Kombucha is fermented fizzy tea with a taste that resembles weak vinegar or apple cider. The SCOBY, which stands for "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast," ferments the tea, resulting in a drink with sparkle, tang and bacterial goodness. Kombucha belongs in the same category as yogurt, sauerkraut and miso -- foods that offer probiotics, which are healthy bacteria that regulate digestion and help with nutrient absorption. The blobs or strings you see floating in a bottle of kombucha are bits of this SCOBY, also called the kombucha mushroom or mother.
Formation and Purpose
The SCOBY forms when you combine sugar, tea and certain bacteria and yeast, obtainable online or in some health food stores, and allow them to ferment for a week or longer. As the bacteria and yeast feed off the sugar, a rubbery disc forms and floats to the bottom of the mixture. This SCOBY protects the kombucha from the air and bad bacteria, while imbuing the drink with good bacteria. Kombucha SCOBY isn't found naturally in nature, but it has been used to make tangy, fizzy tea for more than 2,000 years in China.
Making Your Own
You can obtain a SCOBY from other home brewers or certain health food stores to make your own kombucha, but be careful. Kombucha brewing requires pristine conditions to ensure only healthy bacteria enter your batch.