Goan Feni; Traditional Cashew Liqour Of Kunbis Community
Image Credit: feni/ pinterest.com

Goa, the land of sun, sand, and sea, is also known for its amazing cuisine and drinking culture. So, fasten your seatbelts and get ready to embark on a gastronomic journey that will tickle your taste buds and quench your thirst! It's no secret that Goans love to drink, and they have a drink for every occasion. Drinking culture in Goa is deeply embedded in the state's history and social fabric. From traditional liquors like Feni to modern cocktails, Goa offers a diverse range of drinking options that cater to everyone's taste. Feni is the most popular drink in Goa and is considered the state's heritage drink.

Goan Feni is a unique and potent spirit that is exclusively produced in the Indian state of Goa. It is made from the fermented juice of cashew apples or coconuts, and it is considered to be the national drink of Goa. Feni has a long history in Goa and is believed to have been produced in the region for over 400 years. It was originally produced by the local Kunbis, an indigenous community of Goa, for their own consumption. However, over time, the drink gained popularity and became an integral part of Goan culture and tradition.

Feni is produced through a traditional and labor-intensive process that involves the distillation of the fermented juice of cashew apples or coconuts. The process starts with the plucking of ripe cashew apples or coconuts, which are then crushed and fermented for a few days. During the fermentation process, the natural sugars in the fruit are converted into alcohol. The fermented juice is then distilled in traditional earthen pots called "Bhanns," which are heated by a wood fire. The process of distillation involves separating the alcohol from the fermented juice and collecting it in a separate container. The first distillate is called "Urrak," which is then redistilled to produce Feni.

Goan Feni has a unique taste and aroma, which is attributed to the use of local ingredients and the traditional distillation process. Feni made from cashew apples has a fruity and floral flavor, while coconut Feni has a more earthy and nutty taste.

Feni is often consumed neat, at room temperature or chilled, and is traditionally served in small earthen pots called "Kodem." It can also be mixed with water, soda, or other fruit juices to create delicious cocktails. Some popular Feni cocktails include the Feni Colada, Feni Margarita, and Feni Martini.

Apart from its culinary and cultural significance, Feni has also been recognized for its medicinal properties. It is believed to have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties and is often used as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments, including colds, coughs, and fevers. In recent years, Goan Feni has gained popularity beyond the borders of Goa and has become a popular spirit among cocktail enthusiasts and mixologists around the world. However, the traditional method of production of Feni is still predominantly carried out by local families in Goa, and the drink remains an important part of the region's heritage and identity.

How does a Feni taste? 

Feni has a unique and distinct taste that sets it apart from other alcoholic beverages. It has a strong aroma and flavour that can be described as earthy, nutty, and fruity. The taste of Feni can vary depending on whether it's made from cashew apples or coconut sap.

Cashew Feni has a slightly sweet and fruity taste, with a distinct aroma of cashew apples. It has a smooth and slightly creamy texture, with a hint of caramel flavour. On the other hand, Coconut Feni has a more pungent and smoky flavour, with a strong coconut aroma. It has a sharp and slightly bitter taste, which is more intense than cashew Feni.

feni/ pinterest.com

Traditionally, Feni is consumed neat or mixed with water, soda, or other fruit juices. It is a potent liquor, with an alcohol content of around 40-45%, so it's best consumed in small quantities. Despite its strong taste, Feni is loved by locals and tourists alike, and it's considered an integral part of Goa's drinking culture.

How is feni made? 

Harvesting and collecting the cashew fruit: The process of making feni begins with harvesting and collecting the cashew fruit. The cashew fruit is a small, apple-shaped fruit that grows on cashew trees. The fruit is collected by hand and sorted to ensure that only the ripe fruit is used in the feni-making process.

Separating the cashew nut: Once the cashew fruit has been collected, the nut is separated from the fruit. This is usually done by hand, and the nuts are set aside for use in other products. Crushing the cashew apples: The next step in the feni-making process is to crush the cashew apples. This is typically done using a large stone or wooden press. The crushed apples are then transferred to large earthen pots called "kodens."

Fermentation: Once the crushed cashew apples are in the kodens, they are left to ferment. This process can take anywhere from three days to a week, depending on the temperature and humidity. During the fermentation process, natural yeasts in the cashew apples convert the sugars in the fruit into alcohol.

Distillation: After the fermentation process is complete, the next step is to distil the fermented liquid. This is typically done using a traditional pot still made from copper. The fermented liquid is added to the still, and heat is applied to the pot. As the liquid heats up, the alcohol vapours rise to the top of the still, where they are condensed and collected in a separate container.

Maturation: Once the feni has been distilled, it is typically left to mature for several months. This allows the flavours to develop and the alcohol content to mellow. Feni that has been aged for a longer period of time is typically considered to be of higher quality.

Bottling: After the feni has matured, it is bottled and prepared for sale. Feni is typically sold in small, clay bottles that are sealed with a cork or a plastic cap.