What a word. It sounds like the sort of toast you'd hear shouted in Mos Eisley, just before a group of aliens throw back a liquor that would probably kill a person just by having it touch their skin. But, it's also the name of a curious beverage from Russia: fermented tea. The really interesting thing about kombucha is that it's not simply left to ferment on its own. Rather, a starter culture has to be introduced, and carried from one batch to the next, much like sourdough - except that the culture (also known as "the mother") is actually a skin which forms on top of the liquid. Mmm. I'm salivating already.
Fortunately, some enterprising business (with the improbable name of "crudessence") saw fit to bring it to Canada. Let's give this a whirl then, shall we?
By the way, I'm pretty sure it's not a "health beverage" in Russia, since the primary purpose of fermentation is - you guessed it - to create alcohol. But in Canada, it's marketed as a "detoxifying tonic", possibly because they know that people in health food stores will try anything once. (A trait they share in common with certain bloggers.) They also mention in the ingredients that it's "made with love." Normally, that's just a charming idiosyncrasy. But I have to wonder: if it's a "living" beverage and it's made with love... whose love are we talking about? This tea has a higher opinion of me than I realised. Not only that, but it confirms my suspicions that this would be available in the Mos Eisley cantina.
Upon opening it, there's a small release of carbon dioxide, and the distinct yeasty odour of fermentation. According to the label, it's less than 0.5% alcohol. Like I said, it's a form of alcohol in Russia (and Mos Eisley). And I must admit, there's something impressive about a culture that's willing to take a pot of tea and ask, "how can we get drunk off of this?"
By the way, in case you haven't noticed, I've been rambling for the last few paragraphs because I'm still wondering what to do about that skin of bacteria floating on top of my alcoholic tea. Perhaps I'll skim the Mother off and add it to a pot of Earl Grey and see what happens. Perhaps I can call that strain the Queen Mother? Anyway, enough stalling. Time to see what it tastes like!
Well, it's better than hakarl.
Actually, it's very good! A bit strange, though. The first thing you notice is that it's as flat as the prairies compared to other carbonated drinks, but the bite of the dissolved CO2 is still there. There's also that distinctive yeasty taste, but it actually blends rather well with the sweet maple and blueberry flavouring.
I think the most surprising thing about it is its fullness: upon the tongue, it feels like a heavy draught of beer mixed with fruit and sugar, but it's still just tea.
I don't trust it... but I suppose it wants to avoid the Imperials just as much as I do.
Maybe we'll be able to work together after all.