Balché is a kind of mead, an intoxicating beverage consumed by the ancient Maya and by some of their descendants today. These people make the drink in a trough or a canoe, which they fill with water and honey, adding chunks of bark and roots from the balché tree. The mixture begins to ferment immediately. It results in an inebriating drink the people consume during rituals and believe to have magic powers.

The peoples of Mesoamerica have long held the balché tree and their mysterious beverage sacred. Because the drink had strong religious significance to the Maya, the Spaniards banned the beverage in an attempt to convert them to Christianity. The ban was observed until a Maya named Chi convinced the Spaniards that balché had important health benefits and that many Maya were dying as a result of the prohibition. The Spaniards then lifted their ban, and balché rituals resumed.



The Lacandon. . . believe that the gods gave balché rituals to them, and that because the gods themselves first became inebriated by the beverage, the people from then on had a duty to imitate the inebriation of the gods and to experience that same exhilaration. The Lacandon chant incantations while preparing the balché. . . First, the brewer offers his drink to the gods; then, later, the people partake of it, usually just before dawn. The Lacandon call the balché brewer “Lord of the Balché” and they identify him with Bohr or Bol, the god of inebriation.

— Nectar and Ambrosia: An Encyclopedia of Food in World Mythology, Tamra Andrews 2000, ISBN 1-57607-036-0

Inspired by and in reverence to the ancient Yucatec Maya, Ontopo Tulum attendees will have the unique experience to try a similar indigenous ferment using some of the same ingredients such as local honey and bark of the balché tree. The fermentation process will be modified slightly, beginning 7 days prior to Ontopo at a nearby campsite. Using glass bowls covered in muslin cloth instead of a wooden canoe, the fermentation will take place in the wilds of the Yucatan jungle, protected only by a tent. The addition of the Kombucha culture to the honey/balché mixture is intended to symbiotically and spiritually combine this ancient local mead to the concurrently ancient tradition and sacred beverage generically called Kombucha, known to the ancients as “the tea of everlasting life.”

Attendees of Ontopo will be served this sacred brew just before dawn on Sunday in an offering to the God of Inebriation. This ritual will be followed by full-body bio wraps using the culture regenerations formed during the process of this special nectar. You will also receive a piece of this newly formed starter culture in a takeaway vacuum pouch to continue this new tradition, unique to Ontopo, in your home.

Rich Awn is Master Brewer of an integral form of Kombucha. His brand, Mombucha, is designed to be a “culture jam” to the rapidly expanding commercial Kombucha market. His line of super-premium, low-alcohol, high-nutrient medicinal ferments are single-regeneration nano-brews prepared three quarts at a time using locally produced pure Grade B maple syrup and other ingredients sourced as organically and sustainably as possible. Mombucha is flavored only by the initial steeping of the organic teas, fruits, roots, grains, and beans used in the fermentation process, never after and never artificially. The result is unlike any other brew available supporting the claim, “The Mother of All Kombuchas,” retaining its own magic and passing that onto the imbiber.