Palm Wine

Ark of taste
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Poyo is a fermented drink made in Sierra Leone from various species of palm trees. The trees grow best in temperatures from 25 – 30°C and with 1500 mm of annual precipitation. The sap used to make the palm wine can be harvested after trees are 4 – 5 years old and can be collected throughout the year.   The sap is extracted from a cut flower, with a container fastened to the trunk to collect the liquid. The sap is white in color and very sweet before being fermented. Fermentation begins immediately due to natural yeast and, often, residual yeast from reused containers. Within two hours, it yields a sweet, aromatic wine of up to 4% alcohol. If left to ferment for up to 24 hours, the resulting drink will have a stronger, more sour, acidic taste, which some people prefer. If allowed to ferment for too long, the liquid will turn into vinegar. The poyo is then stored in a calabash (hollow squash container) called a bully. It may be stored for a day or two, and is served both at special occasions and as an everyday beverage. A small group of 15 – 20 tappers in the area of Yengema is known to produce up to 600 liters in one day.   In Sierra Leone, poyo plays an important role among the local people. Acording to the Limbas people, one of the oldest ethnic groups in Sierra Leone, he who brings poyo brings life. It is served at weddings, birth celebrations and funeral wakes. As a token of respect to deceased ancestors, many drinking sessions include a small amount of palm wine spilled on the ground.  A bully of palm wine is also considered a traditional gift given by a young man meeting his in-laws for the first time.   Poyo is sold locally and is popular in some areas because it is less expensive than imported wines. However, changes in cultural and religious beliefs in Sierra Leone in recent decades means that there has also been a decrease among many in the consumption of alcohol. Poyo is not generally sold widely outside of the areas in which it is produced. 

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StateSierra Leone


Other info


Distilled and fermented beverages

Indigenous community:Limbas, Mendes, Temene and Loko