Mbege - Gastro Obscura



On the slopes of Kilimanjaro, brewers make beer from bananas and finger millet.

Traditional beer-making in Tanzania offers a wide variety of unique flavors derived from the fruits used to create them. In the Northeast, on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Chagga tribe is known for mbege, a brew made from bananas and sprouted finger millet.

Making mbege is a labor-intensive process that is traditionally reserved for women. These brewers first mash and boil ripened bananas, then leave the mixture to ferment in a wooden barrel until white bubbles appear on the surface. Once the bananas have fermented, they add a powder of sprouted, sun-dried finger millet along with bark from the quinine tree (msesewe).

The final flavor is pretty sweet, from all the bananas, with a slight bitter aftertaste from the quinine. The drink is often likened to something in between a wine and a beer.

Mbege is not only a tasty beverage, but a socially important one. Members of the Chagga tribe consume it at weddings, business meetings, and funerals.

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