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Palm wine in Asian and African culture

October 2nd, 2023

Palm wine, also known as Toddy, is a beverage made from the sap of some palm species such as Palmyra and coconut palm. The drink has a great influence on the cultures of many Asian and African countries, especially in the lives of Sri Lankans and Burman people. Successful processing of palm wine requires many stages. So what are the stages? Let's find out! 

Palm wine making

Successful processing of palm wine has to go through many stages, starting from taking the palm sap. The most common way of tapping is to cut the palm flower and harvest the sap that flows out of the flower, after which people simply use the bottles attached around the palm flower and wait to take all the sap. The sap secretions made from palm flowers are sweet and fragrant and before fermentation, they are a popular drink. 

Palm wine is mostly naturally fermented, about two hours after tapping. This wine has a charming aroma with low alcohol content and characteristic sweetness. However, with different tastes, in each country, the fermentation process as well as the time of brewing wine takes place following different processes to bring about surprising flavors. If the wine is fermented for a longer time, about a day, the alcohol will be stronger, more acidic, but it is a popular drink in many African countries.

Many steps are taken to make palm wine.

The variety of palm wines

Depending on the palm variety, there is a diversity of palm wine flavors. In Africa, most of the palm sap used for wine processing comes from wild palm species such as silver palm, jaggery or palm oil. India and South Asia prefer to use jaggery and palm trees. In each country, the name of this unique and captivating drink also varies. In Congo palm wine is called Malafu, while in Nigeria its name is Ogogoro.

There is a variety of palm wines, depending on the palm variety.

In India, this favorite drink is called Kallu. Here it is usually taken right after the end of the fermentation process at the end of the day as this drink has a very short life. The next day, Kallu taste turns sour like vinegar and perishable. In many parts of India such as Pradesh, palm wine is a very popular drink and also a major source of income for locals.

In most of the villages here, people usually drink Kallu after finishing the day job. Kallu is also a drink offered to Indian gods during religious ceremonies. A typical image here is that at sunset people often gather under a tree, rolling leaves into a funnel, skillfully pouring wine into that homemade funnel and slipping into the mouth to drink until drunk.

A man drinks palm wine from a rolling leave.

Likewise, palm wine plays an important role in many Nigerian, Central, and Western African rites such as cradle to grave ceremonies, including weddings and funerals. On such occasions, guests are always invited to try the typical palm wine glass by indigenous people. People also combine palm wine with herbs to create good healing effects.

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