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Jun, a Honey-based Kombucha

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Jun, a Honey-based Kombucha

If you’re into kombucha, you’ve likely heard of a type of brew that utilizes honey rather than granulated sugar as the sweetener. You may also have been privy to some of the smoke and mirrors surrounding jun, a honey-based kombucha.   I’ve been brewing jun for about a year and a half, and have become enamored - it’s quick to brew, forgiving when it ferments too long, and retains the aromatic characteristics of the honey that was used. And with the numerous medicinal benefits of honey, it’s hard not to gravitate towards this tenacious, bacteria-heavy ferment.   Being accustomed to the taste of sugar-brewed kombucha, one of its fun aspects is how mercurial the culture can be. The range of desirable as well as undesirable notes that can develop is immense; for example, some can be lumped into a category often considered by us to be “barnyard,” and whether or not you can attribute this to the sweetener used, I can say this aspect is across the board much less prevalent in jun. On the whole, I would say jun tastes more clean than a sugar ferment.   So when I started brewing jun it was pretty eye-opening. In using honey instead of sugar, brewing takes on a new level of complexity. Sugar really doesn’t provide much of a flavor characteristic other than sweetness. Honey, however, is very complex and contains a multitude of different compounds including yeasts, acids, vitamins and antioxidants. And clearly, there’s an alluring quality to the flavor and aroma of honey that can’t necessarily be ascribed to the primary utility of honey in a ‘buch brew, that being a source of sugar(s).  

Raw vs. Processed Honey

Many people have asked me whether or not to use raw honey as opposed to commercially-processed honey, and really you can use either (I do use less honey, by volume, than sugar - 3/4 cup of honey to each gallon of kombucha). Raw honey will have more “stuff” in it - pollen, bits of honeycomb, propolis, sometimes even bee parts. The contribution of unwanted bacteria here is possible, but not assured. My experience hasn’t brought any folly in this regard.

My thought, however, is that the more basic the source of sugar, the easier it is for the culture to consume and create kombucha. An example of this would be, when using granulated sugar, white vs. brown. While brown sugar may have additional aspects to contribute in terms of flavor, I’ve heard people say they’ve had trouble getting their culture to feed on it. A red flag here is the presence of molasses in brown sugar. As a byproduct of the refining of sugarcane, it inherently houses impurities undesirable in table sugar, and the darker the molasses (or brown sugar), the more of these will be present. Nutritive for humans, for sure, but not the best for your SCOBY - many have reported the difficulty a kombucha culture has in utilizing brown sugar.   As for the honey, processing doesn’t appear to negatively affect the presence of some of its health-beneficial constituents such as vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, but I would be concerned for the aromatic and untested-for elements that otherwise may contribute desirably to your brew.  

Fructose and Glucose

  Purified, enriched sugar (i.e., table sugar) is stripped down to the most basic elements and is essentially pure sucrose (a disaccharide of fructose and glucose). It’s ready to be first inverted (broken down into fructose and glucose) and consumed by the culture.   In honey, fructose and glucose have already been cleaved and separated by enzymes within the bees’ stomachs, so there is one less step the culture needs to go through in order to consume them. I think this is one of the reasons a jun ferment is generally faster than the standard sugar ferment.  

Lore and Contemporary Jun

  Upon looking at some of the existing information about jun, it can be difficult to ascertain much in the way of solid evidence, especially when it comes its origins. You’ll find anecdotes regarding the sacred maintenance and ancient transference of the culture, which usually alludes to Tibetans in some regard.   These suppositions lack solid sources, so I’ll steer clear of the derivative speculation and create one of my own - perhaps jun is the original kombucha culture (and was delivered to Tutankhamun by almond-eyed star voyagers).   To an extent, for kombucha brewing, it makes sense that honey be the original sweetener of choice over sugarcane, if only due to the fact that straight out of the hive, it's ready to be used. Sugar, however, requires processing to remove it from the woody grass, sugarcane, that comprises its natural form. So, it’s almost logical that the most basic, unrefined sweetener would be used in the original brew.  

  

Tea for a Jun Brew

  The nutritional requirements for the jun culture are a little bit different than for the sugar brew. My experiences have indicated that green tea is consumed much more readily by this culture than are oxidized teas like white, oolong, black or pu-erh tea. While I've made jun with a blend of black, green and white teas, the flavor was not found desirable and further experimentation halted. I have been ever since delighted with the results of green tea-based jun.   That's not to say I've not brewed with herbs in addition to the green tea. I found pretty quickly that my favorite green tea to use with jun is simply jasmine green tea. The delightful, floral aspects of this tea pair very well with honey. In using other herbs with this culture as well, I've found no faults in terms of flavor or speed with which a final product was achieved. I would say if anything, the jun culture is more forgiving of non-camellia sinensis ingredients - I've had success with chamomile, lavender, and holy basil, to name a few.  

