Jamie is a holistic nutritionist and the owner, creator and fermentress behind Moonbrew Tonic Co, a Vancouver based beverage company that brews a beautiful, delicate fermented tonic called jun. Jun is a gently effervescent probiotic and nutrient rich beverage made with green tea, honey, and a variety of healing herbs fermented with a wild culture of bacteria and yeast. I am convinced there is a little magic thrown in as well.
Jamie’s business was born out of a desire to use food as tool for wellbeing and to connect on a deeper level with nature, her community and herself. I was first introduced to Jamie Lee and jun a year ago when I was asked to write a profile about her for the newsletter at the Canadian School for Natural Nutrition. I was intrigued by her story and by jun. In a kombucha obsessed city like Vancouver, I was drawn to her and her product as she was carving a new path, taking risks and growing her business with such thought, care and integrity. I knew that I wanted to get to know her better and tell her story more fully.
Here we are a year later, a year that for me has been very much centered around health and healing and has lead me on a journey of reconnection with myself and a desire to carve out my own path and fully bring my inspired work to life and share it with the world. I want to celebrate the beauty and healing nature of food and to help others feel connected and empowered to make choices that support a deep feeling of wellbeing.
Through this journey I have come to understand that we all have gifts to share that are unique to us as individuals and that more important than the work itself, the real gift we have to share with others is ourselves. As with any journey, there have certainly been many ups and downs but this healing process has opened my heart wide and created a strong desire to connect with those who are living and working in alignment with their purpose and vision and doing the work they were clearly put here to do, which Jamie is doing so beautifully with Moonbrew. I have a vision of the world where everyone believes in themselves and knows they have important gifts to share. I hope to make a small step towards making my vision a reality by telling the stories of people who are using food as a tool for wellbeing in their work and their lives and daring to live a life that is meaningful to them and by sharing their gifts and themselves with others.
Of course it all comes back to food with me and I jump at the opportunity for any food related adventure, especially one that takes us into nature. So when Jamie mentioned getting out of the city to harvest elderflowers for a limited release spring jun tonic I said yes without a moment of hesitation. It was such a gift to be able to share this time of connection together with elderflowers in our hair, surrounded by the heady aroma of the blossoms. My time with Jamie in the elderflowers inspired me deeply. To think that we were both doing our work in those moments with such joy, connection and alignment makes me smile from ear to ear. I didn’t want to let go of the feeling from that day so I created a rhubarb and elderflower cordial that will last for weeks to come. Whenever I want to connect back to the way I felt amongst the elders that day, I can pour myself a glass of cordial and take a moment to reconnect. Food has a magical ability to connect us to a particular time and place and nourish us on every level: body, mind and spirit.
Interview with Jamie
Tell me about your journey to starting Moonbrew Tonic Co and your decision to focus your work on using food as a tool for wellbeing.
It all began while I was living in Toronto. A shift was happening. The city I once loved was no longer serving me. The cushy corporate job became like prison. And the long-term relationship turned more toxic by the day. This stirred up my soul. At the time it felt confusing but quickly became clear. I began my studies in holistic nutrition and it was not long after that I realized I belonged where I felt most supported and held — home. I moved back to Vancouver to finish my studies and pursue holistic nutrition consulting. Short lived, I stopped consulting as I couldn’t seem to connect with my clients. I realized I wanted to help on a larger scale but felt conflicted because, how was I to do that? And even, who am I to do that? Especially as I was still working in a 9-5 work environment that I was painfully unhappy in (had to pay the bills somehow).
Fast-forward to an evening of change. I attended a meditation circle to which we were guided through a series of meditations. It was one of the first moments in recent memory I paused to consider what had come up for me. Happiness. Love. Kombucha. My initial reaction was to laugh it off but I wrote it down anyway (almost unwillingly as I thought it was too silly). This became the first step in truly following my intuition.
I have since followed this knowing, from leaving my 9-5 job and brewing in my apartment to finding local retailers and hiring my first employee. This has been absolutely life changing, in the best way. Not only am I nourishing my body from the inside out using the potent healing benefits of jun, I am nourishing my soul.
What do you love most about your work?
There are so many components to love but nothing compares to connection. I feel this on an ongoing basis, on many levels. I experience connection to the herbs, living jun culture and ultimately, the earth in a way that I have never felt before. I experience connection with community and feel supported as a human and as a business. I also experience connection with myself which has greatly intensified since making the decision to follow my intuition and passion. This is now a priority for me.
You have a strong connection to nature and the rhythms of the earth and moon. How did your love of plants and nature come to be?
To be honest, I think it has always been there though I was simply unaware of it. When I began focusing my energy on the natural rhythms and cycles of our mother earth and grandmother moon, it seemed as though there was an ease and flow that seamlessly integrated itself into my being. It felt like home; as though I was already familiar with this experience and feeling. And I have been immersed in it ever since.
