South Africa: The Earthly African Origins of the Nectar of the Gods

Mead. The Greeks believed it was a heaven-sent dew harvested by bees - messengers of the gods. The Norse thought it was the result of two dwarves murdering a magical wise man, and then brewing his blood with honey...

Mead is essentially an alcoholic drink - not quite a wine, not quite a beer - made from fermented honey. In addition to the kind of honey it's made from playing a crucial role in its flavour, it comes in endless styles, from fizzy to still and wild to smooth.

Mead's been around for so long (I'm talking since before the wheel) that it's not surprising it's steeped in mythology. However, it's likely that it has more earthy origins.

Mead-maker Dr Ernst Thompson - founder of The Cape Town Mead Company and chairperson of the South African Mead Masters Association - tends to agree.

"There are arguments about where it came from, but we're pretty sure - considering bees and honey - that it started in Africa. Probably far south, more towards sub-Saharan Africa," he says. "What we do know is that it's the oldest alcoholic beverage known to mankind. It goes back a very long way."

The African origin story...

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