by Ava Radmanovich ’22
In need of a new delicious and healthy beverage? Science teacher Tim Allerton has the thing for you! Either homemade or store bought, kombucha is a must-have according to Mr. Allerton and sophomore Emma Henry. Kombucha is a fermented tea, often made with additional flavoring, and is a beneficial probiotic for the digestive system.
This tangy bubbly tea, customized to one’s preference, has recently been trending at Kingswood Oxford. Last June, science teacher Lisa Bailey introduced Mr. Allerton to homemade kombucha. She had the supplies that he needed to get started, and since then, he said he has passed on his interest in kombucha-making to others around KO.
“When I’m [producing kombucha],” said Mr. Allerton, “I drink a bottle a day, my wife drinks probably a bottle a day, and my daughter, the one that plays lacrosse, drinks probably four to five a week.” Referred to by his daughters as “Timbucha,” Mr. Allerton is a truly dedicated drinker and is committed to spreading his love for this fermented tea further than just his family.
Emma said she started drinking kombucha around the same time as Mr. Allerton. She discovered her love for the tea over the summer; however, since it can be pretty expensive, she couldn’t drink it regularly.
Emma decided to give Mr. Allerton a visit. He gave her some SCOBY, which stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, and from there, she set out to learn the process, as well.
In the beginning, she came to his classroom every other day, asking about cleaning the equipment, taking care of the SCOBY, brewing, and different flavors. “Now I don’t need to talk to him too much about it because I’ve realized that you can make a whole lot and you can’t really screw it up,” Emma said, describing the simplicity and benefits of making her own kombucha.
The process is quite simple, according to Emma: the first step is to make about 12 cups of a tea of your choice. In the past, Emma said she has used decaf tea, black tea, and even yerba mate tea from Paraguay, which she brought home from the annual KO Team Tobati trip.
The next step is to put half a cup of sugar into the tea and then cooled it. Afterward, the tea is put into a gallon jar while the SCOBY is placed inside a coffee filter enclosed with a rubber band, an essential aspect for regular respiration which ferments the tea.
Emma said it is necessary for this mixture to be kept in a room temperature area in the dark, such as a coat closet or pantry. Once the SCOBY is mature, it takes four days to a week to be ready to drink. The wait time is ultimately dependent on the temperature; warmer temperatures, like between 70 and 80 degrees, allows for the fermenting process to go by faster.
After three to four days, Mr. Allerton explained it is necessary to test it in order to see how acidic and vinegary it is. “It’s all about taste,” Mr. Allerton explained. “Some people like the more vinegary taste, while some people like the more sweet tea taste, so you just bottle it when you feel like it.”
After bottling it, Mr. Allerton recommended leaving a small space at the top to fill with flavoring and then leaving the bottle to sit on a shelf for a couple of days in order to let the carbonation fill up the bottle.
Meanwhile, the SCOBY inside the kombucha continues to aerobically respirate and the carbon dioxide that is released gets trapped in the bottle to make it fizzy.
Popular flavors include the orange tumeric flavor, which seems to be a big hit with both Mr. Allerton and Emma. Mr. Allerton said he often likes to make wild berry Kombucha, different versions of a cranberry one, and lemon ginger for his wife. Emma said she usually drinks kombucha without flavoring and claims that it is just as good.
Mr. Allerton and Emma have discussed starting a new club to share their love of Kombucha with the school, although they recognize there are some obstacles. Emma said that she is not entirely sure how well they would do selling Kombucha just because they would have to bottle it and keep it refrigerated, which would be hard to do on campus, but she said she would still like to begin a club. “If all goes well, Mr. Allerton and I will be starting a Kombucha tasting club next year, where we get people together, teach them about Kombucha, and then just try out some flavors together.”
However, beyond the economic and practical standpoint, there is a legal component as well. “We’d have to talk to school lawyers because the parents would have to sign off since it is a live culture,” Mr. Allerton explained, “but it is very likely that you would not get sick, and I’ve never heard of anybody ever getting sick from it, either.” Hopefully, enough people will be interested and the Kombucha Club will be able to become a success next year!