Bacteria Tea and Soda, Anyone?

This week, my Renaissance sisters and I learned how to make carbonated mushroom tea and rose-hip hibiscus soda. Is your mouth watering?

The informative and enthusiastic Holly Howe led our Fermented Beverages workshop. Holly is an expert on fermentation, and is a true renaissance woman: she isn’t formally trained as a nutritionist; she learned all about nutrition the old-fashioned way: by doing it.

Holly took us step-by-step through making Kombucha, the carbonated tea and sugar mixture that is so delicious once you come to terms with the stinky, bloated, skin-coloured, pancake-shaped mushroom (or as Patti said, “It looks like a fetus.”) that lives in it. It’s that mushroom, or SCOBY, that transforms regular tea and sugar into a drink that detoxifies your liver (i.e. great hangover cure).

Then Holly showed us how to make rose-hip hibiscus soda. We were all excited about this one because it is so gorgeous in its tall glass bottle. She gave us a sample of the carbonated cherry-red drink while she described each step of making it. So refreshing. Honey, rose-hip tea, hibiscus flower, lemon, water—and what gives it the bubbles—whey.

Holly makes whey by pouring a tub of high-fat plain yogurt into a cloth over a bowl to separate the curd from the whey (the liquid that sits on top of your yogurt before you stir it). Add the whey to tea, and in three days you’ve got a carbonated drink. Add some herbs to the curd, and you’ve got homemade cream cheese spread.

Holly explained how fermented foods are so good for our guts; that using cultures—like sourdough starters and whey—nourishes us with beneficial bacteria found in our own homes, and keeps away harmful bacteria. She quoted from the book Wild Fermentation, where the author, Sandor Katz, uses the French as an example of  how culture begins with food. Wine, cheese, and bread—all fermented foods—are the essence of French life. He says, “Culture is not found in the opera house, but in the kitchen.”

With each new food skill we learn, what strikes me is how none of it is exact or sanitized. There is good bacteria around us; the trick is to not strangle it out of our food, but let it flourish so it eats up all the dodgy stuff.

So neighbours, I am one step closer to providing you with food and drink when The Big One hits. I can sew you a pocket to hold your sourdough bread lathered in herbed cream cheese that you can wash down with sweet refreshing soda.

Now if only I could wash my hands with some soap…


  1. I dont know about this …..would love to try it sometime….dont suppose this could be made from instant?? Really this is wonderful … learn something so different and good for you!!!!!R

  2. Hi Maeve,
    Though I haven’t been commenting much lately, I’ve been inspired by what you Renaissance Women are doing! In fact, I’ve tagged you with a Versatile Blogger Award. You can see my blog for details; it’s a pay-it forward award where you share 7 things about yourself that readers may not know about you, then tag another 5-15 blogs that inspire you. Hope you’re able to participate!
    All best, Toni

    1. Wow, Toni, that is so kind of you. I can’t take credit for the Renaissance Women — Heather Walker & co. are the masterminds (check out her blog at: But I’m pleased to hear you are inspired by what we’re doing, and grateful you are reading my blog.

      I’ll take a look at the Versatile Blogger. Thank you!


  3. Hi Maeve
    I just happened to stumble across your blog while looking for more information or possibly a workshop in the Cowichan Valley for making Kombucha Tea. It sounds like a truly amazing product. Do you know if Holly does workshops or after the process of learning to make kombucha tea yourself, do you feel it would be simple and safe to learn how to make it with directions from a book? Thanks for your advice. It is appreciated!

    1. Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for your comment. Absolutely you can do this from a book, though I would recommend having someone show you how because sharing is part of what makes it special. When you make a batch of kombucha, you create another SCOBY, which you can pass along to a neighbour or friend to make their own kombucha. Give Holly a call. She will direct you in the best way.

      Making me thirsty just thinking about it! Good luck, and let me know how it goes.


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