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Jun (pronounced to rhyme with nun or noon depending on who you ask) is a relative of kombucha that’s adapted to eat honey instead of sugar. It’s generally rarer to find than kombucha (both the SCOBY, or “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast,” and the brewed drink), for reasons you’ll see below, but it’s having an uprising of popularity now. Jun has an air of mysticism around it; it’s said to be what Tibetan monks drank to stay alert during morning meditation. There doesn’t seem to be any mention of Jun in ancient Tibetan texts, so perhaps it was a well-kept secret, although some think that the Jun SCOBY is a modern genetic version of kombucha.
Jun first came into my world when my friend Cierra started brewing it. Cierra was one of my earliest fermentation workshop students. She became, first, an avid brewer of kombucha; with half a dozen flavors available to friends and housemates at all times, her brew setup was glorious! On one visit to her community house, I saw various jars with SCOBYs floating in them, each jar covered in writing. As words of positivity guarded and infused the kombucha, each jar was being imbued with intention and good vibes. This was the perfect home for Jun: one that takes great care and brings positive intention to the brewing process.
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Many years later, Cierra has brought her love of Jun to the world. She co-founded a business called Unity Jun that distributes rainbow-hued, sparking elixirs locally on Vancouver Island. Her title is “Captain and Brew Mother of Unity Jun.” I love it!
I obtained a Jun SCOBY from Cierra’s lineage and brewed for a while. It’s truly a clean and lovely drink. But compared to kombucha, it’s quite “sensitive,” and because of its taste for local, raw honey, it’s also more expensive to make. I’ve found that the rhythm that Jun prefers doesn’t fit well into my weekly projects schedule, so I’ve left the brewing to folk who can really give Jun the care and attention it needs to thrive.
Since I haven’t perpetuated the Jun SCOBY, and they’re tricky to track down (at least in my part of the world), I was thrilled to find out that Unity Jun will ship a “SCOBY Love Package” anywhere in the world, including a detailed recipe book and care instructions, the same organic green tea that Cierra uses, a healthy Jun SCOBY, and even a 1-gallon jar to get started.
A Complex Culture
Jun showed up in Cierra’s life when her new housemate came up from California with some of the elixir and an inspired idea to start a Jun company. The concept of a kombucha-like drink that used honey instead of sugar thrilled Cierra, as she has a self-described obsession with bees. She was on board immediately, and the friendship and business partnership was formed.
Cierra describes the taste of Jun as sweeter, lighter, and more delicate than kombucha. In fact, it’s sometimes called “the champagne of kombuchas.” Cierra surmises that because honey is a more complex sugar than cane sugar, Jun has a more diverse flavor profile because of more diverse bacterial activity in the fermentation.
The Jun SCOBY looks physically less firm and more gloopy than the kombucha SCOBY. By maintaining any microbial culture, you get to know the character of that particular strain. Its quirks and preferences are reflected in how vigorously fermentation happens and, in the case of SCOBYs, how strong the culture itself looks. When I asked Cierra about the personality of the Jun SCOBY, she described it as “a higher-maintenance companion” than the kombucha SCOBY.
She has noticed that Jun is more sensitive to energetic vibration, temperature, and physical location. It doesn’t like being moved once it finds a comfortable brewing zone, and prefers cool temperatures. Cierra notes that Jun can also be thrown off by mediocre ingredients and prefers high-quality inputs. By this, she means that Jun is a real tea connoisseur. Always use organic, whole-leaf green tea.
The honey she uses is raw and preferably local. She’d never heat the honey (as I’ve seen in some recipes), preferring to brew the tea first and add the honey once the tea is cooled, so that it keeps its own health-enhancing qualities and has more to offer the SCOBY in terms of nutrients.
Courtesy of Unity Jun.
Unity Jun also uses some very special water. If you come into contact with someone from Unity Jun, I encourage you to ask them about the story of the sacred water. In the Jun lab, they use water that has undergone reverse osmosis (always use purified water for Jun), and they add a drop of water that has been collected from all parts of the globe, been blessed in ceremony under a full moon, and much more. (“Some real hippy stuff,” Cierra notes.) Cierra’s brewing process is designed to honor the mystical reputation of Jun tea.