Do you have a deep connection to one plant in particular or do you love them all?
My plant focus changes regularly, simply through experimentation. Though, they say it is better to know 10 plants on a intimate level than 100 plants on a superficial level. I agree with this knowledge wholeheartedly and tend to place my focus on the plants I use most often in our jun tonics: rose, sage, lavender, mint, lemon balm, nettle, and tonic herbs like reishi and ginger.
Why is it important to you to use locally sourced and foraged ingredients in your tonics?
I make a point to use ingredients sourced from our land for a few reasons. The first being that I did not start this company with the sole purpose of monetary gain. I wanted to create something fuelled from purpose, passion and integrity. To me, this looks like sustainable practices that ensure the least environmental impact. Second, foraging and harvesting ingredients strengthened my connection to the land. Also, from experience, I knew food sourced locally tasted better, offered more nutrients and supports our local agriculture.
In what place do you feel the strongest connection to nature and to yourself?
The ocean is my ally. If I’m ever questioning my connection to intuition or searching for clarity, I take it to the ocean. Better yet, I dive in.
Where do you find inspiration for creating new infusions? What inspired this limited release elderflower infusion in particular?
It may sound wild but new infusions often come to me as though I have manifested them. Only once, with our WARRIOR tonic, did I have to craft a specific recipe (as individuals were asking for a jun tonic with ginger)! The limited edition, WISDOM tonic,
infused with hand-harvested elderflower, was inspired by last season’s harvest. It was a whimsical afternoon spent frolicking beneath elder trees with flowers in our hair and wheelbarrows packed-full of aromatic stems. I went home that night to create a cordial, with lemon, that turned out to be the best tasting jun tonic I had ever brewed! I must give credit for the name of this one as it was my lawyer who made the beautiful connection between “elder” and the wisdom they share.
What is the feeling you most want people to experience when they drink your tonics? What are you hoping to communicate through your work with jun?
Again, it comes back to connection. By drinking our healing jun tonics, my hope is to establish and/or strengthen the connection to one’s body. There is also increased energy, happiness and an overall sense of wellbeing that comes with drinking jun.
You mention that the jun culture of bacteria and yeast is particular in its conditions to thrive, somewhat like the delicate nature of an orchid. What are the gifts and challenges that arise from working with a wild product like jun?
I am continuously being tested by my cultures (or so it seems) and at times it’s as though I’m at their mercy. I now recognize the challenges to be gifts as I learn from them. The art of slowing down, staying consciously connected and exuding good energy are all teachings I have been gifted by the culture. Also that when shit hits the fan, there’s still room for growth.
Fermenting is an ancient and intuitive culinary practice. How does working with this traditional process of making jun help you to trust your own intuition and inner wisdom?
A big part of this traditional process for me is working with my hands. Having my bacteria infuse with that of the mother culture to create a very unique product is like nothing I have experienced. It is truly a product of my love. Up until now, I have been guided by the culture and intuitive knowing to recognize when the brew is ready (or not ready), if there’s too much yeast vs. bacteria, if the room temperature is too hot, if the tea to honey ratio is off balance and even if the space they occupy has bad vibes (I keep a small sage bundle on hand for a smudge if necessary). That being said, the larger we grow as a business, the more important numbers are to ensure new brewers know exactly when it’s perfect for harvest.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from nature and from fermentation in particular?
That without love, we cannot thrive.
Home kitchens are foundational to health and wellbeing. How do you use food as a tool for wellbeing in your daily life?
I never thought I’d say it but food has not been a top priority since starting Moonbrew. Although my studies at CSNN provided me with a plethora of knowledge around health, starting a business has taken precedence in the last year. I no longer cook as much as I used to or visit the farmer’s market each weekend though instead of beating myself up for it, I have implemented beverage-based solutions for my wellbeing as I find drinks to be a simple and easy grab-and-go option.
Tea is a big one. I brew a herbal tea each night, specific to how I am feeling. Another is elixirs. Every morning, I create a nutrient-packed elixir with foods like fresh ginger, turmeric, cacao, ashwaganda and superfood powders like collagen and colostrum, then mix with nut milk. I’ll warm it up on the stove with a spoonful of coconut oil and blend for a frothy and delightful sip. Lastly, jun! I cannot express how amazing I feel when I drink it. It has helped me to heal chronic candidiasis and other digestive issues as it’s so full of healing probiotics, digestive enzymes, and essential vitamins. Often, during an event or tradeshow, I run solely off jun and feel full of energy throughout the entire day.
You can find my recipe for elderflower and rhubarb cordial over in the recipe section and if you are lucky enough you might get your hands on a limited release bottle of her WISDOM elderflower and lemon jun which is being sold exclusively at The Federal Store in Vancouver.