Crafting Tradition and Taste: The Story of Jaya-vara Meadery

In Cambodia, where tradition weaves through the fabric of daily life, a unique craft brewing company is redefining the art of mead making. Jaya-vara Meadery, founded by Chetra Lieng and his wife Becca Lieng, brings the ancient craft of mead—honey wine—into the contemporary Cambodian beverage scene with a story as rich and enticing as the flavors they brew.

Chetra Lieng’s journey into the world of mead began in an unexpected way. “I learned mead making in the US from a local Meadery. While building a kitchen for them I was so intrigued, I traded some of my construction hours to learn how to make mead,” he shared. This passion led him and his wife to Cambodia, where they initially offered mead as a welcome drink at their resort in Kep. The positive feedback was overwhelming, propelling them to enter and subsequently thrive in the annual Kampot Craft Brew festival in 2023.

A commitment to diversity and creativity

Jaya-vara Meadery officially opened its doors in February 2023, embarking on a mission to introduce mead to the Cambodian market. Despite initial skepticism about the viability of mead in Cambodia, the venture has seen a flood of support. “We were pleasantly surprised at the flood of support even at our first event – followed by every event since,” Jaya vara explained. The dream is to continue growing, with aspirations to open a tasting room and partner with sustainable organizations in beekeeping and agriculture.

At the heart of Jaya-vara Meadery is a commitment to diversity and creativity in the alcohol industry. “We’re craft, we’re Khmer/American, and we’re bringing a unique alcohol drink to the market,” Jaya vara stated, emphasizing the meadery’s distinctive position as a craft brewer in Cambodia. One of their challenges is educating the market about mead, which many mistakenly categorize with beer or wine. “Many historians consider it the oldest alcoholic drink…mead dates back at least 9000 years ago to a Chinese tomb in the 7th millennium b.c.e,” he adds, highlighting the rich history of mead making.

Jaya-vara Meadery prides itself on using local fruits and spices, including Khmer pineapple, roselle flowers, and Kampot pepper/chillis, to create a product that is not only locally made but also sustainable and creative. Their signature coffee flavor, featuring coffee from Khmer roasters, and their special release products showcasing local Khmer honey, underline their commitment to the local community and environment.

The meadery’s efforts extend beyond the brewing process, with a vision to benefit the community and diversify the market. “As a Khmer brewer, I can’t help but notice how few Khmer are involved in the craft brew scene… It’s something I believe my fellow Cambodians could offer a very interesting perspective on,” Jaya vara noted, emphasizing the potential for more Cambodian involvement in craft brewing.

The journey and the ethos behind Jaya-vara Meadery

For Chetra Lieng and his wife, the decision to establish their business in Cambodia was driven by a desire for a change of pace and lifestyle.

“The lifestyle difference from the US to Cambodia is what intrigued us to stay… where we can let time slow down so that we can have more quality living and make new friends,” he reflected, capturing the essence of their journey and the ethos behind Jaya-vara Meadery.

As Jaya-vara Meadery continues to grow and inspire, it stands as a testament to the power of passion, creativity, and community in bringing ancient traditions to new heights. Through their craft, Chetra Lieng and his team are not just brewing mead; they are crafting a legacy that intertwines the rich heritage of Cambodia with the timeless art of mead making.

Tom Starkey
Author: Tom Starkey

Tom Starkey is an International Development graduate from Sussex University with 12-years of experience across 4 continents, Tom's goal is that he wants to showcase his love for Cambodia, where he lives, works and now happily calls home.