Traditional Honey Wine - Indian Tequila
The honey brewing (honey wine) is an important household cum societal drinking activity associated to various ethnic tribes of Sarandha forest region of Jharkhand. It is one of the oldest fermented beverages known to man, made from honey, water and yeast. Traditional honey wine making has been transferred from one generation to another through ages and each tribe follow own indigenous method to prepare it.
This homemade honey wine is an mandatory part of their religious ceremonies, festivals and various cultural exchanges. Some are cloudy (unfiltered) and some are completely clear. Honey wine tastes like honey, but there’s a complexity which comes from the fermentation process, the type of honey used, fruit and herbs.
The starter material for the fermentation is a home made starch. Yeast culture maintained in a semi sterilized medium made of ground rice mixed with herbs. The fermentation temperature during indigenous process of wine making is generally maintained at around 30oC. Water and honey is then added to form dough like mass with moisture content of 55-60% and then is inoculated using dry powdered starter from previous batches, followed by thorough mixing. The inoculated dough is shaped into small flattened or ball-shaped cakes about 4 cm in diameter and 1 cm thick. These are then covered with a thin layer of rice husks. The cakes are then sun-dried on a bamboo tray for 3-4 days. Since the entire practice of beverage preparation has been traditional and consumption of the fermented forth is a crude product, it was therefore felt that the evaluation of the biochemical status of the consumed product is definitely inevitable.
The forest honey use to prepare wine generally harvested from the fully sealed honey hive which are in and around Mahuwa tree. Mahua is also called Kalpavriksha in some part of India, Mahua flowers carry a promise to fulfill all wishes and desires. Its flowers used widely as a traditional source of distilled liquor. For the tribal heartland of India, this tree is considered sacred and grown in huge orchards. Most tribal take ownership of individual trees. They would keep it clean, free from undergrowth and creepers. Nobody ever plucks the mahua pearls or flowers. They wait for it to ripen on the tree and fall down on its own. Only after that, it is collected. Mahua is strongly linked to the festivities and rituals of tribals across the central India. Hence like their traditions and practices this tree is protected and cherished. Honey bees prepares the honey from Mahuwa flower has high medicinal values and known as best honey to make honey wine.
Tribal Women wakes up early, because it is Friday, a weekly market day at Chapinika village. The market place is 7 km from their village. Women has readied a multiple aluminium basket full of honey wine. She will bear the load on her head and walk the distance to the market to sell the honey wine in weekly haat. Along with honey wine, she will carry various forest produce fruits and handcraft items to sell in the market.