Grow your own ‘leather’ experiment!

I started to grow my own ‘leather’ last week according to  the instruction I posted previously.

The leather is grown tweaking the recipe to brew Kombucha slightly. Kombucha is a Korean health drink said to restore the bodies ph balance. I personally have not tried Kombucha and now I know how is brewed, I doubt I will…

Anyway, here is the Scoby (short for ‘symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast’) which is used to ferment sugary tea, resulting in Kombucha.


It does actually feel quite leathery but also slimy. And it smells very sweet and yeasty. Hmmmm…

In the leather recipe, 200ml of vinegar is added to the traditionally mix of 200g sugar, 2 litres of boiling hot water and several black teabags for brewing Kombucho. I am guessing this is to speed up the growing process of the culture.

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Photos: Pascale Dilger (2015)

It is very important that the Scoby does not come in contact with metal as this would kill the bacteria. After the Tea, sugar, vinegar mixture has cooled down to room temperature the Scoby is added and covered with a muslin cloth (to keep the fruit flies away). In the next 24-48 hours a thin film should start forming on the surface of the mixture. This is the microbes multiplying when feeding off the sugar in the solution. This thin film will thicken over the next few days and when it has reached roughly an inch in thickness, it is ready to harvest.

It has been quite an interesting experiment so far but handling the Scoby is not for the fain hearted as it is seriously looking and smelling out of this world. It can be bought over the internet from £7 onwards (from Amazon for example)  There are Kombucho brewing kits available too, which include glass containers as well as all the ingredients needed to brew the health drink.

I’m intrigued how this placenta like looking disk can produce ‘leather’ which made this:


Photo: Lee, S (2010) microbial leather jacket

Here is Suzanne Lee, who made this waste coat, giving a TED talk on microbial leather (2011).



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