T’ej: Ethiopian Honey Wine

A couple years ago, I had some t’ej as part of a mead flight and I was hooked.  My blackberry wine is still in primary, but I just moved the traditional to secondary this morning.  Which, of course, left me with an empty fermenting bucket.  I had some gesho leaves I bought a few months ago when I wanted to try making t’ej, and figured there’s no time like the present.

First off, the recipe, based off Harry Kloman’s T’ej recipe:

1 gallon batch:
3 lbs honey
3 tablespoons gesho kitel (gesho leaves)
No yeast
SG 1.120

IMG_20200409_141529860

T’ej is traditionally made by relying on the yeasts on the gesho stems or leaves to start fermenting.  You can certainly use commercial yeast if you want, and Kloman’s mead log recommends Lalvin D47.  It’s a workhorse and a very reliable yeast if you want to go the commercial route.  For my first batch, I chose to go with wild yeasts.  We’ll see what happens and if it doesn’t ferment, I’ll add D47 later.  This is the first brew I’ve made without commercial yeast.

Gesho is the key ingredient in making T’ej, and comes from the shiny-leaf buckthorn tree (Rhamnus prinoides).  The dried stems (inchet) and leaves (kitel) of this plant are what gives t’ej its distinct flavor.  Gesho acts similarly to hops and adds a bittering flavor to the t’ej.

I bought leaves originally, and chose to use them today because- let’s be honest- they were here and I was impatient to get this batch started.  Most recommendations are to use stems, so I’m planning a second batch when my order gets here at the end of April.  I’ll compare the two and see how they differ.

IMG_20200409_141703273
Dried Gesho Leaves

As far as honey goes, I wanted to get a sweeter t’ej, and went for a higher SG.  You could drop the honey to 2.5 lbs if you want less sweetness.

I’m following the guide laid out on Kloman’s log. I strongly recommend reading his blog, because it’s got a step by step guide and lots of excellent info.  At 11 days, I’ll strain out the gesho leaves, and continue fermenting out to the four week mark.

After that, it should be ready to drink.  I’ll probably bottle some, to see how it ages out.  But since t’ej can be enjoyed as soon as it’s done fermenting, I plan on doing just that with some of this batch.

Links and resources:

Ethiopian T’ej:  the t’ej recipe that I’m following.  This blog has an extensive list of t’ej brewing tips, and the history and culture behind the drink.

T’ej in Ethiopia Today:  Excellent article and photos about t’ej.

History of Ethiopia:  the birthplace of humankind.

The Seattle bar where I first tried T’ej, Capitol Hill cider, has flights and a tap/bottle list of over 200 ciders and meads.  Their kitchen is entirely gluten free, so if you have Celiac’s or a gluten intolerance, it’s safe.

Ambrosia Honey–  I found this at a co-op on my road trip, but they also sell on Amazon.

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