While the purportedly healthy, sometimes surprisingly boozy fermented tea has been billed as a trendy beverage for years now, plenty of people still aren’t exactly sure what kombucha is. And if that’s the case, this info is unlikely to help clear things up for you: A brand called Kombucha Couture is making clothing from the stuff.
Let’s take a step back: Making kombucha starts with a base of tea and sugar (since tea itself isn’t particularly fermentable). To get fermentation going, you also have to add a slimy, puck-shaped thing called a SCOBY, which stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast." Those little creatures are what give kombucha its distinctive taste (and a touch of alcohol). So though the term “kombucha clothing” might conjure up images of dumping liquid tea down your pants, these garments aren’t made from the tea itself, but are instead fashioned from the leftover SCOBYs.
“The process is very simple as I allow nature to do all of the production,” Kombucha Couture founder Sacha Laurin explained during a recent interview with Make. “The bacteria in the SCOBY is a strain of acetobacter which naturally spins cellulose to both protect itself and keep it floating so it has access to oxygen.” That cellulose—which is also a major component of cotton—can be used to make fabrics. “When cellulose is dry, I color it with acid reactive dharma dye or food coloring and cut and sew it like a leather textile,” Laurin said.
According to Laurin’s Kombuch Couture website, the cheesemaker by trade started this clothing project with the goal of “creating and furthering this new versatile fabric that can mimic leather, canvas, silk or butterfly wings depending on growing and production techniques.” She told Make that those interested in obtaining a handmade garment can reach out to her via email to discuss what they are looking for.
That said, Laurin isn’t the only one making clothing this way, and in fact, you can even make kombucha clothing yourself with this method. In a 2015 Popular Science article, Suzanne Lee, an expert in the field of cellulose fabrics, shared a recipe for how to grow fabric in your kitchen. “You can actually have a dress growing in a vat of liquid,” she told the magazine. “I had never imagined a piece of clothing could be alive. And I have nothing to do with its creation. It’s growing for me.” Turns out if you’ve been considering jumping on the kombucha trend simply to have something new to drink, you’re way behind the curve.