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What Is Mead
What is Mead?
Google says mead is “an alcoholic drink of fermented honey and water.” Wikihow describes making mead by saying, “When you mix water and honey and ferment it with yeast, you get mead, an alcoholic drink”. About.com answers the question what is mead by saying it is honey wine that ferments honey instead of grapes. WiseGEEK says; “Mead is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey with yeast. It is not a beer, wine, or spirit in the normal sense; it is its own class of alcohol.” We think that is well said. Mead pre-dates other alcohols. We spend time trying to describe how mead compares to beer or wine but really we should be talking about how beer or wine compares to mead. Mead is the father of all alcoholic beverages. There is a lot of lore in mead history about its medicinal qualities. Encyclopaedia Britannica writes about this history in thier answer to the the question; what is mead? Dictionaries focus on the history of the word mead which they say started out describing a meadow. Wikipedia says it comes from the Middle English word mede, and the old english word medu or meodu. “Mead” has a common etymology with the Dutch word mee, or German Met. Also Old Norse mjqthr mead, Sanskrit madhu honey, and Greek methy wine. but we digress.
What is mead? Mead is the oldest fermented beverage on the planet. At least no one can prove is wasn’t, because it has been around since before mankind was writing things down. We think the oldest mead recorded comes from China, 7000 to 9000 years ago. Mead history is long and covers all continents of the world. There is a lot we don’t know and even more we debate, but we do know that honey has been around for as long man, and as soon as man discovered fermentation he has been fermenting honey to make mead.
Archaeology is making the case that the earliest man involved in fermenting honey may have been in the Henan province in China. Mead is still made in Africa to this day and is known as Tej. Next time you are in Ethiopia, visit your local tej betock (tej house) for a taste of mead. There is so much to learn about the legends of mead.
The technical answer to the question, what is mead, is not that simple though. There is a booming, centuries old, mead industry in Europe, especially Poland, where they have never stopped making mead. In the United States, mead is really just entering the scene. Certainly hobbyists and even a few wineries have been making mead for quite some time. It is only in the last few decades that it has made any headway into pop culture. The United States government’s answer to the question, what is mead, is that fermented honey is wine made from honey; aka honey wine. As a licensed winery in the US, we are required to describe fermented honey as honey wine. In fact the word mead isn’t currently defined. The American Mead Makers Associate is making efforts to change this, but what will be decided is unknown. Even a government classification will not really answer the question, what is mead? Mead is too old and has too diverse a history to be defined by one generation.
At this point the one thing we have consistently said throughout this description of mead, is that it is fermented honey. Maybe that is the best answer to the question, what is mead?
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