A Brief History of the Seychelles' Palm Wine

Sap of the palm being collected for palm wine
Sap of the palm being collected for palm wine | ©villimaka foliaki / Flickr

In the Seychelles, palm wine is as much of a traditional drink as fruit bat curry is a traditional dish. Read on to learn more about the home brew drink of the Seychelles.
Palm wine is made and drunk in various countries across the world. It is an alcoholic drink made from the sap of different palm trees. In Seychelles it is known locally as ‘calou‘, ‘kalou‘, or ‘toddy‘.

Look up into the palm trees here and you might see a bottle hanging down. It’s almost certainly not there by mistake, most likely its being used for palm wine.

The bottles used are generally not at all fancy, just a plastic bottle of any kind is what you’ll usually see.

Sap of the palm being collected for palm wine

In Seychelles, two parts of the tree are used to make calou – either the top of the tree in what is known as the spathe, or in the roots which supposedly makes a stronger wine.

Palm spathe when closed is tapped for palm wine

Drinking straight from the tree as was traditional, the wine is warm and sometimes quite hot. This definitely adds to the alcohol buzz. If you chill it in the fridge for a little while its a lot more drinkable and it’s best to drink it within a day or two.

As soon as the tree is tapped, the sap starts to ferment. After just a couple of hours the alcohol percentage can already be up to 4%.

Where to drink palm wine

Palm wine is not something you’re going to find in any restaurants, but you can go to the Praslin Museum where they do demonstrations on how to tap palm wine. You’ll get a glass of it too if you are feeling brave enough to try it. You can also sometimes find it being sold in markets or food stalls.

Praslin Museum, Praslin, Seychelles +248 52461

Palm wine, ready to drink if you are

A study of alcohol consumption in the Seychelles conducted in 1999 found that poorer people in society have by far the largest consumption of ‘home brew’ (i.e. palm wine). Men also drink more frequently and much larger amounts than women.

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