Palm wine is an alcoholic beverage created from the sap of various species of palm tree such as the palmyra, date palms, and coconut palms. It is known by various names in different regions and is common in various parts of Asia, Africa the Caribbean and South America.
Palm wine production by small holders and individual farmers may promote conservation as palm trees become a source of regular household income that may economically be worth more than the value of timber sold.
Palm wine is known as matango, mbuh, tumbu liquor, white stuff in Cameroon; emu, nkwu, ogogoro in Nigeria; poyo in Sierra Leone, nsamba in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; "Manjenvo" in Cabinda Angola; nsafufuo in Ghana; "Taadi" in North India,"Thati Kallu"(కల్లు) in Telugu,"Kallu" (கள்ளு) & "Kallu"(കള്ള്) in Tamil & Malayalam respectively; Htan Yay (ထန်းရည်) in Myanmar; and Toddy in Malaysia; mnazi in the Mijikenda language of Kenya; bahar (Kadazan-Dusun) and goribon (Rungus) in Sabah, Borneo; vino de coyol in Central America; and tubâ in the Philippines and Mexico as well as in Borneo. In Leyte, the red tubâ is aged with the tan bark for up to six months to two years, until it gets dark red and tapping its glass container gives a sound that does not suddenly stop. This type of tubâ is called bahal (for tubâ aged this way for up to six months) and bahalina (for tubâ aged thus for up to a year or more). Toddy is also consumed in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, where in Sri Lanka it is known as thal ra (වල් රා), kithul ra ගල් රා), or pol ra (පොල් රා) according to the plant used to make toddy.
The sap is extracted and collected by a tapper. Typically the sap is collected from the cut flower of the palm tree. A container is fastened to the flower stump to collect the sap. The white liquid that initially collects tends to be very sweet and non-alcoholic before it is fermented. An alternative method is the felling of the entire tree. Where this is practiced, a fire is sometimes lit at the cut end to facilitate the collection of sap.
Palm sap begins fermenting immediately after collection, due to natural yeasts in the air (often spurred by residual yeast left in the collecting container). Within two hours, fermentation yields an aromatic wine of up to 4% alcohol content, mildly intoxicating and sweet. The wine may be allowed to ferment longer, up to a day, to yield a stronger, more sour and acidic taste, which some people prefer. Longer fermentation produces vinegar instead of stronger wine.
Palm wine may be distilled to create a stronger drink, which goes by different names depending on the region (e.g., arrack, village gin, charayam, and country whiskey). Throughout Nigeria, this is commonly called ogogoro. In some parts in Cameroon it is known as Afofo. In parts of southern Ghana distilled palm wine is called akpeteshi or burukutu. In Togo and Benin it is called sodabe, in the Philippines it is called lambanog, while in Tunisia it is called lagmi. In coastal parts of Kenya, it is known as "chang'aa". Chang'aa can be applied to wounds to stop heavy bleeding (mechanism of action not known). In Ivory Coast, it is called "koutoukou".
Consumption by region
In Africa, the sap used to create palm wine is most often taken from wild datepalms such as the silver date palm (Phoenix sylvestris), the palmyra, and the jaggery palm (Caryota urens), or from oil palm such as the African Oil Palm (Elaeis guineense) or from Raffia palms, kithul palms, or nipa palms. In part of central and western Democratic Republic of the Congo, palm wine is called malafu. Palm wine tapping is mentioned in the novel Things Fall Apart by the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe and is central to the plot of the novel The Palm Wine Drinkard by Nigerian author Amos Tutuola. Palm wine plays an important role in many ceremonies in parts of Nigeria such as among the Igbo (or Ibo) peoples, and elsewhere in central and western Africa. Guests at weddings, birth celebrations, and funeral wakes are served generous quantities. Palm wine is often infused with medicinal herbs to remedy a wide variety of physical complaints. As a token of respect to deceased ancestors, many drinking sessions begin with a small amount of palm wine spilled on the ground (Kulosa malafu in Kikongo ya Leta). Palm wine is enjoyed by men and women, although women usually drink it in less public venues.
