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Different cultures have different ways of preparing the drink, however, in this post we look at the way Xhosas prepare it.

Marhewu is a non alcoholic beverage made by fermenting cold maize meal porridge with yeast.  The longer the fermentation the more pungent is the flavour.  Traditionally it’s consumed with or without sugar depending on individual preference.  Back in the day visitors did not make appointments and they usually came from far away places, marhewu drink served as a symbol of hospitality offered to those visitors to quench the thirst. Therefore it was imperative for any household to always have amarhewu available.  It was also prepared for men who went to plough the fields during the day.  It is a filling beverage I’m sure it gave field workers the energy required to carry out their tasks.

Most of my peers would remember the drink being prepared by their grand parents.  I also have fond memories of my grand mother and aunts preparing it.  It has an unmistakably distinct flavour that is not easy to forget.

Personally, I had never made it up and recently decided to give it a try with help from my mother describing the quantities and preparation method. I’m proud to say that my first batch was not bad at all, well, that’s according to a friend who happens to be a dedicated consumer of the drink.

For such dedicated drinkers there’s no specified time of day when it should be consumed.  It can be in the morning, lunch or in between meals.   Another marhewu drinking friend of mine tells me he is not a coffee drinker so for him coffee time is not coffee time but “marhewu time”!   Trust me he drinks marhewu as much and as often as I drink my coffee.

A lot of people in urban areas don’t make up the drink especially the younger generation.  Reasons for that is either they don’t know how to or there’s just not enough time.  Some say they would rather go buy the retail marhewu due to flavour options available at the retail store.  My question is whether you would make it up at home if you knew how to make up your own flavoured marhewu?

I’m presenting to you the traditional, strawberry and mango marhewu.  They are delectable, easy to make and the incorporation of fruits increases your nutrient intake.

So go ahead try out the recipes, have your own “marhewu time” and just offer your visitors something different. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

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Traditional Marhewu

Makes: ± 4 litres

400ml maize meal

15ml (1Tbsp) flour

5ml (1tsp) sugar

2.5ml (½tsp) instant yeast

4L boiling water

1.  Make a paste with 500ml cold water and maize meal.

2.  In as saucepan mix boiling water and maize meal paste stirring continuously until the whole mixture starts to boil.

3.  Lower the heat and cook for 20-25 minutes.

4.  Leave to cool, after cooling transfer the porridge into a 5L container.

5.  Take 500ml of the porridge and mix with yeast, flour and sugar. Stir well, cover it up and let it ferment.

6.  When the porridge, sugar, flour and yeast mixture doubles up in volume blend it with the rest of the marhewu.  Stir well

7.  Cover and leave in a warm place for 12 hours or longer to ferment.  Strain if it has lumps.


Thuli’s Tips:

  • When making your second batch of marhewu you skip step 5 (i.e. you leave out the yeast, flour and sugar) and just replace it with 250 – 500ml of your old batch marhewu – this is called Umlumiso.
  • Just like any other traditional dish, making up amarhewu requires patience, therefore I would recommend you to prepare and keep it and at room temperature for at least five days.
  • When the desired flavour intensity is achieved, the drink can be stored in the fridge.

For Strawberry/Mango Marhewu:

1L traditional marhewu

60ml sugar

250ml strawberries/ mango, pureed

Rinse strawberry in water and remove all the twigs. Peel off the mango. Puree the fruit with a stick blender.  Add the pureed fruit to the marhewu add sugar and stir.  Best served chilled

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