I admit that I have a weakness for soda. It isn’t the caffeine or even the sugar… it’s the bubbles. Over the years, I’ve done a number of things designed to cut down on the amount of pop I consume. From Lenten fasts to diets, I “give up” my cans of cola at least once a year… only to find myself reverting to them again after a period of time just long enough to prove that I don’t have an addiction.
The real problem with my habit (aside from the caffeine headaches I get each time I quit) is that most sodas contain a high amount of sugar. I’ve tried a number of “bubbly” substitutes over the years and have, sadly, been disappointed with each. Simply adding carbonation to a beverage does not make it palatable, nor does substituting an artificial sweetener. It seemed that I was destined to guzzle pop forever and it wasn’t until I met SCOBY that my aspirations to quit really had a chance..
For those unfamiliar with the term, “SCOBY” is an acronym standing for “Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast” and it’s the key ingredient in the oriental drink known as Kombucha. Essentially a large, non-hallucinogenic mushroom, SCOBY helps to ferment tea, turning it into a bubbly (non-alcoholic) delight. My first taste resulted in an indescribably state of ecstasy. I had finally found a substitute for soda!
Of course, buying bottles from the store promised to be an expensive proposition, so I decided to try my hand at brewing my own. It was a simple process which began with buying a starter SCOBY online. Once the product arrived, I had merely to brew a tea of my choice. I began with a gallon of ginger, but soon swapped over to lavender, since I appreciated the subtly sweet taste of the common flower. A good three tablespoons of buds in a gallon of boiling water was sufficient to infuse the liquid with the desired flavor.
After brewing the tea, I took it off the burner and dumped a cup of sugar into the mix, stirring thoroughly until it was fully dissolved. This may sound a bit counter intuitive for a low-sugar drink, but it’s an important step, since the bacteria and yeast in the SCOBY must feed off the sugar in order for fermentation to take place. After a week, the sugar content of the beverage is actually quite low – often 2 grams in 20 ounces!
Waiting until the contents of my pot had cooled to room temperature, I added the liquid to my fermentation jar (actually just a cheap glass candy jar) and placed the SCOBY inside. (It is important to wait until the liquid cools in order to avoid accidentally killing the SCOBY.) Because the process moves more quickly at warmer climates, I attached a reptile tank heater which I’d acquired at the local pet store to the outside of the jar and plugged it in. Then, rubber-banding a piece of cheese cloth over the jar, I waited. A week later, I had a full gallon of my soda substitute, ready for refrigeration.
While my family still refuses to imbibe my “experiment”, the simple process yields infinite possibilities and it doesn’t take long before drinkers like myself find ourselves experimenting with fermentation time (longer = tangier) and varied mixtures of herbs. Each brew has its own unique qualities and, while you won’t get the same consistency from one batch to the next, the journey is half the fun. I heartily encourage everyone to give it a try, if only by purchasing a bottle at their local health food store. If you already brew your own, please feel free to share some of your favorite mixtures in the comment box below. Adventures are always best when shared!
*This blog is designed to be informational only. Readers understand that they are wholly responsible for their own actions and that the author bares no responsibility for the use or misuse of the information contained herein.