Kombucha (käm-ˈbü-chə): A culture of bacteria belonging to the Acetobacter genus (acetic acid bacteria) added to at least one species of yeast and forming a thick gelatinous film called a zoogleal mat.
After reading the above statement, if you are like me, you are probably wondering how to get rid of a kombucha rash or infection. You are also looking up where kombucha infestations occur (Perhaps swamps? Maybe polluted oceans? Gym locker rooms?). If you are indeed like me, you are looking to avoid kombucha at all costs.
On the other hand, If you are like Roberta and Hans, your first thought is “Mmmm, I wonder how it tastes?”
Well, last night we met at Hans’ apartment for an official team Gobi or Go Home! meeting. It was also one of the worst nights in my life.
Tragedy is such that the night had started so very well.
Roberta and I showed up at Hans’ apartment building and waltzed through the security doors, held open kindly by one of the many resident geeky Amazon.com employees.
(Hear that Amazon? I could just walk into your headquarters and your employees would hold the door for me with a shy smile, as I steal all your staplers or such.)
Sorry, I digress; Roberta and I rode the slowest elevators in the world to the 8th floor where Hans lives and then pranced down a side hallway. I called Hans from my cellphone.
“Hey! Are you here?” Hans asked.
“Yes, come let us in already” I covered the phone and snickered with Roberta.
“I’ll be right there.”
Sure enough a few moments later we spied Hans boarding the slowest elevator in the world.
We crept into his studio apartment and made sure to lock the door. For the next two minutes we ran around Hans’ studio apartment, opening closets and cupboards, and getting into all sorts of stuff.
“Hurry, hurry.” Roberta urged.
Another minute or so and we began covering our tracks, having left about a dozen “presents” through his living area.
After our work was complete, we set up our laptop at his martini bar table (and started using Hans’ fancy apple computer) and began the meeting without him.
About half an hour later (two trips on the slowest elevator in the world) we heard the door handle jiggle. Two-thirds of team Gobi or Go Home crossed their fingers and held their breath as they waited to see if Hans had taken his keys with him.
Sadly, in a dark foreshadowing of the night to come, the lock clicked open and in walked Hans.
“Where have you been?” We asked.
Before he could do anything more than give us an accusatory glare we pulled out his long overdue Christmas gifts. The first present was via my mother (and team sponsor) Kate Bolinger. It was a fancy solar powered light he could use on the rally. The cool thing about the light is that it inflates into a bag so that you get more of a “lantern” glow rather than a “flashlight” effect.
“Ooh! A light up pillow!” Hans exclaimed.
Next was a big heavy box which he unwrapped to find about a billion “Gobi or Go Home!” business cards.
“Merry Christmas Hans!”
Last was his team Gobi or Go Home shirt. Now, although these shirts are exclusive and haven’t been release to the general public, they are quite amazing. Unless of course you are a man and you order yours as a small, v-neck, t-shirt.
“Uh, looks great.” I said.
“Mmm hmm.” Roberta agreed.
And now we arrive back at the Kombucha.
“You want to try my homemade Kombucha?” Hans asked, excited.
“I love Kombucha!” Roberta said, “Let’s make Shane drink it.”
“What is it?” I asked, thinking it was some fancy tea.
“It’s like fine Champagne” Hans said.
“It tastes like vinegar.” Roberta said.
Hans filled up three wine glasses with the brown, gooey, effervescent liquid. “It is a double fermentation method, by which a green tea is fermented into alcohol and the alcohol is fermented by the bacteria into acetic acid.”
“I’m not drinking that.” I told them.
“Yes you are.”
“It sounds dangerous.” I said.
“Au contraire, it has many health benefits.”
“The effects of which have been published in the American Medical Journal perhaps?” I asked.
Roberta and Hans couldn’t quite remember what the health benefits were supposed to be. Yet in the fashion of yoga worshipers, natural medicine connoisseurs, and dirty hippies, they assumed that because Kombucha;
A: Is a Brownish Liquid
B: Has the consistency of pig snot
C: Makes your taste buds shrivel
D: Is made out of natural bacteria and yeast
E: Comes from the Far East
That it is;
A: Healthy for you
Both of them approached me holding the glasses of sewer spew. Their excitement at making me drink the foul liquid was almost menacing. The light in the room seemed to dim as they set the glass down in front of me. I realized they weren’t going to let me go without drinking it.
“Don’t make me. Please”
“Get your camera Hans.” My wife urged.
While Hans went scurrying for his fancy Canon Rebel T3, I tried to remind them, “Taking pictures didn’t work so well for the soldiers at Abu Ghraib.”
They didn’t care that they were following in the footsteps of torturers.
Knowing they weren’t going to let me go, knowing they were were going to try to catch my downfall on camera, I quickly picked up the glass and took a solid swig.
It was suitably vile. If you took everything that was delicious about soda, removed it, added a thick, jelly consistency, and topped off the concoction with a splash of vinegar and a spritz of juice from the most bitter lemons in the world, you could market the result as diet Kombucha.
I could feel it dribble down my esophagus and into my poor, poor, stomach.
Roberta shouted, “He didn’t drink it! He faked it!”
“No, I did! I did! It hurts!” I cried.
Hans readied his camera.
“Drink! Drink! Drink!” They shouted.
I took the glass, swirled it once, and dropped about 12 ounces down my throat as fast as I could.
Coughing, I set down the glass. I looked up to see both Hans and Roberta looking a little worried. “Uh, wow, you drank that rather fast.” Roberta said.
“What do you mean?”
“Uh, nothing.” Roberta took a sip of hers, “Oh, this is really great.”
Hans replied, “Yeah, it isn’t uh, as carbonated as it might have been.”
They both had the guilty look of college students at a keg party who had realized they may have just urged their naïve friend into alcohol poisoning.
For the next half an hour, while we looked up Visas we would need for our travels, my friends slowly swirled and sipped their Kombucha, checking on me out of the corner of their eyes.
They didn’t offer me a second glass.
One last note, Kombucha can be used to make artificial leather. Watch this video, it’s kind of cool but I don’t recommend drinking the stuff.