Friday, March 16, 2012

Training at Bonga

I considered the training sessions at Bonga to be a success. In an effort to expand upon the Ethiopian beekeepers’ sources of income, I demonstrated methods to producing cosmetic products from the available beeswax and honey. The processors at Apinec made nicely finished lip glosses, hand creams, and restorative skin care products, adding Ethiopia’s cocoa butter, olive oil, sesame oil, Ethiopian spices, and the essential oils of frankincense, citronella, palmarosa, and eucalyptus. Apinec’s spices included Ethiopian cardamom and wild pepper. The processors’ tej honey mead production was quite successful using the Kaffa Zone’s organic forest honey and native plants to recreate Ethiopia’s traditional honey wine. Microbiologist Abraham Tesfaye joined in the tej production effort to ensure that our procedures consistently produced a tej in a traditional manner while preventing contamination of our yeast cultures. To ensure consistency of the tej production over numerous batches, Abraham started propagating our lines of yeast in laboratory conditions. He explained that the yeast cell division occurs under aerobic conditions. Abraham assisted by directing the production of tej in anaerobic conditions to enable the yeast to convert the carbohydrate of the honey to alcohol. Complete filling of the fermentation vessels and the use of fermentation air locks that processor Fasika Habtemariam built ensured the proper conditions existed. The honey used to produce the tej is the forest honey collected from traditional bee hives. The honey is derived by crushing the honeycomb by hand, which leaves significant amounts of pollen and brood in the honey. The pollen and brood are sources of protein necessary for yeast cell development. Protein makes this raw forest honey an excellent medium for yeast cell growth and fermentation.

Twice a day during our training sessions, Apinec’s Tigist Wildemichael roasted, ground, and brewed Bonga coffee in a jebena and served it to us along with roasted barley or chickpeas.  Many a Kaffa Zone thatch-roof house sports a jebena coffee pot atop the center pole of the roof, the house’s only adornment.

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