Palm wine

For other uses, see Palm wine (disambiguation).
Bottles and a glass of palm wine

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.[1][2] 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.[3]

Palm wine is known as matango, mbuh, tumbu liquor, white stuff in Cameroon; emu, nkwu, oguro in Nigeria; poyo in Sierra Leone, nsamba in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; "Manjenvo" in Cabinda Angola; nsafufuo in Ghana;[4] kallu in South India; Htan Yay (ထန်းရည်) in Myanmar; tuak in Indonesia and 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 in Borneo. In the Philippines, tubâ and "Kallu" in Tamil refers both to the freshly harvested, sweetish cloudy-white sap and the one with the red lauan-tree tan bark colorant. 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, kithul ra, or pol ra according to the plant used to make toddy.


Toddy collectors at work on Cocos nucifera palms
Tapping palm sap in East Timor

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 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.[5]


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 parts of Kenya (coast), 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


Palm wine is collected, fermented and stored in calabashes in Bandundu Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo

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 some parts of the Eastern Nigeria, the Igbo Land, palm wine is called "Nkwu Elu" or "Mmanya Ocha" (white drink). For instance, in "Urualla" and other "ideator" towns, it is used for traditional wedding. A young man who is going for the first introduction at his inlaws is required to come with palm wine. There are specific gallons of palm wine required depending on the custom of the various towns in some parts of the Igbo Land. This culture is similar to those in cities and villages in the neighbouring Cameroonian regions (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.


Toddy drawer in India, 1870

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 (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 many nutrients including potash.

In India, palm wine or toddy is served as either neera or padaneer (a sweet, non-alcoholic beverage derived from fresh sap) or kallu (a sour beverage made from fermented sap, but not as strong as wine).[6] 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 have a short shelf life. However, it may be refrigerated to extend its life. Spices are added in order to brew the drink and give it its distinct taste.

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

A toddy tapper belonging to Goundla caste in the state of Telangana selling toddy under the palm trees

In states of Telangana, 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 Settibalija or Goud or Gamalla (Goundla). It is a big business in the cities of those districts. In villages, people drink it every day after work.

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

Lithograph of a palm wine vendor and a native KNIL soldier consuming tuak (1854)
Mananguete on the way to fetch the coconut tree sap. Uses recycled plastic container to transport and store palm wine in Sibuyan Romblon, Philippines.

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.[1] The same word is used for other drinks in Indonesia, for example those made using fermented rice.

South America

Production of palm wine may have contributed to the endangered status of the Chilean wine palm (Jubaea chilensis).[7]

Other areas

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 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.[8]


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[9]
Cambodia Tuk tnout choo[10]
Cameroon mimbo,[11] matango, mbuh, tumbu liquor, white stuff
People's Republic of China 棕榈酒 (pronounced- zōng lǘ jiǔ)[12]
Democratic Republic of the Congo malafu ya ngasi (Kikongo), masanga ya mbila (Lingala), vin de palme
Gabon toutou
Gambia singer
Ghana doka, nsafufuo, palm wine, yabra, dεha (pronounced der 'ha), tér daññ
Guam tuba
  • கள்ளு, കള്ള്, ಕಳ್ಳು (pronounced as "Kallu) in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka respectively.
  • Kali in Tulu speaking regions of Kerala and Karnataka.
  • తాటి కల్లు (pronounced as Thati Kallu) in Telangana and Andhra Pradhesh.
  • Tadi in Assam, Odisha, and Maharashtra.
  • তাড়ি (pronounced as Tari) in West Bengal.
  • Sur in Goa.
  • നീര (pronounced as Neera) in Kerala.
Indonesia arak,[9] 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 koutoukou
Kenya Mnazi
Kiribati Karawe
Libya lāgbi [ˈlaːɡbi]. 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[9]), toddy (English), bahar (Kadazan/Dusun), goribon (Rungus)
Maldives Dhoaraa, Rukuraa, Meeraa
Myanmar htan yay
Mexico tuba (garnished with peanuts), originated from the Philippines
Namibia omulunga, palm-wine
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,[9] lambanog (distilled tubâ), bahal (Visaya)
South Africa ubusulu
Seychelles kalou
Sierra Leone poyo, mampama
Sri Lanka Raa(Sinhala),kallu (கள்ளு), panam culloo[9]
Thailand kache, namtanmao
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;[9] ruou dua ; coconut wine

a Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam.
b Marathi.


In popular culture

Somaraju Mergu climb the toddey for palm wine(toddey water) in state of Telangana, India.

The tapping and consumption of palm wine is a recurrent motif in the Chinua Achebe novel Things Fall Apart.[13]

See also



  1. 1 2 Enjoying ‘tuak’ in Batak country by Wan Ulfa Nur Zuhra, NORTH SUMATRA, Feature, January 21, 2013 Jakarta Post
  2. Rundel, Philip W. The Chilean Wine Palm in the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden Newsletter, Fall 2002, Volume 5(4). Retrieved 2008-08-31
  3. Confirel:Sugar Palm Tree - Conservation of natural heritage retrieved on 15 April 2012
  4. Toddy and Palm Wine – Practical Answers on the Practical Action website. Retrieved 2008-08-31
  5. Fermented and vegetables. A global perspective. Chapter 4
  6. Toddy/Kallu and Neera/Padhaneer
  7. C. Michael Hogan. 2008. Chilean Wine Palm: Jubaea chilensis,, ed. N. Stromberg
  8. Frank Wiens, Annette Zitzmann, Marc-André Lachance, Michel Yegles, Fritz Pragst, Friedrich M. Wurst, Dietrich von Holst, Saw Leng Guan, and Rainer Spanagel. Chronic intake of fermented floral nectar by wild treeshrews Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Published online before print 2008-07-28. Retriev 2008-08-25
  9. Gnarfgnarf:Palm wine, rice wine, grape wine, beers and other drinks and beverages of Cambodia, 9 April 2012, retrieved on 15 April 2012
  10. Anchimbe - Creating New Names for Common Things in Cameroon English (I-TESL-J)
  11. "English-Chinese Translation of "palm wine"". Websaru Dictionary. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
  12. Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. UK: William Heinemann Ltd., 1958.

External links

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