It’s fall, it’s Halloween, so maybe a drop of magic is just what you need to put a little pep in your step. Leah and Mark Tioxon are the witches and owners of Atlanta-based Witchy Kombvchy, a kombucha tea infused with crystals and “healing intentions.”
The kombucha is made in small, slow-aged batches that are available online and at a growing number of local stores, including Littles Food Store in Cabbagetown, LottaFrutta in Old Fourth Ward, and Kelly’s Market and Seed to Star, both in Decatur.
We caught up with head witch Leah to talk about her family-run company and get her brewing-inspired In the Mix playlist for our Spotify channel.
Q. What makes you a witch? What makes your kombucha witchy?
A. To me, a witch is anyone who is in intimate relationship with nature and the (often) unseen energies that exist in and around us. A witch listens, observes, and participates in the dance of life, honoring the seasons and cycles of one’s own journey and the world at large. I have dedicated my life to continually deepening my relationship with nature, with my intuition, and with cosmic, ancestral, and elemental energies. I embrace the unknown and unknowable, and I do my best to help others have fun with and make their own meaning of the mystery of this grand adventure of life. Our kombucha is witchy because it is infused with crystal elixirs and healing intentions. When Mark was sick and in the hospital [with dermatomyositis], my stone medicine-loving acupuncturist, Laura, taught me how to make crystal elixirs to support both me and him through this difficult time. The chrysocolla stone elixir helped me enormously with feeling held and supported through that crisis, so when we decided to offer our kombucha to others, we added the elixir to it. It is tasteless and odorless, but full of powerful, loving energy that helps our DNA withstand sustained stress and move through trauma.
A. A friend gave us a starter SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) which is kind of like a yeast starter for bread. They shared with us the simple process and a few tips, and we just started experimenting with different flavors until we arrived at what we produce today. Brewing kombucha can seem a little bit intimidating or scary at first but it’s actually very simple and easy. In fact, we think it’s easier the easiest of the fermented foods to make.
Q. Where do you get inspiration for new kombucha flavors? Can I just think of kombucha pairings the same way I think of wine pairings? What do I need to know to properly select my meal when I’m in a kombucha mood?
A. We tried different teas and juices, until we found first one and then a second combination of flavors that we loved. Our original kombucha is a cherry flavor. Our new flavor is a ginger-apricot-peach. We experimented a LOT to find the freshest, best-tasting flavors, using our own picky tastebuds and the feedback from many volunteer testers. Mark never liked kombucha until we started making our own, and I’m one of those super-taster people with extra tastebuds, so we would not settle for sour-tasting, bland, or overwhelming flavors. We had to get our kombucha exactly to our liking, and we aren’t easy to please! Luckily, our customers seem to love our kombucha as much as we do. You can absolutely think of kombucha pairings in the same way as wine pairings. Our “red top” cherry flavor is like a red wine, while our “yellow top” ginger-apricot-peach is more like a white. I’ve created several cocktail and mocktail recipes for our kombucha, as well, using herbs from our garden, homemade bitters, and more. Mark has been experimenting with cold brew kombucha. The key is to try everything.
Q. Is Atlanta ready to embrace fermentation? Is there a kombucha community here? Who buys Witchy Kombvchy?
A. I would say Atlanta already HAS embraced fermentation. From kimchi to sauerkraut to kombucha to sourdough and beyond, every store and farmer’s market now features fermented foods. There is a growing kombucha community here, from other local professional brewers who sell their ‘buch, to homebrewers who trade scoby’s and swap recipes. The people who buy Witchy Kombvchy tend to be those who have tried kombucha before and either didn’t like the taste of it, or don’t want to deal with brewing their own. We’ve been told that our kombucha is the drink for those who don’t like kombucha. It’s popular among those who are making healthier choices, from quitting soda to finding holistically delicious ways to support their gut health.
A. Mark does the brewing and bottling, I supervise the crystal elixir-making, and sing to the brew and reiki the scobys. We rarely have a typical day, but on any given day you can find us making deliveries to stores, restaurants, and households around town. We all pitch in to help unload pallets of supplies, coordinate photo shoots and marketing, and share our kombucha at local events. Mark does the photoshoots to support our marketing, and our amazingly loyal and enthusiastic clients have spread the word about our product far and wide, keeping us busy as we scale up production and distribution.