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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve been on the road for most of January and February, thanks to an annual furlough from work that left me with a lot of time on my hands. The U.S. southwest is magical. I went on some good hikes, drank some good mead, met some good people, and had a chance to hit the reset button. Heading into this summer, I’m very glad I got the chance to do that.
I have a ton of photos that I need to go through, and will be posting some of them up here with a few trip reports soon.
But for now, if you’re in the boozy state of Washington, today is officially Craft Beer Day. In the glass here is Oak Barrel Mead from Oppegaard meadery, because I was in a mead mood and not a beer one today. I do have a bottle of Dogfish Head worldwide stout, which will absolutely knock you on your ass at 15%, and is not the thing I want to drink the night before I go back to work. That bottle is being saved for later.
Go hoist a cold one, and don’t worry. Nobody’s going to judge you if it’s craft mead instead of beer.
Going from a suggestion by a friend, I figure it’ll be a good idea to post monthly updates on what’s happening with the mead projects.
Still in primary:
The light honey mead, from local Montana honey purchased at Costco. It’s still bubbling away, and I’ll probably put it in secondary next week. Happy with the way it tastes and with the SG.
Moved to secondary:
Cyser- honey, apple cider, spices (nutmeg and cinnamon). It tastes great, but I honestly can’t taste the booze in it. That could be a very good thing or a very bad thing, depending. I went light on the spices, which turned out to be a good decision.
Utah honey mead- turned into a gallon and 1/3, so I need to buy some marbles to raise the level in the second carboy.
1 gallon using the same honey I made the 5 gallon batch out of. So far, it’s very consistent in how it tastes.
1 gallon of coffee mead. Jury’s out on this one. I can taste a little coffee, but overall it’s very, very harsh. Going to leave it in secondary for a while.
1 gallon from honey a co-worker found at a local farmer’s market. Also a bit on the harsh side.
I’ve got plans to start two five gallon batches, so we have something to enjoy next summer. I also found some culinary lavender at Pike Place Market and am curious to see what that will do with a mead. Finally, the co-op had killer bee honey on sale, from Brazil. I’ll use that for just a plain mead. The honey’s got an interesting flavor that I don’t want to influence with spices.
So that’s what’s fermenting and in the works for this month. I’m hoping the cyser will be ready to drink around New Year’s. I’ll see how it goes.