Toddy tappers

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 such as the Palmyra, and coconut palms. This drink is common in various parts of Asia and Africa, and goes by various names, such as emu and ogogoro in Nigeria, nsafufuo in Ghana, kallu in South India, goribon (Rungus) in Sabah, Borneo, and tuba in the Philippines and Mexico. Toddy is also consumed in Sri Lanka and Myanmar.


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 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 mentioned in the novel Things Fall Apart, by the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe.

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 is said to contain a lot of nutrients including potash. Palm toddy also forms the base for a drink popular in Goa, known as Goan Feni. 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. Tamil Sangam literature contains many references to Toddy (Kallu) and Tirukkuṛaḷ contains a chapter on "Abhorrence of Toddy".

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), or 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 Palmyra palms such as the Arecaceae and Borassus are preferred. In Southern Africa, palm wine (Ubusulu) is produced in Maputaland, an area in the south of Mozambique 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 and western Democratic Republic of the Congo, palm wine is called "malafu". There are four types of palm wine in the central and southern DRC. 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.


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). In parts of southern Ghana distilled palm wine is called "akpeteshi" or "burukutu". In Togo it is called "sodabe". Palm wine may also be evaporated to leave an unrefined sugar called jaggery in some areas.

Social role

In India, palm wine or toddy is served as either neera (a sweet, non-alcoholic beverage derived from fresh sap) or kallu (a sour beverage made from fermented sap, but not as strong as wine). Kallu is usually drunk soon after fermentation by the end of day, as it becomes more sour and acidic day by day. The drink like vinegar in taste is considered to be short lived shelf life. However, it may be refrigerated to extend its life.

In Karnataka, India, palm wine is usually available at toddy shops (known as "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), much to the dismay of toddy tappers.

In the state of Andhra Pradesh (India), toddy is a popular drink in rural parts. The kallu is collected, distributed and sold by the people of a particular caste called Goud or Gownla. It is a big business in the cities of those districts. In villages, people drink it every day after work. In some villages in Karimnagar district, it is delivered daily to the door. The entire family (including children and women) sit in a circle in their backyard and enjoy kallu with dinner. Kallu is also offered to deities such as Theertham in many religious functions.

There are two main types of kallu in Andhra Pradesh, namely Thadi Kallu (from Toddy Palmyra trees) and Eetha Kallu (from shorter Date Palms, under 15 feet tall). 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). 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.

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 infloresences of the bertam palm contain populations of yeast which ferments the nectar in the flowers to up to 3.8% alcohol. The treeshrews metabolize the alcohol very efficiently and do not appear to become drunk from the fermented nectar.

Research on ancient humans shows that they consumed toddy collected on rock pots under coconut trees which got broken.


State / Territory / Region Name used
mimbo, matango
malafu, panam culloo
doka, nsafufuo, palm wine, yabra, akpeteshi
kallu (கள்ளு)(കള്ള്), Tamil tadi, toddy, Tari, neera
lāgbi /laːgbi/. Used for both the alcoholic and nonalcoholic form.
kallu (கள்ளு), 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 called tuak in Malay), toddy (English), bahar (Kadazan/Dusun), goribon (Rungus)
htan yay
emu, ogogoro, palm wine, tombo liquor, Nnmaya ngwo
segero, tuak
tuba, lambanog, bahal (Visaya)
raa (රා), kallu (கள்ளு)


See also

External links

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