Ethiopian Honey Wine: Tej

Tej is a traditional Ethiopian honey wine that shares similarities with mead, being primarily made from fermented honey. What sets Tej apart from other types of mead is its use of "gesho," (Rhamnus prinoides) a local ingredient that functions similarly to hops in beer, instead of yeast for the fermentation process. This unique ingredient adds a distinctive flavor and aroma to the wine, distinguishing it from its counterparts. Tej typically has an alcohol content ranging from 7% to 11%, making it a moderately strong beverage. It is deeply ingrained in Ethiopian and Eritrean cultures, often homemade and enjoyed across various social and religious occasions. Over time, Tej has evolved from a drink reserved for royalty to become Ethiopia's national drink, celebrated and enjoyed by many.

Top Things to Know about Tej:

  • Brewed with honey, water and "gesho", typically in clay pots.
  • It is the national drink of Ethiopia.
  • Tej is an important part of Ethiopian society, with it being consumed during special occasions.
  • The alcohol content of Tej ranges from 7-11% alc by volume.
  • Tej is a type of mead, traditional mead is made with honey, water and yeast, while Tej uses "gesho" in place of yeast.
  • Ethiopian honey wine is typically sweet.
  • Tej is thought to have originated over 3,000 years ago.

Tej is made with "Gesho"

Gesho, derived from the Rhamnus prinoides plant, plays a pivotal role in the traditional brewing processes of Ethiopia, particularly in the production of beverages like Tej. Unlike the conventional method of using yeast to ferment drinks, gesho serves as an alternative fermenting agent. This distinction is rooted in the unique properties of the Rhamnus prinoides, commonly known as the shiny-leaf buckthorn or gesho. The plant is native to Africa and has been an integral part of Ethiopian culture for centuries, not only for its culinary uses but also for its medicinal properties.

The use of gesho instead of yeast in the fermentation process imparts a distinct flavor profile to the beverages it produces. One of the hallmark characteristics of drinks fermented with gesho is their subtle bitter aftertaste. This bitterness is a natural result of the compounds found within the leaves and stems of the Rhamnus prinoides plant. In contrast, traditional mead, which relies on yeast for fermentation, typically lacks this bitterness, offering a sweeter and often smoother taste. The choice of gesho as a fermenting agent is a testament to the rich cultural heritage and traditional practices of Ethiopian brewing, providing a unique flavor that sets Ethiopian honey wines and beers apart from their global counterparts.

Quick Recipe for Tej, Ethiopian Honey Wine

Ingredients for Tej: Ethiopian Honey Wine:

  • 21oz of honey - Use a local, high quality honey (like this one)
  • 5oz of gesho - Here's one from Amazon
  • 63oz of spring water (don't use distilled!)
  • 1/2 tsp of yeast (1.6g) recommend L 47
  • Use a 1 gallon glass jar with a lid
  • Stick to a water to honey ratio of 3:1 (water:honey)

Steps to Making Tej: Ethiopian Honey Wine

  1. Make sure all your equipment is sterilized, at least with hot soapy water. You can even put your jar and lid in the oven on a baking sheet for 20 minutes at 225F to kill any bacteria
  2. Once jar is cool, mix honey and water, you can use warmer water to ensure the honey dissolves (not too hot, 80 degree or so)
  3. Add yeast and 5oz of gesho
  4. Cover jar, place in dark room temperature space, and wait 3-4 days (it should be foamy!)
  5. If you did add yeast no need for this step, if not open the jar & stir!
  6. Taste after 3 weeks! If not to your liking yet, time heals all, wait another 2-3 weeks before trying.
  7. Strain your mixture and put in an old (clean!) wine bottle or keep in your jar. Enjoy!

About Us


We started Batch Mead in 2019 to leave our Silicon Valley tech careers and pursue our real passion, MEAD!

We love locally sourced honey, apples and other ingredients. We focus on small batches to keep taps rotating and deliver delicious meads and hard ciders.

We believe mead is an experience, and our tasting room reflects all the notes of that ideal experience.

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