Final Thoughts

  Had I the opportunity to live out the rest of my kombucha brewing days fermenting only with honey rather than granulated sugar, I would. It's faster, more forgiving, amazingly fresh and smooth, and more sustainable. It's pretty easy to find local honey, which has great implications in alleviating allergies, to which our keg master Billy can attest. There are still many experiments and test brews to be made to more clearly discern the limits of the jun kombucha ferment, but given what I've discovered so far, I don't think any time soon that I'll be short of new ideas to test.

So, if you're already making kombucha and haven't tried your hand at using this amazing culture, you're missing out on the next big thing in home brewing. You can use the same fermentation vessel and equipment, on the whole. Just remember that if you're brewing both a standard kombucha and a jun kombucha, keep your cultures segregated so the flavor of each brew is as specific as possible.   After you have your first sip of jun, you'll never forget that flavor, and I can almost guarantee you'll never want to. 

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  • Eric
Comments 116
  • junekog
    junekog

    newbie ?: i’m interested in the jun but have never brewed kombucha before. is it best to start with regular cane sugar, or could i start right out with the jun and have the same likelihood of success?

  • Chris
    Chris

    Hey Sean, I don’t have any experience with using Manuka honey but don’t see why it wouldn’t work. What do you mean by UMF?

  • Sean van Doornum
    Sean van Doornum

    Hey Chris

    I’m about to start my first kombucha home brew and was wanting to use local honey in the process. Any experience with using Manuka Honey? Do you know if UMF affects fermentaion etc?

    Cheers!

    Sean

  • TJ
    TJ

    Thanks for the post. You alluded to it, but is it safe to say that Jun is just Kombucha “trained” to consume honey and green tea? I have a culture of Kombucha that I’ve had for over a year. For fun, I decided to do a side culture with honey and green tea. It’s been growing beautifully. Tastes pretty good, but I want to do a few more batches with it. Is this Jun or just Kombucha trained to eat honey & green tea?

    FYI, I’ve experimenting with apple cider vinegar MOVs and feeding them tea and sugar. It makes a very nice Kombucha like beverage. In fact, I can’t tell them apart.

  • Chris
    Chris

    Hey Jonathan – I don’t dissolve the honey in boiling water, rather after the tea has cooled quite a bit. I don’t usually take the temperature, but it’s worth thinking about – to not excessively heat your honey (if at all). You can in fact dissolve honey in room temperature liquids, with vigorous shaking, so that might be a good route for any who are less inclined to heat their honey. With my experience and the jun culture, the honey can be completely raw. Happy brewing!

  • Jonathan Melling
    Jonathan Melling

    Hi, thanks for the article it’s very informative and I definitely want to try some local honey in my next Kombucha batch now. Could you please just describe your brewing process, specifically do you dissolve the honey in boiling water with the tea or add the honey later when it has cooled down somewhat? I’m just wondering if the yeasts and bacteria already present in the honey need to be killed first with boiling water or are these in fact desired for your Kombucha brew, thanks ;-)

  • jOE
    jOE

    Hey Chris,

    I’ve been brewing my own buch for a few months now and would like to try out some Jun.

    Can I just use one of my existing scoby’s? Or will feeding a scoby raised on sugar some honey be an issue?

  • Xy
    Xy

    It seems the prior commenter is trying to brew a kombucha culture with honey. My understanding is that they’re two different cultures, you’ll need a jun culture to brew with honey and green tea, the kombucha culture needs sugar and black tea.

  • Chris
    Chris

    Your likelihood of success is the same with either ferment! Choose which feels right for you ;-).

  • Janet
    Janet

    Here goes again-misspelled my email! My 1st try at Jun tea. It’s on its 3rd day but is WAY too sweet for me (1-1/2 C for a 1.5 gallon brew). I’ll check again in a couple of days. Should it be in a warm or cool room? I heard it does better in cool so that’s where I put it. Thanks for your website!

  • Louise
    Louise

    I just did a batch of Kombucha with honey using my regular SCOBY. There were a lot of yeast in the jar, but it seemed to turn out alright. Should I be drinking this, if it didn’t come from a honey raised SCOBY? I ran out of Cain sugar and figured I would use honey, didn’t realize there would be a difference for the SCOBY.

