Toddy Tapping in Sri Lanka: A Traditional Industry Preserved by Skilled Tappers and Unique Locations
Toddy tapping is an age-old tradition in Sri Lanka that involves extracting sap from the inflorescence of the coconut palm tree, which is then fermented to produce toddy, a mildly alcoholic beverage. Toddy has been an important part of Sri Lankan culture and cuisine for centuries and is used in the preparation of various dishes and as a refreshing drink. Somebody called this beverage Thal Ra, Kithul Ra, or Pol Ra, according to the plant used for the process.
Toddy tapping is an art that requires skilled tappers who are knowledgeable about the process. In Sri Lanka, many toddy tappers are from families that have been in the industry for generations, and they are experts in selecting the right coconut trees and extracting the sap with minimal damage to the trees. The toddy tappers use special tools such as the toddy tapping knife, coconut shells, and bamboo poles to extract the sap from the coconut tree.
Toddy Tapper will climb the coconut tree when the time is right. He then breaks the flower for three days, which begins the process.The tappers walk along two adjacent rows between two coconut trees. It appears to be a dangerous activity in which a mistake could cost him his life.
One of the unique aspects of toddy tapping in Sri Lanka is the different locations where it takes place. The majority of toddy tappers operate in the southern and western regions of the country, but there are also toddy tapping places in other parts of the country, such as the North Central, Eastern, and Northern regions. Each location has its own distinct flavor and aroma, influenced by factors such as soil composition, climate, and the age of the coconut tree.
Despite the traditional toddy tapping industry in Sri Lanka facing various challenges in the modern era, there are still many toddy tappers who are dedicated to preserving the tradition and maintaining the quality of their product. Many of them have formed cooperatives to help market their products and protect their interests. These cooperatives ensure that the toddy tappers receive fair prices for their products, and they also help to maintain the quality of the toddy by providing education and training on sustainable and eco-friendly practices.