An integral part of rural Indian society, hidden away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, are the toddy shops and their palm wine.
These simple, welcoming and off-the-radar backwater drinking dens offer individual blends of milky coloured palm wine. Sourced from the sap of local palm trees, the brew is served by the brim-full glass, or more often purchased by the bottle.
The pale translucent brew which, once harvested, has to be drunk within a few days, is mild in alcoholic content, not quite a high-proof moonshine tipple. Established by individual homestead farmers, toddy shops not only offer a location for those looking to escape from the everyday routine of life, but also some much-needed income for their owners.
The brews vary: stronger potions come in different grades of colour; the ‘Kallu’ brew tastes sweeter and looks clearer the longer it has been left to ferment. They should all ideally be consumed 24 hours after tapping, before the strong vinegary taste takes over.
Flavours can be added, which plays an important part in assisting large consumption levels. These are very much to be hoped for because the average toddy shop has a limited supply of refrigeration to extend the drink’s quaffablility.
The rural brewers of Southern India, as these photos show, are a welcoming, friendly and generous bunch. Who, by tradition collect, ferment and sell their produce as members of the Settibaliji caste.
They not only provide an eclectic mix of toddy brews, but also an essential mix of feisty-fresh and spicy stir-fries to soak it up with. Superb when consumed at the end of a hot day.