Unity Jun also infuses nutritional and medicinal herbs into its various drinks. Cierra’s favorite is also mine: The Om Eye Goddess flavor, which uses lavender, tulsi (holy basil), and rose in addition to the green tea. Not only is it divinely tasty, Cierra notes that it’s fun to make because when you add the rose petals, it turns pink almost immediately.
Diligence in Details
There are a few key differences in caring for and brewing kombucha and Jun.
For one thing, Jun prefers a cool brewing temperature. If you have a cool space in your home, try brewing there. If not, your Jun might just take less time to brew than indicated. You’ll know it was too warm or left for too long a fermentation if your Jun is very sour.
Kombucha is pretty forgiving when it comes to adding different flavors in the primary fermentation, such as flavored teas, alternative herbs, etc. Jun requires a stricter diet of just green tea. You can still make flavored Jun, but do this in the secondary fermentation so that the SCOBY is not affected.
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The quality of the water seems to matter more with Jun than with kombucha. Use purified water. Likewise, the quality of tea is more important, so always use organic, preferably loose leaf (but organic bagged tea can work too).
Don’t disturb the Jun during brewing, except to gently push the SCOBY back under the liquid if it starts to grow up the sides of the jar.
Also note that the alcohol content of Jun can be higher than kombucha — more than 2 percent.
Jun tends to be much fizzier than kombucha, so don’t let closed bottles sit at room temperature for too long. Instead, be sure to refrigerate the Jun once the fizz factor is to your liking, and drink it fresh.
Basic Jun Tea
Fermentation Type: Alcohol
Primary Fermentation: 1 week
Secondary Fermentation: 1 to 3 days
Total Fermentation Time: 7 to 10 days
This recipe is what I use to brew, and many homebrewers use similar ratios of honey and tea to water. The process to making great Jun starts with brewing a good batch of tea. Since the expense of the ingredients may be a factor, I encourage you to use a log book, or mark your calendar to make sure that you remember when you brewed, and know when to remove the SCOBY so that the tea doesn’t over-sour. Yield: 1 gallon.
- Pot (1 gallon or bigger) with lid
- 1 gallon jar
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Wooden spoon
- Cloth for covering jar
- Rubber band to secure cloth
- 4 quarts purified water
- 4 teaspoons loose-leaf, organic green tea (or 4 tea bags)
- 1 cup raw honey
- Jun SCOBY with 1 cup of Jun from previous batch
Making the Tea
- Boil water, remove from heat, and add tea. Put a lid on the pot as the tea infuses for 3 to 5 minutes before straining the tea into the brewing jar. (Longer brewing times bring out the tannins in the tea, making a more bitter taste.)
- Cool the tea to room temperature, and then stir honey in until dissolved.
- Add the SCOBY to the brewing jar, along with the cup of brewed Jun starter tea from a previous batch.
- Jun prefers to ferment on the chillier side of room temperature. Put in a cool place to ferment, undisturbed, for about 1 week. I’ve fermented Jun at regular room temperature, alongside my kombucha, and find it may take a day less to brew if it’s at warmer temperatures.
After the initial week or so, you can taste the brew. It should be slightly acidic and may or may not already be effervescent. If it’s still very sweet, you may want to leave it for another day. Once the sourness is to your liking, you can drink the Jun just as it is, removing the SCOBY.
Optional Secondary Fermentation
Most people prefer a fizzier drink, perhaps with extra flavorings. Just as with kombucha, you can add additional flavors in the secondary fermentation upon bottling Jun. As noted above, Jun can become incredibly fizzy, so take precautions when opening the bottles, and refrigerate the bottled Jun once it becomes carbonated. You can somewhat control the excess carbonation, as well as alcohol production, by not adding sugary fruits or syrups to the secondary fermentation, opting instead for herbs without sugar, such as fresh mint leaves or a vanilla bean.
Care for Your Jun SCOBY
The same care recommendations go for Jun SCOBYs as for kombucha; just keep them separate from each other if you’re keeping both. I recommend a SCOBY hotel — that is, keep excess SCOBYs in a jar, covered in plenty of Jun brewed from previous batches. Cover the jar with a tightly woven cloth cover. You won’t need to feed the hotel or do much at all; just rotate the backup SCOBYs into your weekly brews to keep them happy.
Reprinted with permission from DIY Kombucha: Sparkling Home Brew Made Easy by Andrea Potter. Published by New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, British Columbia. 2018.