Is Your Kombucha Scoby Trying To Kill You?

July 15, 2023

kombucha making

If you’re a millennial living in say Brooklyn, chances are you’ve tinkered with making your own kombucha. For those unfamiliar, kombucha is a fermented tea-based drink now commonly found where bottled beverages are sold. It may have health benefits like supporting a healthy immune system, and can have small amounts of alcohol content, which I’ve ‘heard’ can sometimes result in an ever so slight buzz. My offhand estimation is that it rose to popularity within the past ten years or so, and has been hovering at the peak of the adoption curve between the early and late majorities. I personally like it due to its carbonation and tea factor (I previously owned a tea bar, so tea stuff always warms my heart), though I rarely think to buy it. Still, it’s an intriguing drink that’s gaining cool-factor as it likens itself to the craft brewery scene. Will kombucha breweries become a thing? Perhaps. Though it’s more likely that the beer breweries will just add kombucha to their rosters.

In any case, kombucha has become more than just a drink – it’s also a hobby. So if you’re into making-your-own anything, then maybe you’re making your own kombucha. In which case, I ask: are you afraid of your kombucha scoby? Because I sure am. FYI, scoby stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”. It’s alive and it’s the secret ingredient that turns tea into fermented tea, aka kombucha. It’s also weird and gross.

So why the scoby scaries? Maybe it’s because I’ve seen The Last of Us. Maybe it’s because the idea that a blob of jellyfish-looking nothingness could actually be alive is pretty creepy to me. Whatever it is, I’m afraid of the damn thing. I thought it might be one of my unique quirks, until I posed the question in a slack channel and immediately found a like-mind. I wasn’t alone in my fear. There must be more of us.

What exactly are we afraid of? I don’t really know. Though I wonder, is this thing going to shatter the glass jar that encases it in an effort to slither its way over to my bed in the middle of the night, enveloping me in the depths of its sliminess? No, that’s ridiculous, right…? Except that my home batch of kombucha has already begun to reveal its shape-shifting abilities. A mutation is underway. This morning I noticed that from its proper position as the top layer of blob floating above the soon-drinkable liquid in its safely contained glass cage, er jar, it has extended its newly formed tentacles downwards. The scoby has grasped hold of the few rogue tea leaves once playfully floating around in the tea brew, now frozen in place, surely facing a slow and agonizing death by being feasted upon molecule by molecule. And yes, I know the tea leaves were dead already.

Is there a point to this scary scoby tale? Not really. Has there ever been a known case of death by scoby? None reported anyway. Have I imagined myself out of a budding side hustle as kombucha-maker? Most definitely. This is one corner of live science that I’ll leave to the scoby-do’s. Anyone looking to adopt one?