If you happened to be browsing the shelves of Dalston deli Weino BIB on a recent Sunday afternoon, you’d have seen a strange, congealed-looking creature festering in a jar. It is ‘the mother’. The mother needs feeding and keeping in darkness, her temperature raised so she can spawn and produce more mothers.
I’m not, however, in a sinister lab. I’m at a kombucha-making workshop: the en vogue drink that’s meant to sort your gut bacteria and cure what ails ya. The ‘mother’ in question is called a ‘scoby’ and lies, as the small group of us assembled today learn, at the heart of the process. Top her up with sweet tea and flavourings and she’ll sit in the corner, fermenting and doing her thing. A week later and you’ve got a sour-yet-pleasant beverage.
The class is led by Adam – a Monty Don-like man who runs fermentation company Cultcure. The workshops take place at different locations in London and usually sell out in advance, or you can organise your own bespoke, private fermenting sesh at a venue of your choice. My class is a run-through of the process used to make kombucha, the more temperamental water kefir and its creamy cousin dairy kefir (which tastes like runny sour cheese, but in a good way). It’s informative, although don’t go expecting to actually do a lot. The mother does all the hard work, while you – her children – just have to wait.
Two hours later, and having tasted enough of the stuff to genuinely feel a bit wired (maybe there’s something in it after all…), I leave with jars of kefir grains and my very own scoby mama, ready to start my clan. Insult her at your peril: she’s family now.