SWEET TEJ: ETHIOPIAN HONEY WINE
Ethiopia, the only African nation that is still to be colonized, and it would probably never happen. This old county is even mentioned in the Bible. Legend has it that, Makeeda, the Queen of Sheba then known as Saba visited King Solomon and they toasted with Makeeda’s Tej. Whether this legend is true or just an old wife fable, it just helps us know how old the Tej wine has been in existence and the value it has to be offered to a great King. It is believed also that modern day Ethiopia was originated from the Kingdom of Aksum ruled by a great monarch called Yekuno Amlak in 1270 A.D and they drank Tej. There is much account of explorers, missionaries and historians of 16th century and beyond who confirmed the widely consumed honey wine called T’ej. T’ej simply means wine in Amharic, the
official language of Ethiopia. Although popular among the different ranks of people, royal, elite, and poor alike, at that time, there was a restriction to the making and drinking of Tej and only the upper class and royalties had rights to enjoy this special wine. It was only affordable by the middle and upper class during those times. However, in the 20th century, the restriction was lifted and now everyone can make or drink Tej. Tej, which is traditionally written as T’ej or Tedj, is a honey wine drunk by the Ethiopians for over 3000 years. It has been recorded that T’ej and honey wines is thought to be the oldest alcoholic beverage to be produced. Ethiopia being the largest honey producer in Africa with over six million wild beehives maximizes this raw material to make a mead-like wine, the only difference between the classic mead containing honey, water and yeast is the addition of leaves of a plant named gesho. Gesho scientifically called Rhamnus Prinoides is a bitter tasting plant, a species of buckthorn that is native to Africa, added to balance out the sweetness of the honey.