SCOBY Musings in a Rainy Day

The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
~ Julia Child

If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But f you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Aboriginal leader Lily Watson

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Healthy SCOBY developing at the top of my kombucha brewer

Being in the kitchen is only second to being in nature: there are so many mysteries and so much life to experiment with, observe and have fun!

Tomorrow, I’ll be attending the “Art of Hosting” training in Bowen Island. As the training website states: “Rooted in the Four-Fold practice of the Art of Hosting, this event teaches a participatory approach for leading, convening, and engaging groups. We work with collaborative methods including World Café, Open Space Technology, ProAction Café, Circle Practice, The Work (engaging limiting beliefs), collective storytelling and more.”

I savour with anticipation the joy of being privileged enough to attend this training, and later being able to bring it back to my project and the people who are willing to change from the ground up.

When I’m back, I’ll be also attending the Cooperate Now Bootcamp, hosted by BCCOOP, where we will be learning about the creation and running of cooperatives: probably the face of the future healthy local economies…

What all this has to do with Kombucha and SCOBYs, you may ask?

One of the reasons I love making food and drinks from scratch is the versatility and the feeling of self-reliance, but also the potential for grassroots community organizing, the inherent fun and exploratory potential and the definitely sense of freedom, healthy anarchy and radical empowerment one gets from making our own basic needs at home and in community.

Kombucha, same as making vinegar, bread, yogurt or cheese from scratch, is both and art and a science: you need to “feed” the culture with the right combination of bacteria and yeast, but they are already there: they are no foreign or top-down transplants. Yet, the good balance between yeast and bacteria, as well as the right feeding and the ongoing care and love you provide are the real actors behind the results…making any of these drinks and foods takes team work: you can’t make kombucha without observing, understanding, respecting and caring for the colony of bacteria and yeast, your role is only that of a facilitator…

Making these things and taking care of them also reminds us of facing our own “demons” and knowing when it is time to trim parts away and add more nourishing stuff to feed the “good guys” inside of us…

Back into the kitchen, I take some time to check the state of my SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), change the “waters” in the SCOBY hotel and make some more kombucha for when I’m back (a bi-weekly event at home, to get the kombucha batches going)

Here the steps to care for your kombucha SCOBY, if you want to learn more and have a group or 1-1 fun kombucha workshop, send me a note so we can arrange the details. As part of my workshops and consultations, you’ll get a new healthy SCOBY and some kombucha culture as well as access to many great recipes for kombucha flavours and use of both kombucha and SCOBY in anything from meals, desserts and drinks to house-cleaning, personal care and even dogs and human’s treats!

Yes, you can even make jewelry out of your kombucha SCOBY, but all that is material for another blog post…

Making basic kombucha:

  • Get a healthy SCOBY from a good, trustable source, along with some culture (a cup is good enough). See pictures for how a healthy SCOBY looks like
  • Make tea with lose leaf organic tea (you can use almost any tea, each tea will give you a slightly different flavour, the more stables to start are black or green tea). I use four tablespoons of leaf tea for three quarts filtered water and add 1 cup of sugar at the end. Strain the leaves and leave it to cool down, covered
  • Add the cool tea to a wide mouth glass container (better if it is transparent glass so you can see the process).
  • Add 1 quart extra of filtered water, the SCOBY and top with the culture (strong kombucha from a previous batch)
  • Top with a cloth and a secure with rubber band, leave to ferment at room temperature, not too hot or too cold and away from direct light/sun
  • Taste after 7 to 14 days, once it tastes good for you, take 1 cup from the top to start a new batch and strain the rest into bottles. Use the 1 cup culture and the SCOBY to start a new one.

Taking care of your SCOBY:

  • Using the same directions above but less tea, you can save your SCOBY in a different container to make kombucha in the future. It will grow stronger and thicker, so you may need to check and trim your SCOBY every 2-6 months
  • To trim your SCOBY, just take it out of the container. Use clean hands and surfaces, put the SCOBY on a clean bowl or plate and check its colour, smell and texture.
  • Trim anything that is becoming dark or slimy or any lower layer (the SCOBY grows layers like a pancake and they are very easy to separate). Dark and slimy means the yeast is overcoming the bacteria, you want to keep a balance between the two, otherwise the bacteria won’t be able to produce enough “bubbles” and ferment your kombucha.
  • You can save the trimmed SCOBY or compost it. With extra “white” SCOBY, you can dehydrate it and make treats, marinated “meat” or jerky, face masks and First Aid band-aids or creams or save it for making jewelry.
  • If the kombucha has gone too acidic, this “vinegar” can be used for cleaning.
  • Always cover good SCOBY with at least 1 cup of culture (kombucha from last batch) and feed it with some organic tea with sugar at least once a month. Make sure the tea is cool when you add it
  • When adding new tea, make sure the SCOBY allows for oxygen to pass through. When the SCOBY becomes too think and covers the top of the container for too long, the fermentation process stops, the liquid become stale and opaque and no longer works as starter.

Here the pictures of today trimming process:

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Healthy SCOBY looks clear…
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Old SCOBY looks dark and slimy
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SCOBY grows in layers, usually the top ones are the healthiest and newest ones, they are easily separated from each other
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Separated old SCOBY in the bowl at the right, new cultures and the hotel for good SCOBY at the back, new tea cooling down at the right top, cat sleeping on the couch at the back 🙂

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