drink 2017: cover story

Booch, PLEASE

“Let nothing which can be treated by diet be treated by other means.” — Maimonides

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Fermented foods are all the rage and kombucha is at the forefront, a gateway drug to the fermented kingdom. The fizzy, slightly sweet drink with a sharp bite and fruity flavors is rather addicting. Hive Alive’s jun, pronounced june, made with honey instead of sugar, is the newest player in town.

Hive Alive was started a year ago in Ponte Vedra by Mary “Queen Bee” and James “Worker Bee” Sneed. They’re on a mission to build a company that holds community and health to the highest standards. The (mostly) retired CPAs were inspired to start their own journey in the beverage industry by the nephew of a close family friend, Wiley. Wiley was chronically ill and suffered from ulcerative colitis. He found that drinking jun provided great health benefits for him and his friends.

If you’re a lover of traditional kombucha, a black tea made with sugar fermented with the help of a SCOBY (the acronym stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast), then you’ll probably enjoy jun, a more mellow, slightly sweeter version made with green tea and honey. As far as tea goes, green tea is traditionally less processed than black tea, which is roasted for part of its color and flavor (due to the expense and delicate nature, white tea is often left out of the mix).

To make jun, a different type of SCOBY is required, so its taste is unlike that of its more typical, mass-produced cousin. This kind of kombucha is not often found in stores. According to Mary, at the time they registered Hive Alive, they were one of “only four companies in the U.S. selling jun kombucha.”

Hive Alive likes to describe jun as the fun sister of the kombucha family of mostly non-alcoholic drinks—kombucha sold in retail establishments has less than 0.5 percent ABV. (In 2015, CNN quoted Ed Rothbauer, owner of Colorado-based High Country Kombucha, as saying it would take eight bottles of kombucha to get a buzz equal to that of a single beer.) The Sneeds say jun is a version that “has the same great benefits of kombucha, but holds a lighter, softer and generally more palatable flavor, and isn’t nearly as sour.” That palatable sweetness is due to the local honey they use to ferment the tea. It’s a good intro to wary kombucha tasters, and if you’ve been put off by the sometimes-strong, sour taste of kombucha, try Hive Alive. Mary said they get lots of positive feedback from customers.

Jun has all the same benefits you’ve come to know and love from kombucha: good-for-your-belly probiotics, nutrients, antioxidants and flavonoids. The down-to-earth Mary jokingly says, “I swear, I still don’t know what a flavonoid is … I don’t have a chemistry background.” However, a chemistry background wasn’t needed for her to create some amazing flavors. It took the passionate home chef a year-and-a-half of experimentation to create a product line that’s as different, diverse and delicious as any kombucha you’ve ever tried.

Pop a bottle of Pineapple Turmeric, Lemon Ginger, Simple Jun, Tangerine Cream, Groovy Grape or the recently added Cherry Limeade and Blueberry Hibiscus.

“It’s exhausting, but I love it. I’ve met the most interesting people,” said Mary. “ … That was a bonus that I hadn’t counted on.”
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FIND KOMBUCHA LOCALLY:

GRASSROOTS NATURAL MARKET
2007 Park St., Riverside, 384-4474, thegrassrootsmarket.com
1915 East-West Parkway, Fleming Island,
541-0009, grassrootsnaturalfoods.com

EARTH FARE
11901 Atlantic Blvd., Intracoastal, 645-9244
11700 San Jose Blvd., Mandarin, 262-5423, earthfare.com

LUCKY’S MARKET
580 Atlantic Blvd., Neptune Beach, 595-1916, luckysmarket.com

NATIVE SUN NATURAL FOODS MARKET & DELI
1585 Third St. N., Jax Beach, 458-1390
10000 San Jose Blvd., Mandarin, 260-6950
11030 Baymeadows Rd., 260-2791, nativesunjax.com

THE MANATEE CAFÉ
525 S.R. 16, Ste. 106, St. Augustine, 826-0210, manateecafe.com

LOCAL BOOCH KOMBUCHA BREWING
687-4800, localbooch.com

GNARBUCHA, CRAFT BREWED KOMBUCHA
1257 Mayport Rd., Atlantic Beach, 508-3330, gnarbucha.com

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DRINK 2017 STORIES

BEER: SAND, SALT & SUDS
story by Marc Wisdom

WINE: BOTTLED POETRY
story by Claire Goforth

COCKTAILS: THE SWEETER THE SPIRITS
story by Claire Goforth

MEAD: SO THICK AND SO SWEET
story by Marc Wisdom

KOMBUCHA: BOOCH, PLEASE
story by Brentley Stead

Photography by Madison Gross

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