July 20th, 2008
Traditional Alcoholic Beverages from Ethiopia
Talla is an Ethiopian home-brewed beer which differs from the others in some respects. First it is brewed with barley or wheat, hops, or spices. Secondly, it has a smoky flavour due to the addition of bread darkened by baking and use of a fermentation vessel which has been smoked by inversion over smoldering wood. Talla is not processed under government regulations hence the alcohol content varies but is usually around 2% to 4%. Filtered tella has a higher alcohol content ranging from 5% to 6%.
Tej (indigenous honey wine) is a home-processed, but also commercially available honey wine. It is prepared from honey, water and leaves of Gesho. Sometimes, widely for commercial purposes, mixture of honey and sugar could be used for its preparation. In cases where sugar is used as part of the substrate, natural food colouring is added so that the beverage attains a yellow colour similar to that made from honey. Good quality tej is yellow, sweet, effervescent and cloudy due to the content of yeasts. A study found that the mean alcohol content of tej was between 6.98% and 10.9%.8 Another study found that the average alcohol content of tej was 6.07%.
Korefe is the name of the local beer made in Begemder Province among the Koumant ethnic group. Dehusked barley is left in water overnight, and after that toasted and milled. It is mixed with water and dried gesho leaves, and fermented in a clay container for two to three months. When the beverage is needed, a small quantity of the mixture is taken, more water is added and after a day’s fermentation the beverage is ready for consumption. Shamit is the local beer made among the Gurage ethnic group. Tef, kita and germinated barley (bekel) are milled and mixed with water, and the mixture is sieved after three to four days of fermentation. Dehusked barley is toasted on the mitad, milled and added to the mixture, and the beverage is ready to serve the next day, when Ethiopian cardamom, mitmitta, black cummin and bishop’s weed are added.
Araki is a distilled beverage. Ground gesho leaves and water are kept for three to four days and after that a kita made of teff or other cereals and germinated barley or wheat are added. The mixture is allowed to ferment for five to six days and then distilled. In the villages distillation is carried out with primitive equipment made of gourds and wood. The local beer tella can also be distilled to produce araqe. The araki can be redistilled and will then have a higher alcohol content. The average alcohol content of dagim araki is around 45%. The term dagim in Amharic refers to ‘second time’ and indicates that it is distilled a second time. Araki is brewed in rural and semi-urban areas and is used more commonly by farmers and semi-urban dwellers than by people who live in the cities. In cities, those who drink araki are predominantly lower class people or those who have become dependent upon alcohol and cannot afford to buy industrially produced alcohol. Since the government has no control over production of locally brewed alcoholic drinks, it is difficult to estimate the amount of alcohol production and consumption in Ethiopia.
Other alcoholic beverages to be found are borde (local beer) and katikala (a homemade distilled drink from maize or millet).