Strange Effects of Konyagi

Those of you who are fortunate enough to have visited Tanzania will no doubt be familiar with the local spirit, Konyagi. To give the rest of you some idea of what it’s like, the ingredients are ‘Fine spirit, konyagi flavor and de-ionised water’. Ok, so we’re none the wiser, but don’t let that put you off.

Konyagi bottle on table

The first selling point of this stuff is that it’s amazingly cheap. Just a few dollars will get you a large bottle. It goes very nicely with Coke or Fanta and, best of all, it rarely leaves you with a pounding head the next morning.

I tried Konyagi for the first time the night I arrived in the town of Moshi. I’d done a full day’s work in London, flown over from the UK via Addis Ababa and spent the afternoon familiarising myself with the local area. By this point, I’d planned to be tucked up under my mosquito net, but, instead, I got caught up in the moment. Eager to meet new people, I ended up in a place called Glacier Bar – basically a field with a few plastic chairs. And so my love affair with Konyagi began.

Now, I don’t want to promote heavy drinking, but unfortunately it does seem to be one of the few things we Brits really excel at. And there’s nothing like a Konyagi and Coke to lower your inhibitions and get you up on the dance floor. It’s well worth it just for the experience of a dance off with a Maasai in full traditional dress!

Konyagi the night before

The night before…

So, during my month in Tanzania, I fell into the habit of having a Konyagi-based drink or two on most nights out, and all but one time I felt absolutely fine the next day. This one particular morning, I woke up after a night out in the aptly named Kool Bar and it had hit me hard. It was a Friday, but there was no way I could have made it into the school where I was volunteering. Feeling incredibly guilty, I asked some other volunteers to pass on the message that I was feeling unwell, and hoped they suspected Moshi belly, rather than a self-inflicted hangover.

Dragging myself into the lounge to find my bag from the night before, I found there were two new arrivals. I must have been quite a sight – we still laugh about that first meeting! Some breakfast and a big glass of water was enough to get over that groggy feeling and things were looking up. I thought I’d got away with it and I took my book back into the lounge to chill out for the rest of the day.

Konyagi drinking games

Konyagi drinking games at the hostel

This was when things started to get weird. I don’t know about you, but I often find myself feeling a little bit disorientated when I haven’t been in a foreign country for very long. You need time to acclimatise to the customs and the sense of humour of your new companions. But this was different. I felt totally spaced out and confused. One friend came back to the hostel to tell me that, while she’d been volunteering that morning, a crazed naked child had come running out of the corn field screaming at all of the kids in the centre where she worked. It sounded like something from the Blair Witch Project. Then, as the rest of us chatted about that really odd experience, she went outside to offer the gardener a piece of chocolate and came back in crying because he’d misunderstood her and taken it all! I know good chocolate is hard to come by in Tanzania, but her reaction still seemed a bit extreme. To top it off, a few minutes later, another friend put down her book and burst into tears. Admittedly, it was ‘My sister’s keeper’, but with everyone crying around me, I had to pinch myself to make sure this wasn’t all some kind of weird nightmare.

Konyagi back message

A few quotes on Konyagi

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I don’t know how much of this spaced out feeling I can blame on the Konyagi, but that will go down as the most surreal hangover I’ve ever had. Thankfully though, the joy of Konyagi lived on, none of us was put off drinking it again, and the Konyagi craze continues to sweep through the East African backpacking scene.

A few weeks later, I managed to purchase some earrings at a Maasai market in the nearby town of Arusha that were made from the lids of Konyagi bottles and, thanks to their bright orange colour, they’ve since come in handy during the Queen’s Day celebrations in the Netherlands.

Konyagi earrings party night

Konyagi bottle lid earrings

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While I stayed in Moshi, the hostel I was in had many themed nights, including a Konyagi night, with mugs of Konyagi-based punch and drinking games by the bonfire, and even a fancy dress party where my friend Mel actually dressed as a Konyagi bottle!

Konyagi Africa night

The girls dress up for ‘Africa night’

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But the piece de resistance: I met a girl who’d actually got the Konyagi symbol tattooed permanently on her ankle. I think she might have been drunk on Konyagi at the time… How’s that for a positive feedback loop of product promotion?!

Konyagi 'tattoos'

These ‘tattoos’ obviously aren’t permanent

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So, if you go to Tanzania, make sure you try some of this magical spirit. After all, we all know we should make an effort to buy local produce and do our bit to support the local economy. You might also want to try Serengeti beer and Savannah cider, but it’s Konyagi you’ll miss the most. Despite my best efforts to find a retailer, there don’t seem to be any options to buy it in the UK. So make the most of it while you’re there!

