Ernesto Obeng Quarshie, an English teacher from Ghana who has been living in Vietnam for 6 years, proudly introduced Ghana’s traditional drink.
"We have something similar to Vietnamese Ruou, but we get that from palm trees, not from rice. You know that Vietnamese Ruou is very strong, right, I am pretty sure that our drink, the one I am going to talk about is probably stronger than Ruou. The name is pretty difficult for you to pronounce it. It is called Akpeteshie. Instead of making it from rice, we make it from palm," said Ernesto.
According to Ernesto, Ghana was colonized by the British and it gain it independence in 1957, so that Akpeteshie (ak-peh-tesh-eh) tells the tale of Ghana’s rebellion and triumphs in a glass. It was once prohibited under British rule, and its illicit history and artisanal means of production give it the colloquial name, “Ghanaian Moonshine”.
Along with its history, the nation’s tropical climate makes the spirit a token of honor and ownership for Ghanaians. The conditions are perfect for cultivating palm groves, where the most basic ingredient of Akpeteshie— palm tree sap— is found.
"There are a lot of palm trees in Ghana. Palm trees produce oil, red oil. Ghana has a lot of red oil. When the palm trees become so tall that you can’t even harvest it. It is even bigger and taller than coconut tree, so when the palm tree is so tall you have to cut it down from the root. It takes about an hour to cut down one palm tree. Then we can get the liquid from the palm tree. Then you go to a process called distillation to get that Akpeteshie and it is pretty strong," Ernesto explained.
|White liquid taken from a palm tree. (Photo: Internet)
Distillation was legalized with decolonization and Ghanaian independence. Akpeteshie is distilled from palm wine. This sweetened liquid or wine is first fermented in a large barrel, sometimes with the help of yeast, said Ernesto.
"You get the liquid from the palm tree. When it is in a palm tree, it is white, which we can drink right away, it is sweet. It has sugar in it, that why it helps with the fermentation,” he said.
”You collect the white liquid from a number of palm trees, and put it in one big container like a barrel and cover it for like three days for the fermentation to take place. It then becomes very fermented and alcoholic and then we distillate to get the Akpeteshie from it. Alcohol contains from Akpeteshie is from 40 to 60%, some can go up to over 60%.”
|Ghana's palm tree. (Photo: Pulse Ghana)
Akpeteshie is not professionally bottled or sealed, but instead poured into unlabeled used bottles. The spirit can be bought wholesale from a brewer or by the glass at shops and bars. Although not professionally advertised, the drink is very popular, said Ernesto.