Umqombothi And The Goddess Mbaba Mwana Waresa

I come from a Zulu family, where Umqombothi (Sorghum Beer), is always brewed during major occasions like weddings. According to Zulu culture, women are the chief brewers and servers of Umqombothi. I never understood why, until I learned about Goddess Mbaba Mwana Waresa.

IMAGE: colloquial-tea

In Zulu Mythology, Mbaba Mwana Waresa is the Goddess of rain, rainbows and agriculture, who created beer, and later passed on the art of brewing to Zulu people. Mbaba Mwana Waresa created beer in order to make humans feel closer to the Gods.

Mbaba Mwana Waresa and Thandiwe

Mbaba Mwana Waresa had made the other Gods angry when she married a human called Thandiwe, instead of a fellow God. Some Gods looked down on humans. This conflict was resolved when the Gods and humans shared Mbaba Mwana Waresa’s brew. So, basically the reason why Zulu women are the chief brewers of Umqombothi, is because the creator of Umqombothi is a woman.

Check out this music video where Yvonne Chaka Chaka celebrates the ritual of brewing Umqombothi.

Here’s a recipe for Umqombothi from



* 25 L bucket

* 2 Imiphongolo (Large containers for liquids that should be able to hold around 40 L. Consider using buckets that you have at your disposal if you don’t have large containers.)

* The largest pot you have in your house

* Ivovo (sieve)

* Ukhamba (calabash) to serve the beer



* 5 kg mealie meal

* 2 kg umthombo wombila (maize malt)

* 4 kg umthombo wamabele (wheat malt)

* Cold water

* Boiling water

It takes 4 days to make umqombothi using this recipe.

Day 1

1. Mix 5 kg mealie meal, 2 kg maize malt and 1 kg wheat malt in the 25 L bucket.

2. Add cold water to reach ¾ level of the bucket and add 1 kettle of boiling water.

3. Mix all these ingredients together, place the lid on the bucket (But do not seal the lid, just place it on top.)

4. Leave the mixture to ferment overnight on a mat in a warm room.

Day 2

You should start to see the results of the fermentation in the mixture (it should be foamy).

1. Stir to lift ingredients resting at the bottom of the bucket.

2. Fill the large pot with 3/5 of water and heat it to boiling point.

3. Slowly add the fermented mixture
to the boiling water until it forms the same texture as that of porridge.

4. Once cooked, empty some of the contents of the pot into the large container and leave a little cooked mixture in the pot.

5. Slowly add more of the fermented mixture to fill the pot. You will have to keep adding warm water to ensure the porridge is smooth.

6. Repeat step 4 and 5 until all the fermented contents of the 25 lt bucket are cooked.

7. Leave the cooked porridge in the large container with the lid on top (do not seal the lid, just place it on top).

8. Allow to cool for the rest of the day and overnight.

Day 3

1. Add the remaining 3 kg wheat malt to the cold porridge mixture and stir the ingredients together.

2. Leave the cold porridge and wheat malt mix in the large container with the lid on top. Do not seal the lid, just place it on top.

3. Leave the mixture to ferment overnight on a mat in a warm room.

Day 4

1. On the morning of day 4, the contents of the pot should have the appearance of umqombothi – a thick, rich foamy layer flowing out of the container.

2. Stir the ingredients

3. Ivovo is a woven sieve and it is ideal for brewing umqombothi. Fill it with the mixture and twist to strain the liquid into the second large container.

4. Empty the sieve of the grains and repeat step 3 until all the mixture is strained.

5. Bring out ukhamba, the calabash and serve.


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