Profile: Nunc Living Jun, Buckingham, UK

I met Andrew Mills online at the recent virtual Kombucha Summit. He held an impromptu Zoom tour of his facility, showcasing his compact production area in a barn on his property in Buckinghamshire, England. He built it for just £12,000 ($16,000). His motivation was to find a use for the abundance of honey from the beehives he and his wife care for. After experimenting with meade (too sweet), and before he’d even heard of kombucha, he started fermenting Jun and was delighted with the results.

The story of Nunc Living Jun-Kombucha began in 2018, when Andrew decided to live more in the present — Nunc is the Latin word for now. Hence, Nunc Living = Living for Now.

A taste of honey

Andrew is passionate about bees and the unpasteurized honey that is the raw material for his business. He keeps three hives, named Beatrix, Jasmine, and Shelia after their queens. As winter arrives, he watches female worker bees cast out the male drones to freeze to death in the icy cold, securing the limited food supply for the rest of the hive. Indeed, the life of a drone is fraught with danger. This beekeeper website tells us:

Each must first compete with other drones to mate with a queen bee–the queen mates with multiple drones for greater sperm selection. The 10-20 drones that succeed in mating with a queen must compete with hundreds or thousands of other drones, depending upon the population at the drone congregating area. When a drone mates with a queen and releases his semen, it happens with such a force that his endophallus is ripped from his abdomen. When his abdomen rips open, he usually dies shortly after.

Ouch.

Nunc Jun-Kombucha is fermented in small batches using raw honey, green teas, and premium botanicals.

When Nunc started, they exclusively used their own honey. They knew exactly how the bees had been treated and the quality of the honey. As they have grown, they have begun to source honey from nearby beekeepers. This allows them to check that the bees are kept to a high standard.

Honey is a precious ingredient they treat with care. For example, they make sure the temperature of the honey never exceeds beehive temperature (35C).

Every batch of Nunc is unique. While they brew in a manner to minimize the differences between batches, they recognize that raw honey tastes different depending on what flowers the bees have been visiting.

They select green teas that compliment the flavors of the raw honey.

Flavors

Juni-Purr contains Mao Feng green tea and juniper berries.

Rose Blush is made with Darjeeling green tea, rose petals, and hibiscus flowers.

Hops Monster is an award-winning blend of Japanese sencha green tea and three types of hops. A mere six months after it was introduced, Hops Monster flavor was awarded a star by the UK’s Great Taste Awards.

“Bright and effervescent in the glass. The aroma is hugely inviting… Bright and clean on the palate… The finish is clean, with some length of soft sourness, and inspires further sipping.”

—- Feedback from one of the judges in the Great Taste Awards

Challenges

Following his early experiments with brewing jun, Andrew was ready to launch the brand in March of this year — just as the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. A friend with a gourmet coffee business had arranged to accompany him to music and cultural festivals around Britain. Indeed, that was why he chose to use cans–festival sites ban glass containers.

With the festivals canceled, the primary revenue source has been local shops and an increasing online presence. Nunc is available from Wise Bartender, The Food Market, and The Thyme Store.

Another challenge that Andrew faces is the concern some vegans have about consuming honey. That and the certification to prove they have an organic product–since the bees might collect pollen from non-organic sources. Nunc is addressing this issue:

According to the UK Soil Association, to be certified organic, 95% of the ingredients in our brews need to be organic – and guess what? Over 95% of the ingredients we use in our three flavours are organic. So why aren’t we organic? Well, it costs money, and as we are a small business, money is tight. So, whilst being organic is important to us, we do have other priorities right now, but please be rest assured, in the coming months, our drinks will be certified by the Soil Association as organic.

Symbiosis

Andrew is a big believer in the value of people in this industry sharing information to help each other out. He connected with Adam Vanni from Jarr Kombucha after hearing the March 31 podcast interview on Booch News. He shared details about his equipment and process on his Kombucha Summit virtual brewery tour. Indeed, as you’ll hear in the podcast, Andrew has extended an open invitation for anyone with questions about his operation to contact him.

Podcast

Listen to the podcast to hear the story of Nunc Living in Andrew’s own words.

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