One thing I struggle with in researching different fermentation cultures is the wildly imaginative claims made about many of them. It’s tough to find good info about things like kefir and kombucha, so I was excited when I heard that the Gastropod podcast was doing an episode on kombucha culture. And they mean culture in all the senses – they don’t just talk about the “blob” (as they lovingly refer to the SCOBY) itself, but also how kombucha became a popular beverage in the US.
I had no idea that kombucha’s first rise to prominence as a health tonic here was largely fueled by the AIDS crisis prior to effective anti-retroviral treatment. They also discuss GT Dave, who later turned the acids generated by the lowly SCOBY into a commercial empire.
Lots of microbiology in the episode as well, with Ben Wolfe (who helps write the amazing microbialfoods.org) providing a lab and enthusiastic research skills. Listen to the Gastropod Kombucha Culture episode here – it’s more than worth the 45 minute investment. Happy Saturday, everybody!