Shrouded with mysticism and mystery, Jun tea is a fermented tonic made of green tea and honey. While Kombucha tea lines the shelves of natural foods markets, both small and large, Jun tea is still relatively unknown - secreted away and held quiet.
What is Jun Tea?
Jun tea is a naturally effervescent fermented drink made with green tea and raw honey. It's related to kombucha and, like kombucha, you need a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) to brew jun.
Once you introduce the SCOBY, or jun mother, to room temperature green tea that's been sweetened with honey, the bacteria and yeast in the mother will reproduce and culture the tea. In this process, they'll produce a lively, probiotic elixir that tastes slightly tart and slightly sweet.
Like kombucha, water kefir, beet kvass, and other fermented drinks, you can ferment Jun twice to make it bubbly. The first fermentation happens in an open jar, lightly covered with a cloth. The second fermentation happens in sealed bottles, which capture carbon dioxide and make the brew fizzy.
How do you pronounce Jun? You pronounce jun so that it rhymes with "run" instead of like the month "June."
The Myth and Mystery of Jun Tea
Jun tea is shielded behind a veil of secrecy, myth, mysticism, and mystery. Legend holds that Jun originated in the Himalayas. And that monks and spiritual warrior nomads who roamed the high grasslands of Tibet were the first to brew Jun (1). But, there's little concrete evidence or verifiable information that supports either its spiritual or Tibetan origin.
Contrarily, there's some speculation that Jun is a rather new offshoot of kombucha that likely originated somewhere in the Pacific Northwest (2).
About Jun's origin, Sandor Katz writes in The Art of Fermentation:
The lack of credible information on Jun leads me to the conclusion that it is a relatively recent divergence from the Kombucha family tree. Some websites claim that it comes from Tibet, where it has been made for 1,000 years; unfortunately, books on Tibetan food, and even a specialized book on Himalayan ferments, contain no mention of it. Whether or not it has a 1,000-year-old history, it is quite delicious.
Others argue that because honey is less processed than sugar and that because green tea is less processed than black tea, jun must have preceded kombucha. But, there's little evidence to support the claim that because jun uses less refined ingredients than kombucha, it must have come first.
The oft-repeated mystical lore that surrounds Jun leaves me to wonder, why do we need the justification of "sacredness" to enjoy what is, quite simply, a beautiful and delicate drink?
What's the difference between Jun and Kombucha
So, if Jun tea has unreliable origins, you might wonder just how it differs from kombucha, if it really does differ and why it's worth brewing at all. Whether Jun tea is a new divergence from kombucha or if it really is a 1,000-year-old ferment, the simple truth is this: Jun differs from Kombucha in several key ways.
- They're made with different ingredients. Jun tea ferments best in green tea sweetened by raw honey. Kombucha tea ferments best in black tea sweetened by sugar.
- They taste different from one another. Different ingredients result in distinct and unique flavor profiles. Jun is delicate with floral notes and light tartness. By contrast, kombucha tastes more concretely sour and much less delicate.
- Jun ferments faster. Jun's fermentation cycle lasts a few days, while kombucha's cycle lasts about a week.
- Jun needs cooler temperatures. Jun ferments best at slightly cold room temperature (65 -70F), whereas kombucha ferments at warmer temperatures (72-80F).
- Their bacterial makeups are slightly different. Jun has more lactobacillus bacteria and less acetobacteria than kombucha.
- Jun has slightly more alcohol than kombucha, but both contain very little total alcohol.
- Jun is suitable for the GAPS diet and other diets that restrict cane sugar but allow for honey.
How to Make Jun Tea
Making jun tea is exceptionally simple. To make it you simply need to brew green tea, sweeten it, cool it to room temperature, add your SCOBY and wait. But, there are a few tips that can improve your brew and keep your SCOBY healthy.
Also check out these kombucha-brewing tips, because they'll work for Jun too
- Use good quality loose-leaf green tea. Loose-leaf teas taste better than bagged tea. But, if you don't have loose-leaf tea, use 2 tea bags.
- Use raw honey. Jun needs raw honey, with the bacteria in the SCOBY working synergistically with the bacteria in the honey to culture properly. Pasteurized honey can cause jun to fail to culture properly and may damage the SCOBY over time.
- Use an authentic Jun SCOBY that's adapted for green tea and honey for best results and flavor.
- Cool your tea before adding the SCOBY. Make sure your tea is room temperature before adding your SCOBY, or you risk damaging the cultures.
- Pay attention to temperature. Jun brews best at a cool, room temperature of about 65 - 70F.
- Cover the jar loosely. Jun is an open-air ferment like kombucha. But, cover the jar with a cloth cap or with cheesecloth to keep bugs and debris away from your brew.
- Remember to reserve some for future batches. In addition to the SCOBY, you'll need about 4 ounces of finished jun to start your next brew.
- Stir jun really well before bottling. The culture contains both beneficial bacteria and yeasts. Yeasts are heavier than bacteria and tend to sink to the bottom of your brew, so stir it well before bottling.
Jun Tea Recipe
- ½ gallon jar
Preparing the green tea and honey.
- Bring water to 170 F in a kettle. While the water comes to temperature, sprinkle the looseleaf green tea into a large jar or pitcher. Pour the hot water over the tea, and then let it steep at least 3 and up to 5 minutes.
- Strain the tea through a fine-mesh sieve into your jar, and then let it cool to room temperature (65-75 F).
Brewing jun tea.
- Once the tea is cooled to room temperature and mixed with honey, add your SCOBY and ½ cup Jun tea from a previous batch. Cover the jar with cheesecloth or butter muslin, and let the jun culture 3 to 5 days, or until it smells pleasantly sour and faintly sweet.
- Carefully remove the Jun SCOBY and set it on a plate. Stir the remaining jun tea, and reserve ½ cup tea for your next batch. Prepare a fresh batch of Jun right away, or store the SCOBY and reserved tea in a jar up at room temperature up to 1 week.
- After reserving the SCOBY and ½ cup tea, stir the jun once more, and then pour it into 4 pint-sized flip-top bottles. Let them culture at room temperature 2 to 3 days, then enjoy immediately or transfer to the fridge where they'll keep up to 3 months.