RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Keith Houdashelt hears the question a lot:

So, just what is Kombucha?

One urban dictionary definition isn't suitable for print, but another is that Kombucha is a fermented, mildly effervescent tea that Houdashelt is introducing — successfully, so far — to Rapid City and the Black Hills area.

"It's taken off here more than we could have imagined," he told the Rapid City Journal , serving up samplers of three flavors of the drink at his soon-to-be-open Lone Pine Kombucha tap room in downtown Rapid City.

In those other references, Kombucha (pronounced com-boo-cha, or simply "booch" for short), is a centuries-old fermented beverage thought to have originated in Asia or the Middle East.

A Bible passage in the Book of Ruth only fuels speculation among aficionados that a wine-vinegar Ruth may have dipped her meal of bread into may have been a fermented tea.

That tea is increasingly popular as a hip, new-age alternative drink only being seen in U.S. cities starting about 20 years ago, Houdashelt said.

Kombucha is born of brewed black or green tea, combined with white sugar, then fermented with a mass mixture of bacteria and yeast called Scoby, actually an acronym standing for "symbiotic compound of bacteria and yeast."

The Scoby is added to the sweetened tea along with a several ounces of a previous batch of already fermented tea, similar to the use of sourdough starter for making breads or pancakes.

The tea/Scoby mixture is allowed to ferment for 21-30 days in large vessels covered with cloth, then harvested.

Whole fruit, herbs or other flavorings are then infused into the mixture and allowed to ferment for another 48 hours, then sealed in a keg. The finished product serves up sparkling clear and fizzy, with a subtle tint depending on the flavoring.

A neighbor introduced Houdashelt, a house builder by trade, to homebrewed Kombucha several years ago in Bozeman, Montana, where Houdashelt and his wife, Jill, lived for more than 30 years.

The neighbor used fresh raspberries from Houdashelt's garden for that second fermentation infusion of flavoring

Houdashelt found the beverage "awesome" he said, and started perfecting his own brew for family and friends.

"It just got progressively bigger from there," Houdashelt said. "The more you brew, the more friends you have."

At those friends' urging, Houdashelt decided to begin brewing and marketing the beverage.

Houdashelt said keeping the batches relatively small helps maintain strict control over the amount of yeast in the Scoby to keep any alcohol level at less than one-half of 1 percent, about the same as name-brand fruit juices found at the grocery store, he said.

Houdashelt is in the process of opening the taproom in downtown Rapid City, as he and Jill complete a move to Rapid City, necessitated by increasing care needs of Jill's parents, who are both in their 90s.

He plans on a full opening of his taproom around Memorial Day, but in the meantime to keep the batches moving, he is supplying several locations in Rapid City and western South Dakota.

Lone Pine Kombucha can be found on tap at the Independent Ale House, Harriet & Oak, Pure Bean Coffee House and The Market at Tuscany Square in Rapid City, along with the Spearfish Brewing in Spearfish and Drifters Bar & Grille in Fort Pierre.

Of the 12-15 flavors, so far, the most popular, he said, are Ginger and Honey Lavender.

Drea Poole of Rapid City was one of several people stopping by the Seventh Street taproom during a recent soft opening.

Poole, who works for a computer software firm downtown, said her husband, a health enthusiast, and her sister, introduced her to Kombucha as a probiotic, low-sugar, low-caffeine alternative beverage.

"It's a good pick-me-up other than coffee in the middle of the afternoon," Poole said as she purchased a pair of 32-ounce refillable growlers of the Ginger and Mixed Fruit flavors. "It's got a good feel."

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com