RECIPE: Coffee Or Marhewu? Make The Right Choice!


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 grandparents.  I also have fond memories of my grandmother 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.


Strawberry Marhewu
Strawberry Marhewu


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!

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 a 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.


If delicious thirst quenchers is what you’re looking for, you may also be interested in this recipe 👇

RECIPE: Delicious Iced Coffee And A Little Birthday Talk

About Author


Thuli Gogela is a Food Technologist with 8 years of experience developing products in food manufacturing. She is dedicated to discovering wholesome traditional dishes and recipes with a distinctive taste from different parts of the African continent. Thuli is well known for her food blog, Mzansi Style Cuisine which was established in 2010. She saw a gap in the traditional food market that people were hungry for. From there, it didn’t take long to build her brand. In 2013, she started writing a recipe column for the Cape Times for and has collaborated with some of the biggest brands in South Africa namely, Knorr, Nedeburg Wines, First Choice and Spekko rice. Not only does Thuli feature traditional African dishes, she’s also open to developing recipes, food consultations and brand collaborations.

Comments ( 18 )

  • I must confess I’ve never heard of marhewu, but now I’m very keen to try it – I especially like the idea of the mango flavoured one. Will let you know how it turns out for me!

    • admin

      So happy to hear that…try it but be warned a lot of patience is required, you get the full flavour after days. The mango marhewu is totally off the hook (even if I say so my self lol) do try it and let me know!

  • I’ve seen marhewu been made, but never thought of trying it my self! Thanks for recipe 🙂

  • Bridget

    Thuli, i love your blog. i am also a rural girl and your recepes remind me of my up bringing. Ihave not drank mageu for a long time and i am definitely doing it tonight,

  • Asiphamandla

    OMG thuli am loving this, kunini ndiyifuna uba enziwa njani amarewu u the best coz i love them so bye to amarewu athengiwe bye. ALL SMILES

    • Hi Asi, uze uwenze ke ubuye uzokundixelela uba aphume njani. Uzukhe utrye la eMango ngoku zisekwi season! Ayatsho! LOL! 🙂

  • Vuyokazi

    I love the sour taste of Marhewu, the mango ones takes the cake for me.

  • Superb site. I especially appreciate everything you put into it. I don’t totally agree with all you communicate yet I do take pleasure in reading it. Please continue the good work. I will without question visit again.

    • Thank you Amy! I’m glad you enjoy reading the posts, however, it would be interesting to hear wich parts of the communication you don’t agree with.

  • moeletse

    ummm! presentiation sells, amarewu all the way!!!!

  • Nyameka

    Thank you for such an easy recipe I was thrown in the deep end and had to make it for people but with your recipe it turned out pretty well. Looking forward to trying the one with fruit! Tnx

    • Yho Nyameka I can imagine. I’m glad I could help! 🙂

      Thank you for the suggestion. It’s something to consider to the summer season.

      Thuli Xx

  • Mandy

    Thank you so much nge recipe andikwazi ukwenza amarhewu and now kufuneka ndenzele my in-laws. Nzokuxelela iziphumo

    • It’s a pleasure Mandy! Looking forward to hearing from you 🙂 Have fun!

      Thuli xx

  • Funky

    Thank you for the recipe undikhulule my granny used to make for us and I never paid attention or eager to learn, now that she is much older (lacks appetite) I have to make some for her.

    • Aah! That’s so sweet man. 🙂 Take great care of your gran and make that Mageu for her. She’ll be pleased and impressed 😉

      Thuli Xx

  • Kunga

    Hi Thuli,

    Thank you for sucha an interesting recipe. Is there any way to stop the fermentation once its bottled?

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