By Chris Heagney
In the beverage universe, fermentation is broadly thought of as the process by which alcohol is made, and little more. Our beers, wines and ciders start out as their sugary counterparts and are converted into alcohol by yeast cells, the most common being saccharomyces cerevisiae.
But outside of brewing and winemaking, fermentation plays many other roles in creating what we consume. The goal of fermentation might be to change a flavor profile, or to preserve something that is otherwise perishable, or to increase the health benefits of your food or drink. Many cultures use fermentation in the kitchen, and it is a process that pervades our diets more than many people realize. For example, sauerkraut, chocolate and yogurt are all products of fermentation. In addition to common items we find at the supermarket like pickles, there are many other delicious fermented products that are not as widely distributed. One such product is jun, a fermented beverage made from green tea and honey. Asheville residents are lucky enough to have a local company making and bottling jun right here in town: Shanti Elixirs.
Shanti Elixirs is named after its founder, Shanti Volpe, who began making jun in 2016 after having her first taste at a beekeeping workshop by the College of Melissae. “A longtime fan of probiotics, I was immediately intrigued by the lineage, flavor and health benefits of this fermented drink,” says Volpe. “I began studying the art of this ancient brewing tradition from Rebecca Robertson, a sacred beekeeper and jun brewer, and a passion for jun was born!”
Like kombucha, the fermentation process for jun involves a SCOBY: Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast, also referred to as the “mother.” “Jun fermentation is the process that transforms green tea and raw honey into a living elixir for health,” says Volpe. “As soon as the Jun SCOBY is added to the green tea and raw honey mixture, the bacteria and yeast from the SCOBY begin to culture the tea, creating good bacteria. The first fermentation takes place in a brewing jar that is covered with a cloth and the second fermentation takes place in a sealed bottle which increases the carbon dioxide and bubbles in your brew.”
The fermentation process imparts the jun with properties that benefit the gut and immune system. “Jun has naturally occurring prebiotics and probiotics, also known as synbiotics, that help you feel good by improving your gut health, increasing your energy, detoxifying your body, reducing joint discomfort and boosting your immune system,” says Volpe. “Healthy jun acids act like lemon water which means that they are acidic in nature but alkalizing in the gut. Jun is similar to apple cider vinegar in that it contains high levels of healthy organic acids that help to detoxify the organs.”
Shanti Elixirs is in the process of raising funds to open a mobile Jun Bar. With it, they will be able to pour jun at events and festivals, and it will also serve as a delivery vehicle. The vehicle will be decorated with a design created by artist and activist Matt Willey. You can see the fundraising campaign at WeFunder.com/Shanti.Elixirs.
Christopher Heagney is the owner of Daidala Ciders, located in Asheville at the Cotton Mill Studios at 122 Riverside Drive.