Guest Posting: How Brewing Kombucha Connects People in the Isolation of the Digital Age, by Lila Volkas

As we reported last month, Lila runs kombucha brewing workshops. This blog posting was originally published on her website and is reprinted here with her express permission.

Top 4 reasons it is important to brew kombucha in the age of convenience.

Illustrations by Lila Volkas

Making kombucha encourages folks to look up from their phone and into their brewing vessel where a slimy pancake known as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) chills out in some sweet tea. In the age of convenience, where just about anything can be delivered to your doorstep in a matter of hours, you might conclude that our interest in making food will be quick to hit the curb.

I beg to differ. Even though the average American eats out 5.9 times per week, brewing your own kombucha has become increasingly popular. I have been teaching kombucha brewing workshops since 2012 and have witnessed my public workshops consistently selling out because people are thirsty for more connection in their kitchen.

1. ​Deepening connection with food

Brewing kombucha allows you to make a special “store bought drink” in your own kitchen with simple supplies. Unfortunately, humans have become increasingly out of touch with how our food ends up on our plate, or beverages in our tumblers. The standard American meal is comprised of processed food far from its original form plus non-seasonal produce from across the world. The process of tending to your kombucha SCOBY creates an emotional relationship between the brewer and their booch. I have found that this connection can inspire us to pay a bit more attention to our health and how we feed our bodies.

2. Delayed Gratification

In our instant world, we could all use a little bit of delayed gratification. Not so long ago, I remember buying a disposable camera, taking photos and then waiting patiently to get them developed at the drugstore. The moment when the photo clerk handed me the envelope of pictures was so exciting because I had waited for them. Brewing kombucha takes at least a week (which is not very long in the fermentation world), but seems like an eternity when you just want to know how it turned out. Sometimes I have people exclaim in the middle of my workshop “I have to wait a whole week?!” And my response is always “patience is what makes your kombucha that much more satisfying.”

3. Sharing is Caring

SCOBYs must be shared in order to stay healthy. When a SCOBY gets too big for a brewing vessel, then I recommend “pruning it” by peeling off one or two layers, so that your brew doesn’t ferment too quickly. What to do with those extra layers? My first suggestion is to share them with friends, family or even a stranger! To me, the fact that kombucha SCOBYs grow in layers that are easy to separate, means that the process of brewing kombucha is designed for connection. 

4. We are all connected

People are feeling more lonely and isolated than ever before. To combat the feeling of separation, we need to recognize the ways we are invisibly linked. Making kombucha helps us remember how we share much more than meets the eye.

I have taught kombucha brewing workshops about once a month since 2012. And I have calculated that, as of November 2019, I have likely given SCOBYs to over 900 people around the world. Old women in rural Germany, college students in Vancouver, and computer engineers from Google are brewing kombucha from the same SCOBY, my SCOBY (her name is Sheila)! Since the nature of kombucha is that it wants to be shared, those 900 workshop attendees have likely given a piece of their SCOBY to their own friends or family. Thus creating this invisible interconnected web of people across the world whose common thread is that they all brew kombucha from the same organism. Those numbers warm my heart when I am feeling disconnected.

We live in a time when the tap of your finger can bring groceries, lunch and even a professional chef to your house to make you dinner. Home brewing kombucha is exactly the medicine our technology-driven and convenience-oriented culture needs. It is a reminder to slow down, be patient, connect with people and make something you would usually buy from a store. 

Find out more about Lila’s workshops at Kombucha to the People.

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2 Responses

  1. Andrea says:

    Is Kombucha okay for a sober person.

  2. the_editor says:

    Good question and the answer is “it depends”. Since kombucha is fermented it does contain some alcohol — most are 0.5% ABV or less. However, this will rise if it’s not kept refrigerated. Look for reputable brands that are sold in the “chiller” cabinets in the stores.

    There’s more discussion in these articles:

    https://www.michaelshouse.com/blog/can-recovering-alcoholics-drink-kombucha/
    https://www.goodencenter.org/sober-people-drink-kombucha/

    There’s a major study currently underway in Canada that addresses the issue:

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/kombucha-alcohol-testing-bc-1.5346456

    Brands such as Brew Dr. promote the strict testing of their products to keep to the 0.5% limit:

    https://www.brewdrkombucha.com/blog/alcohol-in-kombucha-what-you-need-to-know/

    If you are not overly sensitive to alcohol you should be able to enjoy it with no ill effects.

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