Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kombucha update, warning: gross

I haven't been blogging lately. There is a reason: namely, busy-ness.

The other reason is that I haven't been eating 100% raw. Part of me feels bad about this, as I am still very committed to eating raw. (I bought two recipe books today, Matthew Kenney's Everyday Raw and Ani Phyo's Ani's Raw Food Kitchen.)

In the past few weeks I've had days where cooked food completely kicked my ass--one in particular, I ate a ton of popcorn and ice cream and then wanted to vomit and die.

And I've had days that were pretty awesome--one in particular, I had toast and a roasted beet and goat cheese salad, among other raw things--and felt pretty good!

I keep going back to raw recipes, though, because I feel particularly drawn to the simplicity of eating that way, love the energy level I sustain, my digestion is so much better and easier, and can't get enough the awesome tastes of fresh fresh FRESH food. Processed stuff can't come close to comparing.

In all honesty I will not be eating 100% raw anytime soon. I do however, want to keep it between 80 and 99%. I will be honest on this blog about what I'm doing, how I'm eating, how I'm shopping, but am only sharing 100% raw recipes.

With that, I commence with a disgusting update about the state of my kombucha tea. You've been warned.

Let me begin by saying I kept very good care of the cleanliness of the original operation. I sterilized everything--the jar, the utensils, boiled the tea.

Unfortunately, I did not check the kombucha soon enough after wrapping the top with six layers of cheesecloth, sealed with a tight rubber band.

Fruit flies invaded.

Although there were only about four mature ones flying around in the jar when I discovered the sorry state of my culture on Monday or Tuesday--about 10 days after I started it--I noticed that tiny little fruit fly babies were hatching on the top of the mother culture, squiggling around the top and up the jar, and a handful of others had died with carcasses laying around. AWFUL.

Although I had the seal very tight, the flies must have found their way through the woven cheesecloth, even though I doubled it up several times. Other people have not had this issue with cheesecloth, says the internet-connected kombucha-makers.

I spent the next two days picking out fruit fly larvae here and there and cleaning up the mother. I also, of course, put a new piece of cloth overtop tightly. Now, about two days after, it appears everything is gone.

But I still don't know if my kombucha is safe... or if the mother culture should be tossed. Most websites tell me it should be tossed. Against my better judgment, I sampled the tea today, and it tasted pretty good. Yet it kind of made me want to hurl thinking about the creepy crawlies involved.

I should probably throw it away. Yet, I don't WANT to. My mother culture kind of seamlessly is integrated into the NEW culture, so I'd have to throw away the whole thing and find another one somewhere to brew a new batch. Yet, maybe I should...

Gagging yet? Great!

I'm going to do a follow-up post to talk about delicious ice cream.


  1. Fruit fly invasion.....are they really so bad? They live on fruit (and kombucha...) they aren't would think your kombucha mother would be just fine...just wash it off. But get a new one if it really grosses you out.(you can start your own by buying your favorite kombucha at the store and letting it sit in a small ceramic bowl or glass cup (covered of course) til the mother forms. It will be small...but it will grow.
    I've made gallons of kombucha and instead of cheesecloth I have covered them with woven cotton kitchen towels and rubber bands. I don't think the fruit flies get through those...I never had any. What tea do you use as a base? I love to use this green tea from Pekoe Tea (I get it here in Boulder,CO) it has bergamot and blue flowers in it and makes a wonderful kombucha. I messed up my mother a while ago....really need to make more kombucha. It's awesome stuff.

  2. I'd love to know what your experience with this was - I was developing my mother culture - and lo and behold, I waited too long and there were about 5 flies in the jar, 2 of which were touching the culture.

    I removed them all - but am wondering whether this culture is safe to use. It's about 1/2" thick.

  3. The same thing happened to me today! I was patiently waiting for my Kombucha and my boyfriend and I sampled it, then we looked inside....and all these white little tinny things were crawling around. (I was so freaked out) I thought they were maggots. We threw it out, and I was so sad. Our first batched turned out great, we covered it with a paper napkin, because that's what our friends do. But I think if we try again we'll use a cloth napkin.

  4. I have also had a fly invasion much to my horror, I still dear not tell my wife that there are maggots in my batch or she will never drink any type of komucha. Guess I have to throw it all out and start again. Lesson learnt use much cloth with much smaller holes.

  5. I just experienced this and threw it out, luckily I have another batch that wasn't invaded. Will start over, *sigh* it's nice to know I'm not the only one!

  6. from what i've read and understand, and being natively russian and drinking it there too, the fruit flies do not poison the kombucha, it is basically a question of addressing the situation quickly, removing any larvae or eggs (still carefully and with clean hands). As someone mentioned at the start of the thread, theyre NOT maggots, simply fruitfly larvae. Even a fruitfly itself can be picked safely out (check that you got it out for sure) but you have to learn from your mistakes and take more precautions. I have had times when I've put five layers of cheesecloth on because it was a hot summer and there were fruitflies everywhere and they were really intent on trying to get into the jars (as you know they are very attracted to them). Occasionally one would get trapped between layers, I always took it out as soon as possible. SOmeone else also posted about using TOWELS. This I have also had success with. If it is a thin and breathable kitchen towel (like a 'waffle' towel is what we called it) you are safe putting it over your kombucha and it will protect better than cheesecloth. BUT it should be easily breathable, regular towels are too dense. Also it can be more expensive, if you sometimes change container shapes or sizes, cutting up towels adds up. PAPER towels CAN be used, I even tried once or twice, but it is harder to get a tight seal even with a rubber band (paper towels a lot less soft than toilet paper, not malleable enough to be made to cling without risking little folds through which the flies could invade. It required also to watch that they weren't overprocessed, aka with some antibacterial chemical included, or with color and decoration that might be kitchen-safe but not kombucha-friendly. good luck to everyone with their growing! AND though I prefer the old fashioned black classic tea kombucha, I also have to say YES YES you ABSOLUTELY CAN Make it with other flavored teas NOT just classic black or green, and I've had great fun experimenting. Mind you, some don't quite work out, but a batch I made with Trader Joes Vanilla Cinnamon Black tea, seasonal, were great, and so were with their Peppermint Vanilla Candy Cane Green Tea (mind you it wasn't heavy peppermint, just a tang. the kombucha liked it, and so did i!:)

  7. Same thing happened to me... my mother was in exellent condition for a while until i noticed the white little thingis.. i just washed really well the mother and made a new batch of tea ... i just put in it a small piece of the mother i cut out that looked pretty clean and some of the old kombucha i filtered several times.. i hope it can come back to life without contamination...