Did you know?
In South Africa, Xhosa, Tswana, and Coloured communities still make ceremonial mead and revere its revitalising and healing powers.
Honey mead is alcoholic liquor made by fermenting a mixture of honey and water. Early meads were simply honey and water, with spices or fruits added for variety, left open to the air and wild yeasts, to initiate the fermentation process.
Unlike most of Europe and the USA, South Africa still has healthy, disease-free bee populations that produce pollen-rich honey, which is perfect for making mead, or honey wine.
It’s believed the Khoisan pioneered honey liquor production using honey-water mixtures they found in tree hollows. They added the roots of the succulent plant Trichodiadema (common name: African bonsai), to speed up the process of fermentation. This is because African mead is made for immediate consumption; and often drunk fresh, while it’s still fermenting.
In the last decade, experiments spearheaded by Dr Garth Cambray, a biotechnologist from the Eastern Cape, have seen local mead enthusiasts fuse African mead-making techniques with modern technology, to delicious effect!
Cambray’s meads, bottled at Makana Meadery outside Grahamstown under the Honey Sun label, are organic, sustainable, natural, and made with indigenous ingredients.
An international award-winning mead-maker, Cambray has revolutionised mead-making worldwide by perfecting a process that takes the honey must (the mixture of water and honey) to 12% alcohol in only 24-hours. His impressive alchemy can be savoured in the following flavours of mead: herbal, sweet, chilli, coffee, dry and Cape fig.
Bees visit thousands of different species of flowers, and make countless combinations of flavours in their honey. For mead makers, the art and science of mead making is balancing the natural variance in honey with how the mead is fermented and flavoured.
Hilko Hegewisch is the wine maker at the Solms-Delta wine estate. His maiden vintage mead, Dik Delta !Karri ('Dik Delta' means 'broad delta' and '!karri' is the Khoisan name for mead), is barrel-aged in seasoned oak, sweetly aromatic with fresh acidity and infused with a hint of rosehip for spiciness. Soon, Hegewisch hopes to produce sparkling mead, inspired by the local penchant for drinking mead fresh, like young wine.
Mead hobbyists, Collin Tedders and Pam Struthers make their honey wine on a mountaintop overlooking the Swartland village of Picketberg. Their off-dry and golden-hued honey liquor is called Faraway Fields, a tribute to the West Coast’s seasonal spring wildflowers.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Old Power Station
Phone: +27 (0)46 636 1227
Solms-Delta Wine Estate
Phone: +27 (0)21 847 3937
Picket-Bo-Berg, Langeberg Road
Picketberg, West Coast
Phone: +27 (0)22 914 5061
Farmers Market @ Kruistementvlei
Tel: +27(0)22 914 5652