HOMEMADE KOMBUCHA. PHOTO BY BHOFACK2 ON ISTOCKPHOTO.COM.
Appalachian brewers are putting their own spin on this Chinese fermented tea.
The first time I drank kombucha I was nursing a bad bellyache as an English major at Western Carolina University. I can’t say for sure, but I can only assume the intestinal inferno was ignited by constant reminders of my degree’s uselessness. Or maybe it was the crushing student debt. Either way, I tried everything to dampen the fire. Chalky antacids. Spicy ginger root. Cooling peppermint tea. The cloyingly sweet blood of a virgin. When nothing worked, I consulted my hippie-dippie friend Sarah who shoved a glass of brown, frothing liquid in my face.
I took a sip and immediately gagged. “What the f*ck is this?” I cried, running to the sink to wash the flavor out of my mouth. The elixir tasted like a science experiment gone wrong, which wasn’t too far from the truth since Sarah had brewed the potion in a plastic jug in her mildewy bathroom. What resulted was vinegary, pungent, and possibly poisonous.
Needless to say, I went home that night and prayed for my life. I also spent hours falling down a kombucha K-hole. With the help of the internet, I learned that kombucha is a traditional Chinese drink made from fermenting sweetened black or green tea. The fermenting process creates a wee bit of alcohol. (Most commercial kombuchas have around 0.5 percent ABV.) And, according to a hundred smiling faces on kombucha websites, it’s supposed to actually taste good.
YOU KNOW WHAT GOES GREAT WITH KOMBUCHA?
So I decided to give it another go. That very weekend, I walked to a discount grocery store on the outskirts of campus and bought a bottle. After working up the courage, I took a sip and was pleasantly surprised. When crafted by an expert and not a 19-year-old anthropology major, the tincture was piquant and refreshing. Think: soda with an air of refinement. Even better, it almost instantly cured my tummy troubles.
Seven years have passed since then, and my degree is still as useless as my debt is crushing. But at least I have kombucha. This fermented tea drink is my go-to whenever my digestion is off or I’m craving a liquor-free nightcap. Its hearty dose of probiotics is also said to improve metabolism, immunity, liver function…the list goes on.
Long story short, there are plenty of good reasons to be kombucha curious. And, luckily enough, there are plenty of Appalachian brewers to guide you on your booch (yes, that’s its affectionate nickname) journey.