  • Chris
    Chris

    Hi Mia, how do you mean “the first part of fermentation is 3 days?” Your brew should take around 7-10 days all told, and the very first batch might be a little reticent to grow an immaculate SCOBY. Your culture is just fine and as you continue brewing you’ll find it becomes much more robust. At what temperature are you brewing?

  • mia
    mia

    Hello! I recieved my Jun scoby a few weeks ago and stored it in fridge. 7 days ago I started my first batch, I read that the first part of the fermentation is 3 days, I left it for 7. It seems that the new growth is very loose, not solid at all and the top of my vessel has a thin foamy layer. Is this ok? I have brewed kombucha many times and it has always been solid. hmmm

  • Chris
    Chris

    Hi Joe, it would become an issue as you likely won’t be able to sustain a sugar SCOBY on honey. You could try training your sugar SCOBY onto honey, but that might be a drawn out process. Hope this helps!

  • Sheryl
    Sheryl

    It has only been one day of brewing and my scoby has sunk to the bottom, and no film has formed at the top at all. Is this normal?

  • Andrea
    Andrea

    I am a beginner.
    I received a Jun SCOBY 10 days ago.
    I have had it in a cloth covered jar in the back of my fridge this whole time. I pulled it out today to find it has fuzzy stuff floating around it. Is it still usable?

    The woman that gave it to me has been brewing kombucha for 2 years. She told me she brews her Jun the same as her regular kombucha (with regular sugar). I cannot find anywhere that you can use sugar for Jun. Wouldn’t that effect the SCOBY? Should I just toss it and get it fresh from someone else that uses green tea and honey?
    TIA!

  • Chris
    Chris

    Your brew won’t be done after just 4 days, and the ratio for 1 gallon is 3/4 cup honey so adjust that to 1.5 gallons. Low 70s is perfect for jun. Happy brewing!

  • Claus
    Claus

    Hey Chris, is it possible to brew JUN as continue brew, like Kombucha ?

  • Agnes T
    Agnes T

    Hi Chris, awesome article.
    Quick question: I am all the way in Asia and no one here has Jun scoby. Can I grow a Jun scoby from a regular scoby? If so, how do I do that? I’m quite patient so I don’t mind a long process :)

  • Jordan
    Jordan

    Hey Chris! Is it possible to brew Jun with yerba mate? My first attempt seemed to be a fail as i didn’t see any bubbles coming from the bottom and scoby looked moldy. Are tiny bubbles an indication of a healthy brew? Any tips for brewing a successful Jun Mate would be much appreciated! Also does the tea need to be raw? or can we use a roasted tea?
    thanks bro!

  • Sheryl
    Sheryl

    It has only been one day of brewing jun and my scoby has sunk to the bottom and no film forming at the top. Is this normal?

  • Damaris
    Damaris

    Hello Chris,

    So I’ve been brewing my jun, in fact my second brew. I’m just not getting that fizz. The taste is great but I would like the fizz. What can I be doing wrong?

  • How to Make Jun: A Traditional Fermented Tea Made with Green Tea and Honey | Organic Health
    How to Make Jun: A Traditional Fermented Tea Made with Green Tea and Honey | Organic Health

    […] http://www.kombuchabrooklyn.com/blog/jun-honey-based-kombucha/ […]

  • Chris
    Chris

    Hey Claus! Absolutely – the brewing process is the same as regular kombucha.

  • Chris
    Chris

    Hey Agnes! Slowly replace the sugar, in successive brews, with honey. So, start with part sugar/part honey and increase the amount of honey, reducing the sugar too each week, and you may be able to get a Jun SCOBY. I’ve noticed though there’s nothing like the flavor that comes from an authentic Jun SCOBY. Let us know how it goes!

  • Taryn
    Taryn

    Hi Chris this is my first time brewing Jun, how do you know when it is ready? Also what tea is best to use?

  • Alisha Cruz
    Alisha Cruz

    Raw manuka honey is of great benefit, you can use it in making your honey-based kombucha.

  • Marie-Eve
    Marie-Eve

    Hi Chris! I just made my first Jun brew. I tasted it, it taste fabulous. In fact so fabulous I wonder if the culture did the work. It really taste sweet, we clearly taste the honey. I left it 6 days, at 18 to 20 degree (raw honey, green tea , filtred water…). I thougt it was suppose to taste a bit like Kombucha like I read in many comment but il does not, it is much better and sweeter. I know it is hard to know without tasting it but is it suppose to taste pretty sweet with a very distinct honey after taste? Seems almost to good to be true! Thanks!!!! Marie-Ève

  • Damaris
    Damaris

    Thank you so much.
    You guys rock!

