Published: Nov. 4, 2021 By

SCOBY stands for "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast".  Now, unless you are experienced in biology, those words may mean little to you.

First, what is SCOBY?

Brew Dr succinctly summarizes the concept, saying, “when certain bacteria and yeast are put together and cultivated in the right environment, you get SCOBY. It’s a living culture that grows and evolves, consuming sugar as its fuel.”

As you may know, kombucha is created through fermentation. When making kombucha, SCOBY--which in its true form is a round, rubbery, gelatinous microbial mat. When making kombucha, SCOBY is added to tea, after which it breaks down the sugars found in the tea, turning the tea into the fizzy kombucha that we know and love.

The bulk of the SCOBY is then removed, but the small particles that remain in any kombucha bottle are actually pieces of it. 


Another Use for SCOBY: Vegan Leather

In the kombucha process, very little SCOBY actually goes to waste. The old SCOBYs can be saved in jars and used to make more SCOBYs.

But in recent years, SCOBYs have been studied for use in “medicine, textiles, and as a food additive.” It can actually be harvested, dried, molded, and used to make 100% biodegradable vegan leather.

It can be grown and created much easier than traditional leather because no animal products are needed. During the growing process, the material can be manipulated to be as thin, thick, or flexible as desired.

Biomaterials have been slowly gaining more popularity in the fashion industry, from Microsilk (fermented yeast spun into clothing fibres) to leather made from mycelium mushrooms. SCOBY leather is just another example of this. Suzanne Lee is one of the leading professionals in the field of SCOBY leather with the Biocouture research project and her own company BIOFABRICATE.


The Future of SCOBY

As biomaterials become more and more popular for manufacturing, who knows what the future will hold for the fashion industry. As independent designers learn just how easy the process is, it will make more sense to incorporate SCOBY into their projects. The effects of the widespread use of a 100% biodegradable and vegan clothing material on the environment would be incredible.

Some advocates of animal leather use posit that it is better for the environment to use the hides created from the meat industry in clothing than to throw them away. But a new study “calculated that even the methane produced by rotting cowhides has an overall lower impact than the carbon footprint produced by turning a hide into leather.

Overall, it looks like a material like SCOBY would create less carbon emissions than the processing of raw leather would, meaning that it truly could revolutionize the leather industry and make the planet a better place.


SCOBY Recipe

Finally, if you’re curious about how to make your own SCOBY, here is a recipe for you! Additional research may be required, but with just a glance at the process here you can see just how easy it truly is.


You will need:

  • 8 cups water

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 8 teabags black tea or green tea

  • 2 cups of starter kombucha

  • 1 gallon jar



  1. Bring water to a boil. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. 

  2. Remove from heat, add teabags, and bring to room temperature.

  3. Pour the kombucha into your gallon container and add room-temperature tea and sugar mixture.

  4. Cover the jar with two coffee filters and secure with a rubber band and place indoors out of direct sunlight.

  5. Do not disturb the container while your SCOBY is forming. It can take 1-4 weeks to form. Once you have grown a gelatinous substance about ¼ inch thick, your SCOBY is viable. You can keep the tea to make your first batch of homemade kombucha and you can dry and use the SCOBY as a leather-like material in crafting projects!

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