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The Making of Thobwa

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The traditional mtsuko (clay pot) of thobwa may have disappeared from our roadsides but this refreshing drink is still to be found everywhere offered for sale in reclaimed clear plastic bottles alongside cooled commercial carbonated beverages.


Quality varies. It may be difficult to find 'genuine' or quality thobwa, unadulterated by sugar or artificial flavouring.


Jimmy Chikwenga, the well-known Mangochi personality and former Member of Parliament for Malombe is fortunate that his good wife, Tryphene, keeps to the traditional recipe passed on to her by her mother in Kwawa Village, Karonga District. She substitutes maize flour (mgaiwa) for the cassava flour (kondobole) of her northern lakeshore home.Any starchy food would porobably do as a base.


Thobwa is often termed 'Sweet Beer' and the process of production by yeast fermentation is much the same as in the brewing of beer.


The brewing process requires that the starches in the ingredients be converted to sugars. It is to be drunk before the fermentation can convert the sugars into alcohol as would happen with beers. As designed, it is a refreshing and highly nutritious non-alcohilic drink. The inclusion of solids may not be to the taste of many visitors to Malawi used to clear drinks but, once accustomed to the gritty 'feel', the novice drinker may soon appreciate the sweet and sour, slightly malty flavours.


The Process



Maize flour or other flour such as kondobole

'Chimera' - a malted finger millet. (mawere) made by drying the sprouted grain.


A little sugar if desired


After the seeds are thoroughly sun-dried, either take to a maize mill for processing into flour or use a mortar and piston to pound your seeds into a fine powder. We however preferred

using the traditional mortar to avoid the contamination with other grains which may occur if it is sent to the local maize mill for grinding.


Thereafter, place a large pot of water on thestove and make a semi-thick porridge from just the maize flour and water. When your porridge is bubbling and boiling, and it smells cooked, then take it off the stove. Add the 'chimera' flour to the maize porridge.

The addition of the 'chimera', contrary to what may logically be expected, makes the brew thinner and of drinkable consistency.

'Chimera, (which translates as 'sprouts') is to be found in most markets in Malawi. The process of malting is the same as used in brewing throughout the world. It promotes the release of an enzyme which, in the brewing of Chibuku Beer, is introduced into the process as an industrially produced ingredient. The enzyme is required to convert the starches to the sugars on which the yeast feeds.



Leave the brew overnight during which time the natural yeasts in the air will start the process of fermentation . A little sugar may be added to assist in the feeding of the yeasts.


Refrigerate or drink when fresh.


Because thobwa is made using maize flour it has a cereal taste and fills you up. Lots of Malawians use this drink as energy for the day and you can find it being sold everywhere out of recycled plastic bottles in the towns/cities, and from clay pots in the villages.


Before drinking you have to shake the bottle, or mix the pot otherwise you will drink only water as the maize and millet sinks to the bottom. When you have finished drinking there will always be sediments at the bottom of your glass, or 'masese' as it is known in the vernacular language.


Thobwa can be found all year round, however it is mainly served in the hot months (Sept-Nov), and is particularly served to welcome guests visiting a compound. Huge quantities of thobwa is consumed at weddings as a celebratory drink.


Enjoy your Thobwa



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