Elixirz Kombucha—Brewer Q&A
Based in: Los Angeles, CA
Distribution: Los Angeles
Oh, Nectarine indeed! The yellow nectarine flavor in this lovely little bottle of booch is very big! It’s juicy and full-bodied, almost like biting into a perfectly ripe nectarine—which, by the way, is one of our favorite fruits in the world and isn’t often found in kombucha.
These three are definitely some of the absolute most delicious flavors we’re ever tried—so juicy, unique and creative. The middle one, ORMEs (which stands for Orbitally Rearranged Monotomic Elements) has ingredients like pink sea salt, rose quartz gemstone essence, and birch bark! The result is a very memorable rose-rich, multi-layered, luscious flavor. Root Brrr tastes like the best marriage between root beer and kombucha; and Immunity Punch comes with ingredients like Schizandra, Goji and Elderberry, which help boost your immune system, and has gorgeous berry notes throughout.
Elixirz is brewed in oak barrels, and is currently sold at The Punchbowl, which is an innovative juice/smoothie/tonic bar in Los Feliz, CA. It’s a small, homey spot that has become a neighborhood staple. And it’s one of the Punchbowl’s own staffers, Christian Marlez, who is the brewer and creator of Elixirz and brews his kombucha right out of their kitchen. He is a true booch-head, who’s been brewing for a whopping 12 years, and this year decided to take his brews commercial. The Punchbowl has started stocking them a couple of months ago, and there is a new flavor each week. When you hold this adorable bottle, you really feel the small-batch, thoughtfully-crafted approach Christian takes to his brews.
We chatted with him about his own journey to becoming a booch brewer.
Kombucha Hunter: Where are you originally from and when/how did you discover kombucha?
Christian Marlez: My background is Guatemalan (Mayan), but I was born and raised in Los Feliz, CA. Spanish is my native tongue. I had an English barrier, which made it very difficult to make friends. After graduating high school, I developed "late-teen" acne, which made it even harder to have a social life since most of my peers were done with their acne phase. I became depressed and at times suicidal. I tried every over-the-counter prescription lotion, pill and potion...but the condition persisted.
That's until one day a gentleman (who I never saw again) came up to me while I was eating a sandwich and reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Upon asking me what I was reading, he handed me a business card which read, “Chinese Traditional Medicine by Serena,” located in Chinatown. I went to the address the following day and met Serena. She did a reflexology exam and said that my acne came from poor digestion such as fast-foods, soda pop, salty foods lack of sleep. Boy was she right! Serena then recommended me a beverage by the name of chájun [that’s Chinese for kombucha] and said that her great-grandma swore that it cured just about anything, including breakouts. I went home and did my research and found out that a young man, Dave, was making this tea under the company name GT. I ran to my local health food store (at that time Nature Mart; now called Lassens) and bought them all out. I was addicted.
But buying it just wasn't good enough for me. I wanted to know how to make this magical concoction and share it with my family, especially since my mother had been diagnosed with colon cancer. I then found a man who was selling scobies and then my journey began.
KH. When you first started brewing, did you start out with oak barrels, or did you transition to them later?
CM: "I started making kombucha in glass jars and also stainless steel containers. But it wasn't until I met a friend who was making his own beer and suggested using oak barrels. Sure, they're way more expensive, take a way longer time to ferment and need much maintenance to keep, but nothing (to me) can match the powerful element of wood."
KH: What attracted you to oak barrel brewing versus the traditional glass?
CM: Historically, wood has been a highly respected force of nature and I too, like our ancestors honor and respect the spirit in wood. Also, kombucha as it rests in the barrel goes through subtle changes resulting in greater complexity and softening the harsh tea tannins present at the age of the fermentation. Not to mention, there's something really nostalgic and romantic to them.
KH: What have been some obstacles/challenges you found when you decided to start selling your brews?
CM: Renting a kitchen facility has probably been the toughest part in starting this business, especially since kombucha can turn into alcohol, but in order for it to become "alcoholic" it would probably taste really strong and gross. Fortunately, I ended up in a beautiful situation where the place I work already has all of the required permits to run an all organic kitchen space.
KH: How does your own personal approach to life/your spirituality/belief systems influence your kombucha-brewing?
CM: I attribute much of my cure from acne to kombucha. There's a beautiful quote in The Alchemist that goes, "When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too." I'd like to add that everything 'within' us also becomes better. In the kombucha community there's a similar saying that "when kombucha is introduced to our diets, we're ready for a conscious revolution."