hist-brewing: Mead Recipe for T'ej

Sean Richens srichens at sprint.ca
Sun Aug 27 07:51:18 PDT 2000

Dan & friends:

I think the first problem with all attempts to translate Tej recipes is that
"hops" is a translation by analogy.  Gesho is a species of buckthorn.  DON'T
substitute the ornamental buckthorn or the native Californian species as
they are hazardously potent laxatives.

"Woody hops" versus "leafy hops" refers to both the bark and leaves being
used.  The leaves are used alone to make beer (Suwa or Tella) but Tej (or
Mies) uses some combination of bark and leaves.

Obtaining Gesho requires a trip to Washington DC or Toronto.  LA probably is
good, too, but I don't know.  In Toronto, the address is in Kensington
                Ethiopian Spices
                60 Kensington Ave (at Baldwin)
                Toronto ON  M5T 2K1
The owner also has another store in the market selling non-food items.  I
think it was on Augusta.  Another store has some African items, but no

If in Washington, look for stores with names starting with "Merkato".  A bit
of searching on the web for "Ethiopian or Eritrean food" should turn up a
list.  I tried arranging a mail-order once, but the US-Canadian border
created extra hassle in that it would have taken a lot of exchanged faxes to
sort out the price and delivery.  I finally managed to pass through Toronto
on holiday and stocked up.

One member of this group turned up a web link to a store in Denver, but they
didn't reply to emails and I knew that the stores in Washington do a lot of

Gesho is expensive, even in its own habitat.

The flavour of the leaf is quite unlike hops.  I used some in place of hops
in a bitter recipe just to characterize the flavour.  If I had to
substitute, I would try a small amount of aged hops (like for a lambic) for
the antibacterial action and a handful of yellow birch twigs for a vague
wintergreen-citrus flavour.

For comparison, here's my recipe, obtained in a mixture of sign language,
Tigrinya and Italian (none of which I speak):

(for 16-18 L)
            4 cups powdered Gesho leaves (replace part with bark if
            1 1/2 cups malt (whole grains)
            1 cup sugar
            pkg dry bakers' yeast
            5-6 L water
Leave 2 days for fermentation to start

            4 lbs pale honey, including whole combs if possible
            2 kg dried dates, chopped
            2 kg raisins
            Water to make 18 L
Ferment 13 days.

Strain out solids.  Add some sugar or honey to taste if too sour.  Bulk
condition in a pressure-resistant container (like an olive barrel) 15 days.
Decant and serve while yeast still slowly active.

This recipe gives a result very much like champagne & OJ.  It's very easy
drinking and very alcoholic.  The sourness is from the lactobacillus
introduced on the malt selected by the antibacterial action of the Gesho.
The flora make quite an impressive sight under the microscope but don't let
that frighten you!

So good luck obtaining Gesho in either form, and I think either recipe would
work.  Do you know anyone from that part of the world?  You would find them
quite willing to taste test for you.


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