Comments

  1. says

    Oooo so this is the magical drink that doesn’t give you a hangover! I want to try it, just to do my bit to support to local economy of course :)

    • says

      Yep! Usually, I felt totally fine after drinking it, and then this one morning I was just confused! But there was never a pounding head or nausea. I wish they sold it in the UK.

  2. Joshua Nicholls says

    Hahaha I love this blog! I miss Tanzania, Moshi and Konyagi so much! “Glacier bar – basically a field with a few BROKEN plastic chairs” Ha… Great atmosphere though :) We need to come up with some sort of marketing proposal to send to the good people at Konyagi to try and encourage them to explore the UK market.

    • says

      Yes, broken chairs and a broken ‘toilet block’ that could only be reached via a long trek through a pitch black field. Good times! It was also our venue for live-screened football, as I was there during the World Cup. It was so embarrassing watching USA and England draw while surrounded by Americans who asked questions like ‘Why is the game timer going up and not down?’

      I am so in on that plan to market Konyagi over here! Savanna cider was advertised on TV the other day. It’s only a matter of time before someone sees sense!

  3. Craig Pervan says

    I had a magical night on the Konyagi last Friday in Glaciers, the pinicle of which was going with my driver to see his friend next door at Moshi Club, only to walk in on his birthday/wedding celebration dinner, being feed and getting a complimentary Kilimanjaro

  4. Carrie says

    No, you’re doing it all wrong! Drink Konyagi with Stoney Tangawezi, the Tanzania ginger beer! Sooo good! You’ll never go back to coke or fanta or whatever other crap soda you’re choosing now:)

    • says

      I guess that depends on the person. I had nights where I got through a small bottle (with coke as a mixer) and felt pretty tipsy. They’re so cheap it’s easy to forget that a whole bottle is actually quite a lot!! :)

      • Doramin says

        The websites say it’s distilled from molasses. That means it is simply rum by another name, and weak rum (35%/70 proof) at that.

        Nothing to get excited over, but if it is “super cheap” you’ve definitely got my notice.

  5. Adrianne says

    That sounds more like a reaction to the mix of anti-malarial medication and alcohol to me. It’s happened to me a couple of times. I don’t know if you were taking a prophylactic medication at the time but if you were I’d imagine it was from that. Nonetheless Konyagi is awesome..miss it! Savannah too! The beer I could do without.

    • says

      Yes, that makes sense actually! I can’t remember which anti-malarials I was on, but they were giving me weird dreams too. Either way, Konyagi was cheap and rarely made me feel ill so it’s high up on my list of favourite odd foreign spirits!

      • Doramin says

        Aha! Almost certainly the anti-malarials. Recall the notorious “Lariam” (mofloquine hydrochloride) that caused such panic over psycho side-effects back in the 90′s.

    • says

      It really is the best! I’m not sure if you can get hold of it in the States. I live in the UK and spent a fair bit of time trying to track it down. I don’t think it’s available here. There’s a website that sells it online, but it’s not cheap in comparison with buying it locally. It’s understandable because they have to make a profit and ship it too. Depends how much you want it I guess! Here’s the website: http://buytanzaniabeer.webs.com/

  6. jo says

    I’ve just got back from Tanzania and as a solution for my back-in-blighty-blues was googling if I could buy Konyagi here and found this gem of a blog!
    My Konyagi highlight was drinking 3 bottles while staying with the Maasai, in a mudhut teaching them northern phrases like ‘fancy a brew?’ ‘alright duck’ ‘put a fork in me, I’m done!’

    • says

      Haha! I love it!! I’m from York so I’m very proud of you for passing on those phrases!! Three bottles is quite the achievement! You must’ve felt pretty spaced out by the time you were done with all that! :)

    • says

      I’m sorry, I can’t help with that. I wish I could! I know you could find it anywhere you went in Tanzania. Perhaps there are companies that import it to SA, but I have to admit that I found it impossible to track down when I returned to the UK. Sadly it doesn’t seem to have taken off in other countries… Good luck, and let me know if you do find it!

  7. Caitlin says

    Ah konyagi, *sigh* wish you could buy it in the uk. My first experience with it was in keys hotel in moshi and it was honestly the most fun night. Did discover my camera broken the morning after though… Ach well, win some, lose some! Let me know if you find a place to buy it!

    • says

      Oh no! I’m sorry to hear about your camera! But I’m glad you experienced the weirdness of konyagi! I will definitely be spreading the word if I ever find it in the UK. Or perhaps I should just import the stuff myself and set up a little konyagi boutique in London. There’s obviously demand for it! :)

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