Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tchuk or Tchakba

Togolese grow a lot of sorgham. It is considered a cash crop because most of it goes to the production of a local beverage called either tchuk or tchakba. Initially these seem to be the same thing-- a beer like beverage that women brew one day and serve the next out of 60 liter trash cans in village, along the side of the road, on marché day, at events, etc. You sit on a bench, and they dip you out a calabash of the stuff. The taste, alcohol content, sweet/sour levels, etc all differ depending on the person and the day.
Now, that there is a difference between the two is undebatable-- people in one area consider their drink superior to whatever anyone else has. The hard part is in determining exactly what the difference is. After much, um, taste-testing, and discussion, I am prepared to offer a few comments on the matter.
Tchuk is brewed mainly in the south, and also in east Kara. Tchakba is the northern, and western Kara, brew. Tchuk is redder (more the color of sorgham), and the fermenting "stuff" (I can't remember the right word for it) floats on the top. It is less complex and more prone to wild swings in sweet/sour between vendors. Tchakba is browner, and a bit more like beer. The fermentation "stuff" bubbles up from the bottom of one's calabash as one is contemplating life, or what have you. Its flavor is a bit more complex, expecially in the aftertaste. Tchakba, I think, tends to be a little stronger than tchuk. It is also lighter, and does not give me heartburn. A couple of my friends in village remarked on the same thing. I like tchakba a lot better.
Two other local drinks are sodabe and its little parent, palm wine. The latter is essentially the fermented sap of a palm tree-- a young palm tree is uprooted, and its sap ferments in the trunk. This is then drained into a bowl, strained for bees and ants, and drunk. It looks about like skim milk but tastes a lot better. Sodabe is palm wine that has been further fermented and refined. This is at least true in the south. I am not sure what they make sodabe out of up here. Anyway, sodabe is clear, and probably about 80-110 proof depending on who is making it. It is basically moonshine. Sodabe also tastes better in the south where it still retains some of the flavor of palm wine; here in the north it can, and does, taste like anything.

PS. Two months later Ive found out that tchakba is also brewed with some kind of tree bark. I crave it. That is all.

No comments:

Post a Comment