The national drink of Ethiopia is T’ej, a golden sweet honey-wine. T’ej is a mead that is indigenous to Ethiopia with roots going back to the 4th century.
In Ethiopia, T’ej is made in private homes for family consumption and is not sold commercially. Each household has its own family recipe and variations in taste result from the type of honey used, temperature, climate, materials and utensils and the time involved in making the mead. Ethiopians purchase gallons of honey at a time to produce the mead and the taste can be as individual as the imagination of the person making it. The same recipe can vary from mother to daughter, for the mead is made from instinct as much as from a recipe.
Chemical analyses of ancient organics absorbed, and preserved, in pottery jars from the Neolithic village of Jiahu, in Henan province, Northern China, have revealed that a mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey, and fruit was being produced as early as 9,000 years ago, approximately the same time that barley beer and grape wine were beginning to be made in the Middle East.
Early Neolithic people in Jiahu, a village in China’s Henan Province, invented the earliest known alcoholic beverage. As the staff of this magazine and your guides to the world of archaeology, we felt it was our place–nay, our duty–to tell you how the stuff tastes.
Archaeochemist and ancient wine expert Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology analyzed residue in the pores of 9,000-year-old potsherds found in Jiahu. Using high-powered acronyms like GC-MS, HPLC-MS, and FT-IR, he determined the pots once held ancient booze made with rice, honey, and hawthorn fruit. No one has any idea about the process used to make it, but McGovern recruited the crafty brewers at Dogfish Head in Milton, Delaware, to help reconstruct a palatable version.