At least two references in the scientific literature relate to the origin of the tibi. According to the first paper, tibicos forms on the pads of the Opuntia cactus (from Mexico) as hard granules that can be reconstituted in a sugar-water solution as propagating tibicos. The second paper refers to a specific bacteria cultured from known stocks with properties similar to those in tibi.
Tibicos are used to brew a variety of tepache known as tepache de tibicos. The ginger beer plant is also a form of tibicos. Kebler attests that they were used in Kentucky circa 1859 to brew a “home drink” and were referred to as “japanese beer seeds”.