1967's Summer of Love brought America's unwashed, peace-loving masses down on the city of San Francisco in an unprecedented, spaced-out frenzy of painted VW buses and acoustic guitars. Evolved from the Beat movement of the Fifties, these starry-eyed flower children, charmed by Scott McKenzie's seminal Hippie anthem, were drawn from cities across the nation to the loose, laid-back energy of Haight-Ashbury, where they gathered en masse in search of life's existential bounty - brotherly love; sexual freedom; the truth of our shared reality; the divine brownie recipe.
Nearly four decades later, fresh from university and with a head full of bleeding-heart liberal beans, this correspondent packed his rucksack with camera and toothbrush, cocked a daisy into a wacky, rebellious hairstyle, and made his own pilgrimage to The City. The Exploded View today looks back at the time he spent there, his impressions of the place, and his introduction to the strange biological process that transforms ordinary iced tea into a hip and effervescent health drink that smells of feet.
The ones that never grow out of it find their way to cities like this one. Seattle is another. Boston maybe slightly less so. San Francisco is an urban carnival for grown-up kids. The bright lights dazzle the eyes as you whip up and down and through hairpin turns along the city streets, resulting in an almost overwhelmingly cheery urge to barf. There are parades and festivals for every day of the week, with citizens always in costume. There's a pleasantly infectious feeling of self-satisfied hipness that floats around; just breathing it in makes you feel so cool you can barely stand yourself. There's nothing smug in it (which is not to say that no smug people live there - smug people live everywhere; a tragic fact of life), but a special kind of innocent charm.
It may be true that San Francisco has been playing "house" since the death of the hippie renaissance, but it still feels like a place for interesting ideas. A place for soy chorizo and choose-your-own-adventure graffiti. A place for secondhand books, citywide pillowfights, and good music by bands you've never heard of with ironic names like Our Band Sucks. It's a place you might expect to be intrigued rather than revolted when the dear friend with whom you're staying offers you a glass of foul-smelling, muddy-looking tea out of a jar with an enormous yeasty beast floating in it.
Kombucha is its name, and it's the reason this blog entry is so woefully late. It is a lightly carbonated beverage fermented with a special bacterial culture that, when brewed properly, can be easily mistaken by guests as a tucked-away pile of funky gym socks. HOW EXCITING, we can hear you all saying, BREW ME UP A BATCH OF BACTERIAL STINK-TEA PLEASE. And we understand why you feel the need to speak in sarcastic Caps. We were skeptical ourselves at first. But if you can make it successfully past the vinegary odor, there are delicious and healthful times to be had. And on top of that, it's simple, inexpensive, and fun to brew.
It starts with a gallon glass jar (glass works best - anything metal or plastic will corrode and introduce potentially hazardous material into the solution) and a SCOBY. The SCOBY - shortened from Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast - is easily obtainable on the internet or through Craigslist (sketchy?) and looks something like a jellyfish pancake. Alternatively, you can grow your own SCOBY mother colony from premade consumer Kombucha, which is what we've chosen to do.
There are dozens of websites with instructions for brewing your own Kombucha, illustrating all the hazards and pitfalls and suggesting different tweaks, so we won't take you step by step. The basic idea is to brew a large amount of sweetened organic tea and add the colony to it, allowing it to ferment over the course of two weeks. In our case, since the colony will have to grow from the particulate remnants in a bottle of ready-made Kombucha, it will likely take closer to 3-4 weeks.
Once the first batch has matured, the drink can be bottled and refrigerated or drunk straight from the jar over ice, and a new batch of tea can be added over the colony to begin brewing another gallon. With each successive batch, new layers grow on the colony, which can eventually be peeled off and added to other jars for brewing or given away to friends (AS HORRIFYING GIFTS!)
It took us long enough in the planning, but we've finally gotten around to brewing this batch, and now we're just waiting for the slimy little creep to materialize.
Keep an eye on the right sidebar for periodic updates on the health status of our hilarious new pet. She will be called Scheherazade. You can think of her as the grossest and most boring (but ultimately delicious!) Neopet ever.