Brewing health in a cup

Megan Werner started brewing kombucha in Woodstock.

Have you ever heard of Kombucha? If you have, you may have experienced the health benefits the fermented beverage is believed to have.

A firm believer in the benefits of the drink, made with black and green teas, is brew mistress Meghan Werner who sells kombucha in Woodstock.

Ms Werner who is originally from the USA, moved to Cape Town a few years ago after having decided on a whim to stay in the city for six months.

Her visit turned into six years after she fell in love with the country and decided to make her residence permanent – but this meant letting go of a few favourite products she loved back home.

After struggling to find some of her must-haves such as gluten- and dairy-free organic chocolate and kombucha, she took matters into her own hands and started making her own products under the brand, Theonista.

“I had zero intention of starting a business and didn’t even take it seriously as a full-time operation until probably long after I should have. It turned out that I actually really enjoyed making and sharing all these products.

“I couldn’t find many options for kombucha in Cape Town and what I did find didn’t give me the health benefits I was expecting – or the taste profile I enjoyed. So I guess I decided to change that and brew my own kombucha,”said Ms Werner.

Pronounced “kom-BOO-chuh”, it is a lightly sparkling health drink made from fermented tea and a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). It has a sweet-tart-tangy taste with a light fizz and is said to have originated in Manchuria around 220 BCE, and imported to Japan around 414 CE.

It is believed to assist with immune boosting, digestive health, detoxification and natural energy and some people say that it benefits the skin and hair and supports weight loss and appetite control by reducing sugar cravings.

Ms Werner said that someone recommended kombucha to her in her mid-20s and she has been using it ever since. “I don’t have a formal business or culinary background at all. I actually did project management in the pharmaceutical industry and later I worked in non-profit global health research. I was also a yoga teacher for many years, which was my full-time gig for the first couple years I lived in Cape Town – until business needs took over.

“I’ve been really surprised by how much kombucha we do sell in the Cape considering it was a virtually non-existent beverage category when I started the business. I’m thrilled that the business keeps growing even though it’s definitely still a niche product. I think a lot of people still don’t know about it or don’t understand how beneficial it can be,” said Ms Werner.

She said while many mainstream retailers don’t know about kombucha and are skeptical about its benefits, health shops are more in tune with the trend.

Ms Werner advised other women wanting to take a step and start their own business to follow their intuition and ask for help and seek guidance it’s need it. She also advised women to not lose touch with the overall vision they have for their lives so that decisions they may make for their business in the short term are in line with those longer term goals.