Our History: Jun, SCOBYs and the Inception of Shanti Elixirs

Aug 26, 2020

When we trace our way back to our first Jun culture, we find ourselves sitting with Rob Lenfesty, owner of Mandala Chocolate. Although he wasn’t the one specifically who passed it down to us, he is a part of our story. 

The story begins in 2016. Shanti Volpe, Founder and CEO of Shanti Elixirs was then a beekeeper. She had learned about a Sacred Art of Beekeeping Workshop presented by Laura Bee, founder of The College of The Melissae, and knew in her gut, she was meant to attend. Many barriers stood in her way, such as the cost of the workshop and her work schedule at the hospital. However, with the powers of the universe and some determination, Shanti acquired a partial scholarship to attend and a co-worker covered her shift. 

This workshop was being hosted by Rebecca Robertson, Bee Mystress Extraordinaire in her home. Before this moment, Shanti had never experienced Jun. At the time, on a strict candida diet, Shanti declined her first opportunity to try this life-changing elixir. 

Rebecca began to explain exactly why Shanti should try Jun. From the prebiotics and probiotics to the added ginger and the pure magic of healing Jun offers. After the first sip of Jun traveled through Shanti’s body, she knew she needed to learn everything she could about brewing Jun. 

After the workshop was over, Rebecca invited Shanti to stay and learn all the stages of brewing, including flavoring. That very night was when the Shanti Elixirs’ mother SCOBY was acquired. 

The History of Our SCOBY

Before we talk about how a simple brewing lesson led to a business bringing Jun to all those in Asheville and surrounding areas, let us share more about the amazing way Jun found its way to us. 

In 2015, Rebecca attended The Women’s Herbal Conference in Black Mountain. The topic was “energetic lifts with herbs, elixirs and stones” and the speaker Sarah Thomas offered a Jun SCOBY to someone if they would then share SCOBYs with others. Rebecca, wearing bee antennas and jumping up and down with enthusiasm was more than interested, she was ready to spread the love. As we know, she did just that! Yet, the question remains…where did these SCOBYs come from? 

This is where Rob comes in. Rob was first introduced to Jun by two gentlemen who were sharing Jun elixirs in small bottles in Southern Oregon. They had acquired their SCOBY in Asia and its roots led all the way back to Tibet.  When Rob met these two men, one wanted to trademark Jun and the other was appalled by the idea and instead wanted to share it with anyone and everyone. The one wishing to spread the magic of Jun knew that Rob was traveling the world at that time and gave Rob his first SCOBY.  He told him, “this is medicine the world needs. Go forth and spread Jun to the world!” That is exactly what Rob did. From folks right here in Asheville to brewers in Hawaii, South America, the West Coast and beyond. He took the message seriously and spread Jun as far as he humanly could. Shanti and Rob did not meet until 2017 at The Asheville Yoga Festival and they have organically met time and time again. Rob was able to trace the SCOBY that Rebecca shared with Shanti back to him and declares with sweet emotion that “Shanti Elixirs has done Jun right!”

The History of Jun

Although we are able to share with you the history of how Shanti discovered Jun and the rich origin of our mother SCOBY, the actual history of Jun is far more complex. To gather more to share, we spoke again to Rob and dug our way through what we have discovered over the years. 

It is believed that Jun, pronounced zjŭn, means probiotics in Chinese, medicine in Tibetian and mushroom in Japanese. Wherever the origin of the name came from and it’s intended meaning, we do know Jun was kept a secret in Tibet. This is why many believe so little is actually known about Jun’s history. 

We do know that honey was available before sugarcane and we believe when China took over Tibet, it also reimagined Jun into what is widely known as Kombucha. From our research and stories we have heard, we believe Jun existed first and with the purpose of healing and caring for our bodies. 

As we have shared in our What is Jun blog, Jun is made with green tea and honey while Kombucha is black tea and sugar. As you can imagine, each creates a different experience for the body, mind and soul. 

Beginning Shanti Elixirs

Now, elated as Shanti was, she knew she wanted to continue to spread the Jun love just as wide as Rebecca, Sarah, Rob and others before them had. 

She thought to herself, “how am I supposed to share this magic with the world?” She began by sharing the elixir with her family, friends, and co-workers. These were the folks that gently nudged Shanti to transform what she had learned into a business, allowing them and many more to enjoy Shanti-Jun!

In the spirit of the Jun culture and all those that led Jun to Asheville, for the entire first year, anyone who asked was given a SCOBY! In the years to come, Shanti Elixirs prioritized education, brewing instructions and making both SCOBYs and brewing kits available for anyone nationwide

Our favorite piece of this story, however, is when Rebecca, who to this day is an avid Shanti Elixirs supporter noticed her SCOBY had stopped working, she was able to reach out to us and receive a healthy SCOBY sourced from the original one that led us here. 

Sometimes a beeline isn’t straight… [but] there is magic in that little square hive box holding a piece of your heart and the potential to shape your life’s journey.” – Rebecca Robertson