In parts of southeastern Nigeria, namely Igboland, palm wine is locally referred to as “mmanya ocha” (literally, “white drink”), with “ngwo” and “nkwu” variants. It plays a very important role in traditional Igbo settings. In Urualla, for instance, and other “ideator” towns, it is the drink of choice for traditional weddings. A young man who is going for the first introduction at his in-laws’ house is required to bring palm wine with him. There are varying gallons of palm wine required, depending on the customs of the different regions in Igboland. This culture can be observed in a similar fashion in the neighbouring north-western regions of Cameroon. (North West Region).
There are four types of palm wine in the central and southern Democratic Republic of the Congo. From the oil palm comes ngasi, dibondo comes from the raffia palm, cocoti from the coconut palm, and mahusu from a short palm which grows in the savannah areas of western Bandundu and Kasai provinces.
In India and South Asia, coconut palms and Palmyra palms such as the Arecaceae and Borassus are preferred. It is mainly produced from the lala palm (Hyphaene coriacea) by cutting the stem and collecting the sap. In some areas of India, palm wine is evaporated to produce the unrefined sugar called jaggery.
In parts of India, the unfermented sap is called neera (pathaneer in Tamil Nadu) and is refrigerated, stored and distributed by semi-government agencies. A little lime (calcium hydroxide) is added to the sap to prevent it from fermenting. Neera, similar to fruit-juice products. is relatively rich in potassium.
In India, palm wine or toddy is served as either neera or pathaneer (a sweet, non-alcoholic beverage derived from fresh sap) or kallu (a sour beverage made from fermented sap, but not as strong as wine). Palm sap contains natural yeasts, which perform the fermentation of glucose to alcohol, as well as acetobacter, which subsequently converts the alcohol to acetic acid (vinegar). Optimal consumption time is one day after tapping, when the vinegar content is minimal; beyond this time, it becomes increasingly sour. Some palm wine drinkers prefer their beverage more sour than usual, but fermenting for too long while result in vinegar rather than wine. Refrigeration extends beverage life, as do a variety of spices, which also contribute flavor.
In India, palm wine is usually available at toddy shops (known as Kallu Shaap in [Malayalam], Kallu Kadai in [Tamil], Kalitha Gadang in Tulu, Kallu Dukanam in Telugu, Kallu Angadi in Kannada or "Liquor Shop" in English). In Tamil Nadu, this beverage is currently banned, though the legality fluctuates with politics. In the absence of legal toddy, moonshine distillers of arrack often sell methanol-contaminated alcohol, which can have lethal consequences. To discourage this practice, authorities have pushed for inexpensive "Indian Made Foreign Liquor" (IMFL).
There are two main types of kallu in states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, namely Thadi Kallu (from Toddy Palmyra trees) and Eetha Kallu (from silver date palms). Eetha Kallu is very sweet and less intoxicating, whereas Thati Kallu is stronger (sweet in the morning, becoming sour to bitter-sour in the evening) and is highly intoxicating. People enjoy kallu right at the trees where it is brought down. They drink out of leaves by holding them to their mouths while the Goud pours the kallu from the binki (kallu pot). There are different types of toddy (kallu) according to the season: 1. poddathadu, 2. parpudthadu, 3. pandudthadu,.
In the Indian state of Kerala, toddy is used in leavening (as a substitute for yeast) a local form of hopper called the "Vellayappam". Toddy is mixed with rice dough and left over night to aid in fermentation and expansion of the dough causing the dough to rise overnight, making the bread soft when prepared.
In Kerala, toddy is sold under a licence issued by the excise department and it is an industry having more than 50,000 employees with a welfare board under the labour department. It is also used in the preparation of a soft variety of Sanna, which is famous in the parts of Karnataka and Goa in India.
Indonesia and Malaysia
Tuak is imbibed in Sumatra, Sulawesi, Kalimantan and Bali of Indonesia and parts of Malaysia such as Sabah and Sarawak in East Malaysia. The beverage is a popular drink among the Kadazan-Dusun, Ibans and the Dayaks during the Gawai and Kaamatan festivals, weddings, hosting of guests and other special occasions. The Batak people of North Sumatra also consume palm wine, with the palm sap is mixed with raru bark to make Tuak. The brew is served at stalls along with snacks. The same word is used for other drinks in Indonesia, for example those made using fermented rice.
