My Honours Project Update – Kombucha Leather Experimentations

I’m so finally happy to say that I HAVE ONE MORE SEMESTER OF MY DEGREE TO GO! I’m currently less than 48 hours away from doing my final presentation for my honours project this semester, and I’m super excited that I will be finishing up with 4 years of uni in less than 6 months time! My gosh, it’s flown but also felt like a lifetime as well!

Here’s a little update of what I’ve been doing this year for my honours project… I started brewing kombucha tea last year, before realising I was more interested in the qualities of the cellulose mat/sheet that it grew each brew than I was in drinking it, so I began harvesting the cellulose mat to use for an alternative ‘leather’ for textile applications. Before I go on, here’s a brief ‘kombucha 101’ for anyone reading that has no idea what kombucha is.

Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage you’ve most likely seen in your local health food store or if you live in Sydney, probably like ANY store EVER! To make your own kombucha, you need to begin with what is called a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) – this is the cellulose mat I’ve mentioned. You brew some black or green tea (some use other types, but these are the most common), add some sugar, let it cool and then put this into a container. You then add a bit of the liquid brew from the previous batch and then cover it with a breathable cloth. You then leave this for around 10-12 days, and in this time the little microbes that make up the SCOBY feed off the sugar and tea and form a new SCOBY (a cellulose mat) on the top layer. The kombucha liquid can then be bottled and go into the refrigerator for a 2nd fermentation process.

To begin the next batch you repeat the steps above, saving a little bit of the liquid from the batch you’ve just bottled to add to the new tea mixture. Most people throw the extra SCOBY out, or compost it, but this is where I’ve been saving mine to dry for leather, or beginning new batches to grow more samples.

At the top of this post is a video of some experimentations that I’ve done recently. I had 3 mats, and cut each of these in half so I have 6 samples. Some SCOBYS were thinner (as they hadn’t been left to ferment as long), some were thicker so they took on unique qualities when dried. I experimented with natural indigo dye, and was not expecting the colour to take so well, but it turned out really well!

I hope you enjoy the video, and if you’ve got any questions regarding this project please get in contact with me!

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