Our Story

We are a small craft beverage company located in Woodstock, Cape Town with a focus on creating unique flavours using traditional fermentation techniques and high quality & consciously-sourced ingredients. We see fermentation as a magical, transformative, and generally delicious process. We also believe in the idea that food can be medicine (or poison) and that living foods such as kombucha can significantly enhance health and tangibly highlight the connection between gut ecology and overall wellbeing.

Our founder & brewmistress, Meghan Werner, came to South Africa from the United States after finishing a contract in Lesotho as part of her former career in public health and policy (though still considers making healthy products to be relevant to public health!). Cape Town worked its magic, as it so often does, and she extended her stay but did start to miss some things from home—namely potent kombucha and non-dairy, non-chemical chai. She had already started making gluten & dairy-free organic chocolate products under the name Theonista* and the kombucha and chai she started brewing were both intended exclusively for personal consumption but a couple local shops requested samples and soon enough she was in the middle of a brewing and bottling bonanza. All products were originally made in a tiny home kitchen and delivered by foot & bicycle but as the business grew and her legs gave out**, Theonista eventually moved to its current manufacturing facility in Woodstock.

For more info on what we’re up to, connect with us on Instagram (@theonista) or Facebook (theonistaproducts).

  • FAQ#1: WHERE DOES THE NAME “THEONISTA” COME FROM?

“Theobroma” is the Greek name for the cocoa tree and means “food of the gods” because chocolate is, well, exactly that. “Theonista” is derived mainly from that word, with a little hint of the feminine and the revolutionary thrown in for good measure. Chocolate is also fermented and is symbolic of the incredible transformations that can happen through the process of fermentation so when the businesses focus turned away from chocolate the name and logo (a cocoa pod) remained relevant.

  • FAQ #2 & 3: SO, WHAT IS KOMBUCHA (AND HOW DO I SAY IT)?

Traditionally pronounced “kom-BOO-chuh”, kombucha is a beverage made by fermenting tea and sugar with a specific culture called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast). It has a unique sweet-tart-tangy-zippy taste and a light fizz. (While we’re on the topic, the way we say Theonista is “theo-neesta”.)

As best as we can tell, kombucha has been around for over 2000 years and most likely came from Asia. It has popped up in many cultures worldwide and is traditionally consumed for its overall health-enhancing properties.

Purported benefits of kombucha include enhanced digestion, immunity, energy, skin & hair, and detoxification. Rumour has it that it’s also an excellent hangover cure…

Traditionally fermented raw kombucha is full of living probiotics, organic enzymes, polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.

Most of the sugar used to make kombucha is consumed during the fermentation process; it is food for the SCOBY (not you) as well as the living organisms which make kombucha so beneficial.

  • FAQ #4: WHY DO YOU USE PLASTIC BOTTLES FOR KOMBUCHA?

Transportation requires energy. As in, fuel. When we started out, that fuel was our own (wo)manpower since we were delivering by bike. But, as we expanded from buying 10 bottles at a time to 10,000, we started looking at the environmental impact of our distribution system differently. But plastic is toxic and evil, right? That’s certainly what our default opinion was when we started out until a brilliant policy expert (who also happens to be a friend) went on a rant about how much energy was used to transport and recycle glass. That got us thinking and researching. A lot. To be very clear, we are not pro-plastic, or pro-disposables in general. We recognize this is a complex issue with inadequate evidence on all sides. We are also not environmental scientists and are not trying to engage in a debate about this issue but it does come up once in a while so we wanted to address it so you know our decision is a considered one and not at all arbitrary because that is what we would want to know as consumers.

In short, not all plastic is equal and if you are going to use plastic or any other materials with any food product it should be food-grade. Our 100% recyclable PET bottles are not only foodgrade but also certified BPA and phthalate free. We opted to use this option instead of glass, which some estimates show uses 30-70% more petrol to transport due to weight. A plastic bottle that ends up on the street or in the sea is a bottle that someone didn’t put the effort in to recyle. This makes us sad, particularly in light of the incredible efforts that PETCO (South Africa’s PET recycling company) has made in recent years. Check out their website for more information.

More about Theonista’s environmental ethic & efforts: 100% food waste is composted at local farms; 100% of boxes in our first 3 years were reused/repurposed (all collected from local businesses—this amounted to thousands of boxes a year); we print directly on the bottle to avoid extra inks, dyes, glues, and paper wastage from conventional labels; we support organic, local, and seasonal sourcing.

We also happily pay a premium to support wild & biodiverse grown rooibos from a farming cooperative rather than buying from commercial monoculture supplier; we were the first kombucha company in Africa offering kombucha on tap (allows for bulk containers and minimal packaging waste); we were the first non-wine beverage vendor using glass mugs at markets with a deposit system to encourage less disposable wast; we were the first kombucha company in Africa selling brew kits to encourage home brewers to experiment with their own brewing adventures and thus engage more directly with traditionally fermented foods; much of our factory is constructed out of upcycled or reused materials.

  • FAQ #5 CAN I BUY DIRECT?

Most of our products are available online here (free delivery with minimum order). SHOP ONLINE NOW

For other product inquiries or custom needs (such as keg rentals, brewery tours/tastings, kombucha workshops, beverage supply options for events, or special flavour requests) please drop us a line!

We are not a retail facility and thus are unfortunately not structured to accommodate walk-in customers or handle transactions on site so kindly give us a heads-up by email or phone before popping in.