Locals master the art of brewing trendy tea beverage

If you open Michael Hartman’s coat closet, you may smell a rich scent of vinegar.

And if you peer inside, you’ll see large glass jars filled with what looks like soggy pancakes floating in murky brown fluid. What’s inside the jar isn’t a weird experiment — it’s kombucha, a fermented and naturally carbonated black tea beverage that originates from Thailand.

Hartman, 26, first heard of the drink a couple years ago, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that he considered brewing his own.

“I was sick of paying $6 for a bottle,” he said. “I figured it was worth a shot.”

While the process seems intimidating, he said, it’s actually very simple and fun to create. He begins by boiling water and then adding black tea and sugar. Then he pours the mixture into a jar and adds what is called a SCOBY, or a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.

SCOBY looks like a rubbery pancake, but packs nutrients and enzymes into the tea and continues to duplicate overtime. It also ferments the tea and, in turn, naturally reduces the sugar content, making the drink low in sugar. Over the course of a week to 10 days, the mixture must be stored in a dark, cool place. After the fermentation process is complete, the drink is ready to serve.

Because of the constant growth, Hartman said he doesn’t have to buy SCOBY very often. But if he needs a new supply, most Lincoln health stores carry it.

Hartman said he’s drawn to the drink for its health benefits. Kombucha is low in sugar and calories, is a natural probiotic and boosts energy.

Hartman isn’t the only person in Lincoln who has become hooked on brewing kombucha. Kristi Bek also has been making her own in her home for a couple of years.

Satisfies cravings

Bek, 29, said she began by researching the process online, then came across a kit on Amazon that had everything she needed, including instructions. She tried kombucha to satisfy cravings after she quit drinking pop.

“I would still want something carbonated at times and nothing else was cutting it,” she said. “The taste ended up quickly growing on me.”

Like Hartman, Bek also said the high cost of commercial kombucha was her “main motivator” to make her own. She also said she enjoys making her own flavors not found in stores.

“I’ve added a variety of fruit juices and ginger, but my favorite is with vanilla extract,” she said. “It tastes a lot like cream soda.”

Whether it be the high cost of the drink or the health benefits it holds, Hartman and Bek agree that it’s a fun hobby that allows them to be creative — even if it takes up room in their closets.

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