There are a few different health benefits to drinking toddy, including hydration, energy, and even some medicinal properties including being good for your digestion. A simple toddy drink can be great for soothing your stomach, and it is a good source of hydration at the same time!
In the Western world, toddy is not a very well-known drink. However, in certain areas of South Asia, especially India, it is quite popular. In fact, the drinking of this beverage is such an ingrained part of Indian culture that its importance cannot be overstated. So, what exactly is this concoction called “toddy”? And where did it come from?
Toddy is a drink made from the sap extracted from various trees, most commonly coconut trees and palm trees, though others have been used as well. It is a process that has been in practice for centuries, and is now such an ingrained part of Indian rural culture that it is near impossible to imagine life without it.
The practice of "Toddy tapping" or "Toddy drawing" dates back generations, when workers ascended the tree using only their bare feet, hands, and occasionally a rope for support.
The first step in making toddy is to find the right type of tree. When Toddy tappers want to reach the top of a palm tree, they will strap grips to their feet and "walk" up the tree. Then they will 'tap' a hole into the palm tree's cut bloom and use that as an anchor to attach a bowl. Later, after the sap has had time to ferment spontaneously, it will be collected from the bowl. The sap is put to use in the kitchen or offered to customers as a drink at toddy shops and shacks.This process of collecting toddy has been practiced for centuries in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean.
The origins of toddy are rather foggy, but it is generally agreed that it originated in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Although the state of Kerala is most famous for its ‘Kallu shaaps’or toddy shops, plenty of early Indian Tamil works made references to the beverage. Toppi, Pili, Teral, Mattu, and Ariyal were all names used to refer to Toddy. The ingredients for toddy were a combination of honey, rice, and cereal, as well as the sap of a specific palm tree. After the toddy had fermented, the villagers would pour it into enormous containers made of bamboo and drink it. To mask the strong odor of the toddy, they adorned the jar with a flower garland (maalai) containing ginger.
One of the earliest surviving works of Tamil literature, the grammar book Tholkaapiyam, mentions the widespread use of toddy in ancient India. Toddy was a popular drink in Tamil society, with women and even children of all social classes in Indian society partaking. Kings, poets, and some of the most famous musicians of the day all enjoyed a good toddy. There's also talk of how kings traditionally served toddy at lavish banquets attended by poets, bards, and battle heroes. While traditional Indian culture generally viewed toddy as a source of happiness and celebration, toddy was seen as an intoxicant with potentially harmful mixes by the British, and so regulations on toddy and caste restrictions were imposed.
In different parts of India, toddy is known by different names. It is also made using different techniques. For instance, in the Northeastern states like Assam, bamboo plants are stuffed with rice and left to ferment.
This beverage is illegal in Tamil Nadu at the moment, yet its status is subject to change depending on political winds. Moonshine distillers of arrack commonly sell alcohol laced with methanol due to a lack of authorized toddy, which can have fatal effects. Authorities have campaigned for cheap "Indian Made Foreign Liquor" to discourage this behavior (IMFL).
After a long day of work, many people in rural Telangana and Andhra Pradesh enjoy a refreshing toddy as an end of the day beverage. Both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh produce two distinct kinds of toddy: tadikallu (made from Toddy Palmyra plants) and it a kallu (made from a type of palm trees). However, tadikallu is far more potent (sweet in the morning, turning sour to bitter-sour in the evening) and intoxicating than it a kallu. In the coastal regions of Karnataka and Goa, it is used to make a softer type of Sanna that is quite popular.
There are a few different health benefits to drinking toddy, including hydration, energy, and even some medicinal properties including being good for your digestion. A simple toddy drink can be great for soothing your stomach, and it is a good source of hydration at the same time! Toddy is a simple beverage, and can be a great alternative to soda and other unhealthy sugary drinks. That said, it is important to not overdo it and drink too much, particularly the fermented version, which can have a lot of sugar and be unhealthy in large amounts!
There are some downsides to drinking toddy it is important to drink fresh toddy and not fermented toddy. As fun as it can be to drink the fermented version, it is not good for you at all! Fermented toddy is typically very sugary and can be harmful to your health if you drink too much of it!