Traditional Toddy Tapping

The heart of Goa lies in her villages, Where even today in this rapidly modernising Indian state the ancient traditional occupation still has a place in society. Toddy-Tapping,fishing, and farming have been since time immemorial the primary occupations of villagers, though urban office employment and overseas shipping jobs have significantly detracted from the numbers of youth choosing to enter into the occupation of their fathers. Even today the income derived from toddy-tapping is lucrative owing to the subsequent production of feni, the local drink famous throughout Goa .

Toddy-taping,therefore,occupies a special place among the traditional occupations of Goans, and they have established their own Toddy-Tappers Association with a head office in Margao. The toddy-tappers are men of humble origin and even temperament who enjoy the unhurried, albeit strenuous life of their profession. They are most concentrated in the coastal talukas where an abundance of coconut plantations are found, and every coastal villages has at least one toddy-tapper.

A toddy-tapper performs his job thrice a day on each tree given to his care, morning, afternoon and evening. In the morning and evening the “vein” of the tree at its top is opened and the sap slowly drains into attached clays pot or plastic jug. During the afternoon heat, the toddy tapper climbs the trees and closes the openings so that the tree has time to recover its lost fluids. He climbs the trees using foot steps carved in the trunk and supports himself once in the tree tops by the base of the palm leaves.

ttapperFor three consecutive days, enough sur [sap] is collected from the coconut trees to fill up a large jug. Once enough sur is collected, it is then subjected to a process which results in the production of coconut feni, a distilled drink with a high percentage of alcohol. On the fourth day, the sur is heated in a large earthenware vessel over a wood fire until it boils.

Once boiling begins, the vapour which is created rises from the mixture and escapes through a pipe which passes through a large cement cooling water tank the pipe then emerges at the bottom of the tank and the sur now cooled re-condenses to liquid molop and falls into small clay pot.

The remaining contents of the large vessel [gordo] are discarded and the distillation process is repeated this time heating the molop and an additional amount of sur. The result of this distillation is known as coconut feni and is a popular drink throughout Goa in both villages and urban centres. The entire process lasts from 4-6 days depending on the weather conditions and is arrested by the monsoons.

By Karin Larsen – Full Bright Research Student
Excerpt from “Glimpses of Goa”