Raise a glass with: Audrey Annoh-Antwi, sommelier at Planque in Haggerston
Audrey Annoh-Antwi, sommelier at Planque in Haggerston, taps into a taste of the contemporary palm sap revolution.
With London's increasing number of high-end African fusion restaurants, exciting new beverages rooted in west African tradition have begun to emerge.
Palm wine is made from the sap of the palm tree, which is collected by tappers and can either be drunk fresh or fermented with ambient yeasts into palm wine.
One brand that is available in the UK is London Manya. It is a traditional method sparkling palm wine, tapped in Nigeria and bottled in London by Uche David with the expertise of London Cru urban winery in Battersea.
The most recent London Manya cuvées are Raffia Cuvée Brut and Hibiscus Rose Demi-Sec. Both are currently sold out, with a third batch coming in March. The dry Raffia Cuvée (12% ABV) has a bready, slightly coconutty and sugarcane juice scent. On the palate there is pastry, coconut water, sherbet and ripe apple. It can be perfectly paired with African food and can currently be enjoyed at Ikoyi, Pitanga, Cococure and 805 restaurants, to name a few.
The founder of the London Manya, Uche, was inspired on his travels across West Africa, seeing the potential of the land itself and inspired by pride taken in the drinking culture in France with wine and Germany with beer. He also had equity in mind that by tapping into the riches of the palm tree it would also make those doing the work of collecting palm sap richer. The African continent has abundant palm trees with palm wine is well-established in its cultural fabric.
Nigeria has a long history of spirit distillation predating colonialism. One of these spirits is ògógóró, also known as Akpeteshie in Ghana, made from distilled palm wine.
Pedro's Ògógóró is Africa's first premium ògógóró – my first taste was served neat, allowing its potent slightly grassy, earthy, coconutty scents to shine.
Ògógóró is mainly a locally produced, locally consumed spirit. Pedro's founders, Lola Pedro and Chibu Akukwe, are respectful of ògógóró's local roots, but intend to bring the spirit to the world. It is made from 100% organic distilled palm sap, taken only from wild trees during the dry season when the sap is at its highest quality. It is micro-distilled in the Delta region of Nigeria, then refined and bottled in Lagos.
Palm wine is more than just a beverage. It is used in ceremonies that differ across ethnic groups, such as weddings, naming ceremonies and even wrestling matches, and can be an offering to ancestral spirits. It symbolises hospitality and unity, and we can expect to see much more of it on our menus in the near future.
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