An homemade drink called choukoutou is proving popular in Togo’s capital Lome as a cheap alternative to beer that even local officials are enjoying.
Homebrew gains favour in Togo
Homebrew gains favour in TogoLome (Togo) – 20 September 2016 – AFP (Emile KOUTON) A gourd hanging from a peg outside Madame Badanani’s house in Nyekonapoe, a bustling district in Togo’s capital, gives the game away: Homebrew on sale here.Once reserved for special events, the tipple called choukoutou is now something of a staple, popular with people of all walks of life, from government ministers to those who struggle to pay the rising cost of industrial beer.Inside her home, Badanani, a sixty-something woman well-known in Nyekonapoe, stirs a pot as it bubbles over a large stove.In her courtyard, around 20 young people dance the kamau, a traditional dance of the northern Kabye people, managing not to spill their choukoutou.Often shortened to “chouk”, the homebrew used only to be well-known among the Kabye, but is now favoured across the tiny west African country. In the capital, Lome, more and more brewers are springing up to meet growing demand for the drink, which can be made from fermented sorghum, corn or millet.Mayena, who sells the stuff under a tree in the Lome suburb of Attiegou, is delighted the new market has expanded beyond its original core of youths.”I frequently get civil servants, especially at lunchtime,” said Mayena, whose apron bore the logo “Auntie Chouk’s Place”.- ‘Pride of our country’ -“Some senior officials, even ministers, send their staff to buy a few jerrycans. It’s the pride of our country. We should buy stuff that’s ‘Made in Togo’ and appreciate its value,” she added.Buying local has become a must for many people, hit hard by exchange rate fluctuations and the rising costs of imported and manufactured goods.”I’ve been drinking choukoutou for more than two years, because bottled beer is getting more and more expensive,” said a motorbike taxi driver who gave his name as Monsieur Kossigan.”With this local beer, I get almost the same pleasure for less cost,” he added.A 1.5 litre gourd (about three pints) of choukoutou sells for 350 CFA francs (about 50 euro cents/60 US cents) while large bottles of industrial beer range between 500 and 600 CFA francs.The homebrew is always served in gourds because customers believe it would spoil the taste to drink it out of glass or ceramic bowls.”The bottom of the gourd brings out the taste and aroma of this beer,” enthused retired schoolteacher Hodabalo Andjo, 75.”Our ancestors brought out this drink for dignitaries’ funerals, which were great celebration. Villagers used to sing and dance and drink to abandon,” he explained, nursing his half-empty gourd. Choukoukou fans have a choice of three varieties: chakpalo, kablemissine, and lossomissine. The last two are more fermented and so have a higher alcohol content and more popular among younger drinkers.The brew is drunk after meals and during boozy weekend parties. Some even say the brew has medicinal value — there are those who believe they help cure malaria. Others, like tailor Elom Adjivi, have a bowl of kablemisssine after breakfast, certain it “restores my energy to get through the day”.ek/spb/afm/ns