Wine bubbles in a glass, Stellenbosch, South Africa (2012-03)

À santé! (Food and drink in Africa, pt. 9)


Like in Germany or the US beer is the principal alcohol enjoyed on the African continent. So much so that I made it a tradition to have a ‘Welcome to…’ beer upon entering a new country. Muslim countries like Morocco, Mauritania, or Sudan will allow no alcohol at all or alcohol will be sold at quite a premium in tourist areas only.

Still, people will have their ways to drink if they want to. In Morocco, our host in a remote mountain village was rather irritated when we didn’t have any more spirits to share with him. Just a few days later, before we entered into Mauritania, we were warned to dispose of any alcohol as border controls might refuse entry if they found anything. But even there we found a beer joint in the middle of nowhere.

There are various brews in different regions or even countries. I’ll leave it to you to learn their names and sample them. The only beer found virtually everywhere is Guinness. However, since most beers are brewed locally, taste and strength might vary. At home, I like a Guinness once in a while. I stuck to lager after trying it once in Mali.

In addition to the western/northern lagers, there are the local beer varieties, mostly made from maize. In South Africa, mahewu is even sold in supermarkets. But it’s more fun to stop by a shebeen and share a jug of beer and a laugh. Just be warned: this maize beer has the strange habit of continuing to ripen as the yeast isn’t killed (is that how you call it?). So you can never know whether your mahewu has 2, 8, or 10% alcohol in it. Heavy head almost guaranteed…

Then there is the wine. South Africa is, of course, known as a great wine nation with hundreds of wineries dotted across the wider Stellenbosch area. I am not a great wine person. However, I did a wine tour in Stellenbosch. With a few good friends, it’s a fun way to spend the morning. My highlight of that tour was Fairview Estate. In addition to excellent wines (they must have been excellent but who knows – this was the fifth and last stop on the tour) they also make brilliant goat cheese. Yum!

Ethiopia also makes wine. Teji is made from honey but still tastes like sweet grapes.

Finally spirits: Amarula to me is always associated with safaris and sunsets in the Savannah. It’s a bit like Bailey’s. The amarula fruit itself is also quite tasty once you figured out the right technique to roll the fruit between your palms until sweet enough.

In Benin, I had the opportunity to meet a vodon (voodoo) priest on the religion’s main holiday, appropriately called vodon. Part of the ceremony is schnapps. I would say rum but might as well be anything that was left from the last party mixed with ash. It’s blessed, and you have to have it to fight the evil spirits trying to take possession of your body. Fighting spirits with spirits for the sake of health. À santè!

This post concludes my little journey down the windy and colorful memory lane of eating and drinking in Africa. Hope you it enjoyed as much as I did making those experiences.

Do you have anything to add? Thoughts? Opinions? Let me know!

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