There is a lot of press about the health benefits of popular probiotics and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, and kombucha. However, not many are familiar with one of our favorites — jun, a refreshing fermented tea. With the summer months arriving soon, now is the perfect time to begin brewing jun.
What is Jun?
Jun (rhymes with 'run' but some pronounce it 'joon') is the lesser known 'cousin' to kombucha. Unlike kombucha with its sour, vinegary bite, jun is a delightfully light, effervescent beverage that is reminiscent of champagne or sparkling wine with delicate floral notes. Frizzante, an Italian wine term for 'spritzy' or 'little bubbles,' is the perfect description of jun!
Jun, like kombucha, is a naturally fermented beverage that begins with a culture called a SCOBY, an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. It is a microbial cellulosic 'mat' that some call a 'mushroom' and is much like a vinegar 'mother' that is used for turning wine into vinegar.
However, unlike kombucha that is made with black tea and sugar, jun is made with green tea and raw honey. It has a much shorter fermentation time of only 5-7 days which also contributes to its smoother, milder flavor and is not nearly as acidic as kombucha.
How to Brew Jun
Brewing jun is a three step process — the primary fermentation, and then a short secondary fermentation* to flavor the drink, and a third 'bottled' fermentation to create the carbon dioxide to make it fizzy. But first, you need to purchase a SCOBY from a reputable source and gather some basic equipment for the best results.
Jun SCOBY (I recommend Kombucha Kamp)
2 1-gallon wide mouth jars
Squares of cloth (a clean cloth napkin works well) or a large coffee filter with a sturdy rubber band or twine
Fine mesh strainer
Warming band (a must for maintaining the proper fermenting temperature)
1 jun SCOBY
1 gallon filtered water, divided
2 tablespoons organic green tea, such as Makaibari green Darjeeling
1 cup raw honey
1 cup jun liquid from previous batch (this liquid will come with jun SCOBY purchase)
For First Fermentation
(1) Sterilize gallon jar, large Pyrex measuring cup, and fine mesh strainer (run through the dishwasher on 'sanitize' setting).
(2) In a large saucepan, heat 6 cups filtered water to 180°. Add the green tea and allow to steep for 10 minutes.
(3) While tea steeps, add 8 cups of filtered water to the sanitized gallon jar.
(4) Place fine mesh strainer on top of the gallon jar with water. Slowly pour the hot steeped tea through the strainer into the cool water. Allow mixture to cool for 20 minutes.
(5) Add raw honey to the diluted tea and stir until honey dissolves.
(6) Stir in 1 cup jun liquid.
(7) Slide the SCOBY into jar.
(8) Cover jar with cloth napkin or large coffee filter and secure with a rubber band or twine.
(9) Wrap warming band around jar and set to medium temperature.
(10) Place jun in a dark corner or cover with a larger towel, away from sunlight.
(11) After 5 days, first fermentation is done.
Second Fermentation — Adding Flavor
This second fermentation for flavoring is unique to my own process. Some like to flavor the jun by adding flavorings (such as fruit, spices or juices) directly in the bottle, but I was never satisfied with the end result using that method. I prefer jun to have 'character' and more depth of flavor. You can adjust flavoring and combinations to suit your personal tastes. You'll find some flavoring guidelines below.
(1) Remove SCOBY from fermented jun and set aside in a large sanitized Mason jar or bowl.
(2) Remove 1 generous cup from top of the finished jun and add to the SCOBY and cover the jar or bowl while finishing the flavoring process.
(3) Stir in fruit or flavorings (see below) to the jun.
(4) Cover jar with cloth napkin or large coffee filter.
(5) Allow to ferment at room temperature for an additional 24 hours.
(6) Begin new batch of jun — if not brewing another batch immediately, store the SCOBY at room temperature in covered jar for a day or so. Do not refrigerate.
Third Fermentation — Adding Fizz
(1) Prepare flip top bottles by running through dishwasher on sanitizer setting. Separately, sanitize the bales and stoppers by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over to cover.
(2) Place a fine mesh strainer over the top of a large pitcher or Pyrex measuring cup with a spout. Slowly pour the flavored jun through the strainer to catch the fruit pulp or spices.
(3) Decant the strained jun into individual bottles, allowing about 1 inch headspace.
(4) Allow bottled jun to sit at room temperature 2-3 days* and then place in refrigerator.
