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They’re making vegan leather out of kombucha

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Our obsession with kombucha won’t just be about drinking it anymore.

Food and Wine reports that researchers at Iowa State University are using the cellulose fibers taken from kombucha tea to make a new substitute for leather. The trendy fermented beverage gets combined with vinegar, sugar, bacteria and yeast in a shallow bath. What grows on top is harvested, dried, and like magic, a leather-like material is born. No word on if wearing kombucha will have the same amazing gut-health benefits as digesting it, but we can dream. 

Scoby grows in Young-A Lee's LaBaron Hall lab. (Photo by Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)

© Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University

For anyone who has held the symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, or SCOBY, that gives life to kombucha, this sounds like a slimy procedure. But not only would this revolution mean a step forward for fashion, the resulting fabric is biodegradable, which means a step forward for creating sustainable garments that could help support an end to animal use for fabrics. 

The product is still in it’s beta phase, meaning there are still a couple of kinks to work out. Namely, that moisture makes it lose it’s structural integrity, and cold temperatures make it brittle. So whomever has the privilege of being a guinea pig better not get too warm or too cold, and they probably shouldn’t start with pants.

Dried and pressed scoby in Young-A Lee's LaBaron Hall lab. (Photo by Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)

© Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University

Growing the leather takes approximately four weeks per sheet, so no doubt it’ll take some time to perfect. Still, we are blown away that someone could be sipping a cold tea and not only consider going mad-science on it, but actually do it. 

Retailing at close to four dollars per bottle of kombucha in the height of it’s current popularity, we’re sure we’ll be shelling out for designer kombucha motorcycle jackets in the future. Not even mad.

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