  • Chris
    Chris

    www.kombuchabrooklyn.com/blog/carbonating-your-kombucha/

  • Chris
    Chris

    Hi Marie-Ève, your brew will become less sweet with a longer brewing time, and will become more like kombucha – much dryer and more acidic. Great to hear you like it! Cheers – Chris

  • Chris
    Chris

    Hi Brandy! That’s a normal thing :-).

  • Denise
    Denise

    I received my Jun starter kit from KB last fall and it has been going like gang busters! I now do a contiunous brew. I’ve had to start a SCOBY hotel as the SCOBY has gotten too thick to get the my wanted volume of Jun. Thanx guys, this has been so easy.

  • Brandy
    Brandy

    Hi,

    I’m a first timer and my Jun scoby has been in the fridge for two weeks in 1/2 cup of it’s original brew. I finally have the equipment needed to start a first batch, but when I took it out of the refrigerator it smells strongly like vinegar…is that normal?

    Really appreciate any info you feel would be helpful!

    Ciao,
    B

  • Alison D. Gilbert
    Alison D. Gilbert

    Sorry if I missed the answer to my question in the comments above. I am looking for a commercial source of Jun and cannot find one anywhere. I make my own but would love to try what the ‘pros’ are doing.

  • Chris
    Chris

    Hi! You know it’s ready when it tastes good to you, usually when there’s a balance of sweetness and acidity. I find green teas to be the best to use with this culture. Happy brewing!

  • Chris
    Chris

    Hi, thanks for your message! I’ve not tried brewing with alkaline water. If it works, keep it up!

  • BrandonG
    BrandonG

    Hey Chris,
    Just curious. Have you ever brewed with alkaline water? I have been brewing JUN for three or four months now. I just tried my first batch with alkaline water about three weeks ago. I was out of town and could not harvest it until about three weeks of fermenting. It smelled a little funny but, the SCOBY looked good amd the brew tasted great. Do you have any suggestions?

  • Chris
    Chris

    Hi Jill, at that temperature I would think your jun might be ready after around 7 days. Taste it daily after the 5th day, that’s the only reliable way to know it’s done.

  • Jill
    Jill

    Hi Chris, I was given a Jun scoby with starter. I am somewhat familiar with making regular kombucha and realize the Honey Jun is a little different. I began a Jun tea brew on Sunday, 3/15. I thought I would begin to see a scoby forming on top but do not see one yet. The temperature in the room fluctuates between about 68 and 70 degrees.

    Do I need to wait to have a scoby forming on top? Everything I read indicates the kombucha is ready in about 3-4 days, which is tomorrow.

    Thank you so much. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Jill Coward

  • Chris
    Chris

    Hi Alison, I believe there are some West coast producers of Jun that you may be able to find through a search engine, but I have definitely not ever had commercial jun, unfortunately! Good luck, Chris.

  • Chris
    Chris

    Hi Lee, personally I just try to not mix the two together, in culture or liquid form. I ferment both in the same area and haven’t noticed any crossover. I think you would be fine doing both in the same area too.

  • Lee
    Lee

    Thanks for the great info! When you say keep kombucha and jun segregated…how much so? I live in a 1 room tiny home…is it enough to keep them in separate areas of the home 10 feet apart? A friend said that the yeast in the air from the kombucha will eventually overtake the jun culture and they gave up brewing both. Do you have experience/thoughts? Thank you!

  • Chris
    Chris

    You don’t need to be concerned – you can sample at any time!

  • Tim
    Tim

    Hi, do I need to be concerned with oxidation? Can I sample anytime during fermentation and does jun improve with age. Thanks! :)

  • Candy
    Candy

    To Jordan,

    I have just begun brewing Jun as well, very impressed with the first brew. I LOVE Yerba Mate, but it comes from a totally different plant than Green Tea. After your comment I think I will try brewing Jun with Green tea and a little Yerba. I would likely wait till I have a spare scoby, so if it all goes wrong, I still have a fresh scoby to start again with. I think you would likely need to brew green tea wih Yerba or do every second brew green only as likely it only feeds from the green tea itself. Worth a try!!

  • Jill
    Jill

    I have made the Jun twice and am now making a double recipe. Do I add a double starter or just the ½ cup starter?

    Thank you.

  • Chris
    Chris

    We use authentic Jun cultures!

  • LisaJun
    LisaJun

    sorry if this has already been answered – Did you just convert a Kombucha SCOBY over to eating Honey, or did you actually procure a JUN SCOBY?

  • Ann
    Ann

    I’ve heard that even if you train a kombucha scoby to eat honey, it is still not the same as a jun scoby

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