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Muratina: All About The Timeless Traditional Kikuyu Brew

Traditional alcoholic drinks are usually associated with rituals and occasions. These beverages are made from cereals or fruits locally found in a region.

Unlike today, such drinks were only used when performing traditional rituals, and we’re only taken by a certain group of people.

Now people just use these beverages while having a good time.

However, in most regions, these drinks haven’t completely lost their cultural significance.

One such drink is Muratina. Where is it found, and how is it made?

“Muratina”; Its Origin

“Muratina”, named after a fruit with the same name, is an alcoholic beverage.

The fruit is bore by the sausage tree, scientific name Kigelia Africana, a wild tree which is widely found in Africa.

The tree is known by many names in different countries and regions. In Swahili, it is referred to as Mvungavunga, Mvungwa, Mwegea, Mvungunya and Mwicha.

The tree grows up to 20 meters, and is found in wet areas, especially along streams and rivers banks, in open woodlands, and on food plains all over across Africa.

Locally it grows on Kenyan food plains.

The “Muratina” fruit, greyish-brown in color, grows in a shape similar to that if a sausage in a casing. On average it weighs between 5-10 kg.

Since the fruit can be quite poisonous to humans, especially when unripe, people normally bake them and eat the cooked pulp. The seeds are also edible, when roasted.

Traditionally, the Sausage tree has been used to treat skin ailments, infections, uterus and alimentary tract cancers, stomach, kidneys, pneumonia, backaches and swelling breasts, among many other uses.

Today we are interested in just one of its uses: to make alcohol.

“Muratina” Drink History

Muratina is also known as “Njoohi ya Mugikuyu” (Kikuyu’s Alcohol: direct translation). It is a traditional beverage common among the Kikuyu community.

It has been used throughout generations during births, ‘ruracio’ (dowry payment ceremony), ‘irua’ (circumcision) and other traditional rituals and ceremonies.

During dowry payments, it was referred to as ‘Njoohi ya Athuuri’ (loosely translated: Men’s alcohol), and was only taken by old and experienced men.

It was a taboo for a young man, or a woman of any age, to drink some during the ceremonies.

It was also commonly found in homes. I remember my grandmother telling me how her and her siblings would sneak up to their father’s house and drink some of his Muratina, then refill the jar with water.

Well, they were caught in the end since it was obvious someone had been tampering with the drink and its alcohol content and taste had been compromised.

We’ve come a long way since then, and now this drink has become very popular, drank by people of all ages and genders, from all tribes and races, and at any or no occasions whatsoever.

In fact, many youths mix Muratina with vodkas and other spirits to neutralize their alcohol content.

How Is The “Muratina” Beverage Made?

It is made from the sausage tree fruit, locally known as ‘Muratina’.

The fruit, also called ‘Kiratina’, is thoroughly cleaned and rinsed with running water, cut into medium to small pieces and then sun-dried.

The following is a detailed step-by-step guide to making the best Muratina.

Muratina Recipe

If you are wondering if Muratina is something you can make at home, the answer is yes.

 In fact, I grew up next to a man who made Muratina for both personal and commercial use.

Though I never got the chance to visit and learn the whole process of making it, I have managed to prepare a recipe that you can easily follow.

Ingredients

  • Kiratina(sausage tree fruits)
  • Sugarcane juice
  • Honey

Instructions

  • First step is to determine how much Muratina you want to make. This will determine how many fruits you need.
  • Thoroughly clean the fruits you will need and rinse properly.
  • Cut the ‘Kiratina’ into small pieces. The smaller the size, the faster they are likely to dry up.
  • Place them on a clean surface and leave them under the sun to dry. This process usually takes a couple of hours, also depending on how hot the sun is, so make sure you’ve spread out the pieces nicely for sun penetration.
  • Touch the pieces with clean hands to make sure they are dry.
  • Once ready, put them in a sufuria and add water. Boil them for about 30 minutes.
  • After this, take out the fruit pieces and sun-dry them again.
  • Some people choose to repeat the boiling process twice and drying the fruits, while others only boil one. However, boiling once is enough.
  • Have a small amount of sugarcane juice and honey while you wait for the fruits to dry, then mix the fruits with the sugarcane juice, just enough to blend in with the fruits. Do not get them damp. Also add in honey to taste.
  • Keep them in a warm place. Some people who make Muratina on a larger scale build traditional mud or wood rooms, since this regulates the room temperature, and then add a fire place, or a jiko, to keep the room warm. You may also opt to set the mixture in the sun during the day.
  • After 24 hours, dry the fruits in the sun again for a couple of hours.
  • Now you can add some more sugarcane juice, depending on how much Muratina you would like to make, and ferment it for 4 to 7 days. Like it is the case with wine, the more you leave your drink to ferment, the better and more sour it’ll get.

Is Muratina Legal In Kenya?

Yes it is. Muratina has been legal in Kenya since early 2018 after the courts ruled that it is not an illicit brew.

Now the drink is sold in joints across the country, and freely used during ceremonies and bashes.

Is Muratina Healthy?

Muratina is made from natural ingredients, so I would say it is quite healthy.

It acts as a source of fiber, antioxidants, minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, folate, vitamin B, calories, proteins and carbohydrates.

Side Effects of Drinking Muratina

Muratina has the same immediate side effects as any other alcoholic beverage. They include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Euphoria
  • Vomiting
  • Blackouts
  • Headache (I would not recommend it to people who suffer from migraine headaches)

Alcoholic Percentage of Muratina

Muratina alcohol content is about 12%.

Though it may seem small, I would caution restraint since it is enough to get one drunk or tipsy.

Despite it being fermented, it has a sour and distant fruit taste in it. So, people tend to drink more and real fast.

How Long Does It Last?

Muratina can last up to week after it’s been opened. This is when it is at its best taste.

Future of Muratina

Muratina has been gaining publicity abroad, with it hitting supermarket shelves in the UK as ‘Muratelia’.

It has been packed in black champagne-like bottles aligned with gold.

Unable to access the local ingredients for making Muratina, this new brand of wine has been made with ingredients available in the UK, but has managed to retain its taste and aroma.

Soon enough this healthy fruit-based beverage will be stocked in all shelves across the world as its popularity increases.

This will not only solve the food security issue, but also introduce the entire world to a Kenyan origin drink with tons of health benefits.

If you have never tasted this local beer, maybe it’s time you gave it a shot. You might be surprised at how much you might actually grow to like it. It has very few side effects.

And besides, our grandparents and their grandparents before them used this drink, and lived for very many years.

This is not the case with the high mortality rates resulting from modern day chemical‐filled alcoholic drinks.

Also check: Busaa: All about Kenya’s Iconic Traditional Brew

Kenyalogue Contributor

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