The enduring legend of African honey mead is that rain once fell into a beehive, the honey-water mixture dripped down into a tree hollow, fermented and was then drunk by the Khoisan. The modern version of this fermented honey drink is being exported from South Africa to a keen USA market.

Did you know?

Honey mead is a drink that goes well with cheese, duck and generally spicy dishes.

If you eat a teaspoon of honey first thing in the morning, you’ll sense a burning sensation as the natural antibiotic in the honey kills the bacteria in your mouth.

If you sip a little honey mead – especially brewed in South Africa – a little later in the day, it will taste light and refreshing. That’s why it’s sometimes called 'Honey Sun'.

Honey mead, said to be the world’s oldest alcoholic drink, goes by a number of other names in South Africa. The Tswanas call it khadi, the Xhosas call it iQhilika, and the Khoisan people called it !Karri.

Believed to be first created by Khoisan people at least 15 000 years ago, this simple mixture of honey, water and yeast was possibly the first human experiment in biotechnology. The technique of brewing honey mead was exported to Europe, where the drink became the alcoholic drink of choice right through Medieval times.

Mead production failed in Europe as the hives were destroyed to get at the honey. In Africa, though, bees and humans co-evolved, the very reason African bees are renowned for being more aggressive.

In Europe, mead has gone from being a monk’s favourite tipple to being a novelty drink. In many parts of Africa, mead is still consumed in vast quantities.

That’s why it’s all systems go at the Makana Meadery in Grahamstown, where African and European techniques are married, resulting in a delicious product that is selling well and winning international awards.

One of the Makana Meadery founders, Dr Garth Cambray, said he almost stumbled upon the idea when he set up a number of hives to study bees for a research scientist. He was astonished to find they’d been stolen – by local people making mead. So he set up a meadery and did his doctorate on the golden drink as well …

Travel tips & Planning info