A traditional staple in eastern Nepal, Tonga has grown in reputation as the ultimate backpacker beer.
Consisting of fermented millet, Tongba has the unique process of being brewed on the spot. Drinkers simply add the fermented millet to a large mug and pour hot water over it. After waiting a few minutes for the millet to steep, a bamboo straw is added; the straw has a filter or perforated end to ensure no millet is sucked up while drinking.
The result is essentially a hot millet beer. The taste is slightly sour and very yeasty, like a beer that’s only partially fermented. While it is generally considered to be fairly low in alcohol, due to the short steep, the benefit of Tongba is that the drinker can continually add more hot water to the glass, with one batch of millet lasting for five or six cups.
Tongba is traditionally from the eastern regions of the country with the Limbu Sherpas of Nepal preparing this brew for ceremonies, celebrations, and religious offerings. Other cultures took notice and it spread into the surrounding mountainous regions of Tibet, Bhutan, and Sikkim in India. Today, you can find Tongba in restaurants and cafes across Nepal being enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
If you’ve never tried “hot beer”, Tongba is the place to start!