Honey, water and yeast equal mead, but in Ethiopia, a slightly different recipe has long been used to brew a drink called tej.
The difference comes with the addition of leaves from a plant called gesho, a species of buckthorn that serves much the way that hops do in beer, balancing sweetness with bitterness.
Archaeological and written records indicate that tej has been made for as long as 3,000 years. Elsewhere in Africa, beer has replaced honey-based alcohol as the drink of choice, but tej remains king in Ethiopia, the largest honey producer in Africa. Here, there are between five million and six million wild beehives, and 80 percent of the honey is snatched away from the insects by brewers bent on having their tej.
In the United States, imported tej is becoming increasingly available. Heritage Wines in Rutherford, New Jersey, for example, is brewing it. If you can, track down their Saba Tej—named for the ancient Queen Sheba—or Axum Tej, named for the ancient Ethiopian city. Read full story here.
More information about Tej.