We entered a traditional Ethiopian honey tavern in Gera, a place in the Oromia region that’s known for its honey production. We were welcomed by an older lady who shook our right hand and kissed it gently. An old man with a wooden cane gave us a glance. A faint buzzing of bees filled the room. The woman was selling homemade honey drinks named birz (non-alcoholic) and tej (alcoholic). She scooped big spoons of birz into a funnel to fill up 2 glass bottles and brought them to our creaky wooden bench along with 4 glasses. Soon after, the bee buzzing increased and the number of bees in the tavern reached a somewhat uncomfortable level. The woman was amused by our fear of swallowing bees in our drinks, but the taste was heavenly sweet, so we finished 3 glasses each before hitting the road to go back to Jimma.
Many of the locals make their own bee hives out of tree bark and hang them high up in the trees. About 3 times a year the honey is collected and then used in dishes and drinks or sold in plastic bags.