.
Dunlop says there are a number of reasons to drink kombucha, “It’s amazing for everyone’s gut and good for women’s reproductive systems. Kombucha keeps us healthy and the bacteria helps break down our food to better absorb nutrients,” says Dunlop.
Nash Kombucha can be found at the Sunday Truckee Community Farmers’ Market, Tahoe Food Hub and Smokey’s BBQ in Truckee.
Medicinal uses with cannabis
One of the more unique kombucha brews is Kannabucha. Prepared in small, artisanal batches by Tahoe Herbal Care owners Jen Barnaby and Lee Graham, their kombucha is made with jasmine tea base and cannabis, and uses all organic products. The two-fold fermentation takes seven to nine days for the initial process and up three weeks for the second step.
“Kombucha is high in vitamin B and probiotics, and cannabis helps with anti-anxiety, pain relief and acts as a sleep aid and is a win-win for people that are sick,” says Barnaby.
Molly Knickerbockers Kombucha Recipe
1 gallon of water
1 cup of sugar
3-4 tablespoons of high quality tea (her favorite to use is either Jasmine or Genmaicha tea)
Bring the water to just below a boil, dissolve the sugar and add the tea. Once the tea has cooled to room temperature she adds it to a large jar and then adds the SCOBY. Cover with a cloth to allow the culture to breath and let sit for 7-10 days at 73-77°. (In the winter this process can take up to two weeks). When bubbles appear around the top transfer to glass bottles and place in a dark space for a second fermentation period. This gives kombucha its effervescent nature.