Tonto, Uganda’s Indigenous Banana Beer

Tonto, Uganda’s Indigenous Banana Beer

Commonly referred to as “mwege bigere” is made from a banana type locally called kayinja in Luganda, Kisubi in Lugwere. Today we explore Uganda’s traditional beer made by ripening green bananas in a pit underground for several days. Here is all about Tonto, Uganda’s Indigenous Banana Beer.

What is Tonto?

Tonto is a brand of banana beer that is indigenous in Uganda. It is an alcoholic drink that is made from fermented bananas. The process of making banana beer involves mashing ripe bananas and mixing them with water and sorghum or millet. The mixture is then fermented, typically for a few days, using natural yeast present on the banana peels or added yeast. During fermentation, sugars in the bananas are converted into alcohol, resulting in a beverage with an alcoholic content ranging from around 3% to 12%.

Banana beer has a unique flavour profile that combines the sweetness of bananas with the tanginess and sometimes earthy taste from the fermentation process. It is often described as having a fruity and slightly sour taste. The beer is usually consumed fresh, as it does not have a long shelf life compared to other types of beer.

How to Prepare Tonto, Uganda’s Indigenous Banana Beer

several bunches of kayinja are cut from the banana plantation.   
product. The bananas can also be buried underground to hasten ripening. After six days, Gyagenda’s raw material is now yellow in colour indicating ripeness.

Alternatively, the bananas are then plucked and placed on a wooden structure above a fireplace (ekibanyi), covered with polythene and dry banana leaves to trap the heat. Smoke is then administered for about five days to quicken the ripening process and add aroma to the final product.

The ripe bananas are peeled and transferred into a wooden trough carved out of a tree stem, ready to be squashed by stomping on them using bare feet.

Crushing the Ripe Bananas

The bananas are crushed using feet, by stopping on them. Once the bananas are all crushed and are soft, spear grass is introduced to the trough to help blend the banana paste further into thinner juice.

about seven 20-litre jerrycans of water are added to dilute the concentrated banana juice (omubisi). The banana juice is then sieved into a big saucepan.

Turning banana juice into banana beer (Tonto)

The filtered juice in the huge saucepan is then transferred into a plastic drum. sorghum is then ground and added to the drum.  This sorghum is important in fermenting the juice, the juice cannot be fermented without the sorghum, but it instead goes bad.

sorghum is first roasted to give it an aroma, before mixing it with the juice. The mixture of juice and sorghum is then covered with fresh banana leaves and polythene paper and left to ferment for 24 hours. After 24 hours the fermented juice is uncovered. The sorghum grinds are carefully removed from the top to expose the freshly brewed tonto.

Packing the Tonto

Tonto is commonly packed in 20 litter jerrycans through which it is distributed to its customers.  The Ugandan banana beer has a moderately sweet and tangy taste.

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