In Tuvalu, the process of making toddy can clearly be seen with tapped palm trees that line Funafuti International Airport. In Kiribati it is called Karewe and freshly tapped sap from coconut spathe is used as a refreshing drink and the fermented sap is used as an alcoholic beverage. Karewe is boiled to reduce into a thick light brown liquid, called kamwaimwai, used as sweetener and spread.
Consumption by animals
Some small pollinating mammals consume large amounts of fermented palm nectar as part of their diet, especially the southeast Asian pen-tailed treeshrew. The inflorescences of the bertam palm contain populations of yeast which ferment the nectar in the flowers to up to 3.8% alcohol (average: 0.6%). The treeshrews metabolize the alcohol very efficiently and do not appear to become drunk from the fermented nectar.
There are a variety of regional names for Palm wine:
|State / Territory / Region||Name used|
|Algeria / Tunisia||lāgmi (لاقمي in Arabic). Used for both the alcoholic and nonalcoholic form|
|Bangladesh||তাড়ি taṛi, তাড়ু taṛu, tuak|
|Cambodia||Tuk tnout choo|
|Cameroon||mimbo, matango, mbuh, tumbu liquor, white stuff|
|People's Republic of China||棕榈酒 (pronounced- zōng lǘ jiǔ)|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||malafu ya ngasi (Kikongo), masanga ya mbila (Lingala), vin de palme|
|Ghana||doka, nsafufuo, palm wine, yabra, dεha (pronounced der 'ha), tér daññ|
|Indonesia||arak, tuak in Indonesia. Especially in Batak region, North Sumatra, where the traditional bar serving tuak called lapo tuak. In South Sulawesi (especially in Tana Toraja) it is called ballo', and in North Sulawesi saguer.|
|Ivory Coast||Bandji, koutoukou (when it is further distilled)|
|Kenya||Mnazi (which means coconut palm)|
|Libya||lāgbi [ˈlaːɡbi] (لاقبي in Arabic).. Used for both the alcoholic and nonalcoholic form.|
|Mali||bandji, sibiji, chimichama|
|Malaysia||Nira (Malay for fresh juice obtained from the blossom of the coconut, palm or sugar-palm, which can be made into sugar or the said palm wine, which is also known as Tuak), toddy (English), bahar (Kadazan/Dusun), goribon (Rungus)|
|Maldives||Dhoaraa, Rukuraa, Meeraa|
|Mexico||tuba (garnished with peanuts), originated from the Philippines|
|Nigeria||Palm-wine, Palmy, Ukọt nsuñ, Mmin efik, Emu, Oguro, Tombo liquor, Mmanya ngwo, Nkwu enu, Nkwu Ocha.|
|Papua New Guinea||segero, tuak|
|Philippines||tubâ, soom, lambanóg (distilled tubâ), bahalina (Waray Visayan)|
|South Africa||ubusulu, injemane|
|Sierra Leone||poyo, mampama|
|Sri Lanka||Raa(Sinhala), kallu (கள்ளு), panam culloo|
|Tanzania||pómbe (which means alcohol)|
|Tunisia / Algeria||Lāgmi. Used for both the alcoholic and nonalcoholic form|
|East Timor||tuaka and tua mutin, brandy is called tua sabu|
|Tuvalu||kaleve (unfermented), kao (fermented), or in English, toddy (unfermented), sour toddy (fermented)|
|Viet Nam||rượu dừa; ruou dua ; coconut wine|
Tapping the "arènpalm" (Arenga pinnata), one of the palms used to make palm wine, in Ambon, Moluccas (1919). The palm tree also supplies fiber to cover roofs and sugar. In the Moluccas the tree was especially appreciated because of the palm wine that can be made from the sap of the immature flower flasks. This was called toewak (Dutch), tuak or sagoweer (saguer). The fresh sap, "sugar water", was also so drunk. It is fermented to make the alcoholic beverage and can also be made into vinegar.
Toddey tappers (Mergu Ravi and Burra Rajamallu) in Telangana, India.
In popular culture
- Desi daru
- Arrack, an alcoholic beverage distilled from coconut palm wine in southeast Asia.
- Palm-wine music, a West African musical genre.
- Coyol wine
- Madurai Veeran, a deity who consumes toddy.
- Sree Muthappan, another deity who consumes toddy.
- List of Indonesian beverages
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