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Palm wine

Palm wine, also called palm toddy or simply toddy, is an alcoholic beverage created from the sap of various species of palm tree. The drink is particularly common in parts of Africa where it is known as Legmi, South India (particularly Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where it is known by the name of kallu, in Myanmar, in the Philippines, Sabah, a state in Borneo and in Colima, a state in western México, where it is known as tuba.


The sap is collected by a tapper. Typically the sap is collected from the cut flower of the tree. A container, often a gourd or bottle, is fastened to the flower stump to collect the sap. The white liquid that initially collects tends to be very sweet and non-alcoholic. An alternate 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 wine tapping is commonly done in the novel of Things Fall Apart. The tappers collected a sticky white liquid from the head of the tall tree.

In parts of India, the unfermented sap is called "neera" ("padaneer" in Tamil Nadu) and is refrigerated, stored and distributed by semi-government agencies. A little lime is added to the sap to prevent it from fermenting. Neera has a lot of nutrients including potash. Palm toddy also forms the base for a drink popular in Goa, Goan Feni. Palm sap begins fermenting immediately after collection due to natural yeasts in the air (this is 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. Sangam literature has many references to Toddy (Kallu) and thirukkural has one chapter on "Abhorrence of Toddy(liquor)" .

In Africa, the sap used to create palm wine is most often taken from wild date palms such as the Silver date palm (Phoenix sylvestris), the palmyra, and the Jaggery palm (Caryota urens); from oil palm such as the African Oil Palm (Elaeis guineense); or from Raffia palms , Kithul palms, or Nipa palms. In India and South Asia, coconut palms and taller palms, such as the Arecaceae and Borassus, are preferred. One common name of Jubaea chilensis is "Chilean wine palm", although this species is now endangered in the wild and is rarely used to make wine today. In South Africa palm wine (Ubusulu) is produced in Maputaland, the area to the south of Mocambique between the Lobombo mountains and the Indian Ocean. It is mainly produced from the lala palm (Hyphaene coriacea) by cutting the stem and collecting the sap. In part of central & western Dem. Rep. of Congo palm wine is called "malafu" and a palm wine tapper is called an "ngemi". There are four types of palm wine in the central & southern DRC. From the Oil palm comes "ngasi"( N-ga-shee), "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 & Kasai provinces. Palm sap is collected once or twice a day and combined in plastic drums.


Palm wine may be distilled to create a stronger drink, which goes by different names depending on the region (examples are arrack, village gin, charayam, and village whiskey). In parts of southern Ghana distilled palm wine is called "akpeteshi" or "burukutu". In Togo it's "sodabe" (sugarbe is made from sugar cane). Palm wine may also be evaporated to leave an unrefined sugar called jaggery in some areas.In India,the jaggery is made from the palm wine is of two types i.e., cake or gel.The jaggery is supposed to be rich in iron and other nutrients, which is prescribed as medium for taking preparations of medicine in indigenous Systems of medicine such as Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani.

Social role

Palm wine is generally drunk fairly soon after creation, since it has a short shelf life. However, it may be refrigerated to extend its life.

In Kerala, India, palm wine is usually available at toddy shops, known as "Kallu Shaapu" in Malayalam (English: "Liquor Shop"). In the Lingala speaking areas of the DRC and Rep of Congo; roadside palm wine bars are called "ikala". In Tamil Nadu, India, the 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 often have lethal consequences. To discourage this practice, authorities have pushed for inexpensive Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL), much to the dismay of toddy tappers.

In the state of Andhra Pradesh, India, Palm wine / toddy called Kallu is very popular drink in rural parts. It is commonly consumed in Telangana districts like Karimnagar, Warangal, Adilabad, Nalgonda, RangaReddy, Hyderabad, Medak, Nizamabad, Mahabub Nagar etc. The Kallu is collected, distributed and sold by the people of a caste called Goud or Gownla. It is a very big business in the cities in those districts. In the villages, people drink it every day after work. In some villages they supply Kallu everyday at the door (door delivery) in Karimnagar district. Every member (including children and women) of the family sit in a circle in their back yard and enjoy Kallu with dinner. Kallu is also offered to deities as Theertham in many religious functions. So after the Puja (religious offering), it is offered to everyone and they can't refuse and hence are used to its taste right from very young age. There are mainly two types of Kallu in Andhra Pradesh, Thadi Kallu (comes from Toddy Palmyra trees) and Eetha Kallu (comes from Date Palms that are shorter no taller than 15 feet). Eetha Kallu is very sweet and less intoxicating, where as Thati Kallu is stronger (sweet in the morning and gets sour to bitter/sour in the evening) and is highly intoxicating. The 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 right from the Binki (Kallu Pot).

Palm wine plays an important role in many ceremonies in parts of the DRC and elsewhere in central and western Africa. Guests at weddings, birth celebrations, and funeral wakes are served generous amounts. 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.

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