Food - Coffee and tea

Golda Kombucha and Wanderlust Coffee are stepping up Atlanta's beverage game

While Atlanta is known for being a Coca-Cola town, two startups are riding the wave of national trends in coffee and tea to satisfy local palates looking for something a bit more crafty: Wanderlust Coffee and Golda Kombucha.

Since summer 2014, Wanderlust Coffee founder Alden Eavenson has built a business around offering kegs and bottles of both ready to drink and concentrated cold brew coffee. Wanderlust's biggest hits have been the kegs of its nitro cold brew — a method of infusing coffee with nitrogen gas to produce an especially smooth and creamy body on draft.

"We caught the nitro-coffee wave just as it was hitting Atlanta, and I think we're finally getting close to having explained it to everyone in Atlanta," Eavenson jokes. "The reception has been pretty close to unanimously positive. As soon as you tell someone it pours similar to a Guinness, they usually want to try it."

Eavenson uses coffee roasted by Octane, mostly Ethiopian, to create his cold brew, and is planning to add some seasonal flavors this fall and winter. For example, Wanderlust has been using its mobile taps at the Grant Park and Decatur farmers markets to try out a New Orleans-style version with chicory and sugar.

In addition to the farmers markets, Wanderlust can be found at Octane locations around town, as well as the Porter Beer Bar, My Parents' Basement, and a handful of markets such as Savi, Candler Park Market, and the Mercantile for the bottled versions.

As Wanderlust has expanded over the past year, Eavenson has noticed more competition in the cold brew game, including national players like Portland-based Stumptown Coffee Roasters entering the Atlanta market. "Atlanta has a sizable market for locally sourced/made products ... so it's a great place to start a food and beverage business."

Golda Kombucha's founder, Melanie Wade, would certainly agree. She has followed a similar path to success since starting up in 2013, hawking her oak-aged kombucha in both bottles and on tap.

For those not in on the kombucha thing, it is essentially a tea fermented with added yeast and bacteria (the good kind! Actually called SCOBY, short for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) that is known for its healthful properties, such as aiding digestion and boosting the immune system. "When I first started selling kombucha three years ago," Wade says, "hardly anyone knew about it. Now more people have heard about it, but many still aren't sure what it is. Educating ... is a labor of love and it's been thrilling to see the community in Atlanta respond so positively to our kombucha."

Although kombucha's popularity has been growing nationwide in recent years, Wade used a personal connection to the fermented brew as the foundation for her business. It was her grandmother's home version, and her name, that inspired the very creation of Golda Kombucha. "Growing up, I had always been interested in what it was my grandmother was brewing in her kitchen," Wade says. "When I was old enough, she enlightened me to the ways of kombucha."

Wade draws interest, especially at the farmers markets, by brewing seasonal flavors in line with the current produce. Peach-ginger has become her most popular flavor, and Wade is eager to keep a distinctly Southern spin on kombucha by thinking locally and in line with flavors that people grew up with. At the markets, she's eager to provide tastes of the several flavors on offer — like muscadine-spice, or lavender lemonade — then fill a cup or a growler to go. "It has been wonderful watching our customer base grow, listening to their feedback and seeing them return week after week to get their Golda growler refilled."

As with cold brew coffee, more and more kombuchas from national brands are making their way to the Atlanta market, but local companies like Wanderlust and Golda are able to find success at a more grassroots level. In addition to the farmers market stands (Golda hits most of the different markets around town, nine in total), Golda Kombucha is on tap for growler refills at the Mercantile and the Local Exchange in Marietta, with bottles available at a diverse set of stops ranging from Sevananda Co-op and Candler Park Market, to Julianna's and Proof Bakeshop, to Preserving Place and Juice Bar.

So, with both Golda Kombucha and Wanderlust Coffee, you can get locally made beverages only sold locally, known for their positive effects on energy levels and health ... sounds a lot like Coca-Cola a mere 130 years ago. Maybe some day this city will be known as much for its coffee and kombucha as it is for its soda.

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