As a fizzy, refreshing fermented nonalcoholic beverage, kombucha has lately taken the world by storm and found its way into even the dustiest corner stores in San Francisco. This isn’t its first resurgence. People have been brewing kombucha and touting its miraculous healing powers for a long time. In fact, it had its big debut in North America after World War I: Picture flappers sipping kombucha. And yet somehow it always seems like a recent alternative health fad.
I’m not going to bother with the controversy over the health benefits of kombucha. It’s a mysterious, ancient elixir fermented with a thick rubbery “mushroom” (the mother), which is actually a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (also called a SCOBY). Nobody has ever found a kombucha SCOBY in the wild, but it entered recorded history around 250 BCE in China. The main thing is, it’s a delicious, nonsoda, (mostly) nonalcoholic, tart, fizzy, refreshing beverage.
Here’s the other thing, though. Home-brewed kombucha is one of the least expensive ways to make vinegar. Its only ingredients are sugar and tea, and if you let it ferment long enough, you’ll get a highly acidic liquid, useful for all the purposes acidic liquids are good for, like cleaning windows, rinsing hair, and making salad dressing. [There’s more on that in the book.]