* If it's summer and the room temperature is in the 80s, 2 days is long enough. If it's cooler weather, allow 3 days if the room temperature is in the 60s. Bottles CAN burst if too much pressure builds up. You can test the pressure by releasing the bale. If there is a gentle 'hiss' like opening a bottle of soda, it's done. It's a good idea to 'burp' the bottle before placing it into the fridge.
FLAVORING JUN — the Fun Part!
This version is for ginger lovers only! It's very strong and flavor forward. This makes a delicious addition to a cocktail, but is extremely refreshing on its own over ice.
Thoroughly wash two large 'hands' of fresh, raw ginger and remove any dry ends. Place in a colander and pour several cups of boiling water over the ginger. When cool enough to touch, chop ginger into 1-inch pieces and place in food processor bowl Pulse until ginger is finely ground and pulverized. Stir ginger into jun.
Thoroughly wash two whole lemons. Remove the yellow part of the peel using a vegetable peeler and add to jun. Juice the lemons and stir juice into jun.
If desired, add 2 teaspoons of ground turmeric for an extra boost of antioxidants.
Elderflower and Passionfruit
This makes a lovely floral jun that can easily pass as champagne!
Stir in 1 cup dried elderflower and 1 cup passionfruit juice.
Thoroughly wash and stem a couple of baskets of organic strawberries. Crush berries. Add 2 cups crushed berries to jun. Add zest and juice of three limes.
Stir in 1 cup crushed strawberries and 1 cup guava pulp or juice.
Thoroughly wash 3 ruby grapefruit. Remove peel using vegetable peeler and add to jun. Remove all of the white pith, and divide the grapefruit flesh into sections. Crush and add to jun. Add a generous handful of washed fresh mint leaves.
Apple or Pear with Cinnamon
Thoroughly wash 3 flavorful apples (such as honeycrisp) or ripe pears and cut in half to remove seeds/core. Grate apples (or pears) and stir into jun. Add 2 cinnamon sticks.
Stir in 1/2 cup dried hibiscus blossoms. Note: Hibiscus is very tart, but refreshing. When ready to serve, consider adding additional sweetener such as a simple syrup or honey if too tart for your liking.
Wash 2 baskets of ripe raspberries (about 2 cups of berries). Crush slightly and add to jun. Stir in 1/4 cup hibiscus blossoms. When ready to serve, adjust for sweetness with additional simple syrup or honey, if desired.
- Never use black tea or flavored tea for culturing. Use only organic green tea. I prefer a green Darjeeling.
- Use only raw honey — raw honey contains beneficial bacteria that the SCOBY requires for proper fermentation.
- Use filtered water — not tap water. If filtered water is not available, boil one gallon of water and allow to cool. (The chlorine in tap water interferes with the good bacteria in the SCOBY and will damage it.)
- If you want a continuous supply of jun, I find it's easiest to make the next batch as soon as a batch completes the first fermentation. If you need to store the SCOBY for any length of time (up to a week), reserve a little more of the finished jun and make sure the SCOBY is submerged. Eventually, your SCOBY will generate a new SCOBY and the older one can be discarded.
- Even though a heating band is an extra expense, it's a good investment to protect your SCOBY. You risk damaging the SCOBY if you try to ferment jun at less than the ideal temperatures (70-80 degrees). On the other hand, if the weather is very warm, try to protect the jun by placing it in a cooler area. Warmer temperatures means quicker fermentation, so watch your jun carefully.
- Beware of any mold that develops on SCOBY — if the room temperature is below 70 degrees, you are flirting with mold forming at less than ideal temperatures. A warming band that maintains the optimal temperature is very helpful.
- Do not use cheesecloth or loosely woven cloth as a cover. Fruit flies are attracted to fermenting fruit, and they can get though the loose weave of cheesecloth. You don't want fruit fly eggs contaminating your SCOBY.
- If you have to store the SCOBY for a few days in a jar, use a plastic lid, but don't seal it tightly.
- Jun will keep nicely about a month in the fridge. Be sure to 'burp' the bottles occasionally to prevent too much carbonation developing.
- Jun will continue to slowly ferment in the fridge and become drier, (like a dry wine) as any residual sugars are used.
- Lastly, if you like to have multiple fermentation projects going in your kitchen (like I do!) like sourdough starter or vinegar, be sure to isolate the jun away from those projects to avoid cross contamination of yeasts.
I'm always glad to answer questions — please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.