Developmnet of Fermented Beverages Production: An Ovwerview

Fruits and vegetables are thought to be the first foods consumed as fermented products. Early hunter-gatherers could have collected and eaten fresh fruits during times of abundance but they could also have consumed rotten and fermented fruits at times of scarcity. This habit led to a developed taste for certain fermented fruits and also for the alcohol produced by spontaneous fermentation (Battcock and Azam-Ali 1998). China is believed to be the birthplace of fermented vegetables. These food products were prepared by the action of molds such as Aspergillus sp. and Rhizopus sp. to make fermented foods (Battcock and Azam-Ali 1998). This included the development of an amylolysis fermentation method, in which fungi broke down the polysaccharides in rice (Oryza sativa L.) and millet (McGovern et al. 2004). Archaeochemical, archaeo- botanical, and archaeological evidence support the fact that the preparation of fermented beverages dates back to nearly 9,000 years ago in China (McGovern et al. 2004). There is also reliable information supporting the theory that fermented drinks were being produced over 7,000 years ago in Babylonia (now Republic of Iraq), 5,000 years ago in Egypt, 4,000 years ago in Mexico and 3,500 years ago in Sudan (Dirar 1993; Battcock and Azam-Ali 1998).

Mead, wine and beer were the first alcoholic fermented beverages produced by indigenous people in human history. Production of wine and mead was simple in comparison to beer making. Certainly, mead was the first alcoholic fermented drink because honey (the most antique fermentative substrate) and water were readily available. The process was easily feasible by just allowing a mixture of these ingredients to stand and ferment (Haehn 1956).

Inhabitants of Mesopotamia already knew the manufacturing process of beer according to cuneiform findings (2,700 years ago) which clearly describe the process. In the 5th century A.D. (1,500 years ago) there existed in Babylonia skilled brewers who prepared malted grains from barley. This process was described on cuneiform inscriptions as follows: barley is soaked, allowed to germinate, dried and ground to obtain flour and make bread which is baked in a clay oven. Separately, a portion of malted grains is dried under the sunlight and milled. Then, the bread together with the malt and water are blended, and allowed to macerate for several days. Finally, a clear liquid is filtered and transferred to pots for the final fermentation. This process was found to be very similar to the elaboration of fermented beverages in Latin American Andean countries.

The literature describes the existence of at least twenty different types of Babylonian beers and an export trade of beer to Egypt. Egyptians implemented the browning techniques for producing a stout or dark beer and they flavored such beers it with fruits. In the 7th Century A.D. the Arabs introduced beer to Spain and prepared with malt bread along with the addition of cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum J. Presl), rue (Ruta graveolens L.) and marjoram (Origanum majorana L.). Greeks and Romans had wine as their preferred beverage but during the Germanic expansion, beer became an important beverage in Middle and Western Europe after the Germanic conquest of Greece and Rome 1,600 years ago (Haehn 1956).

The early inhabitants of Latin America had their own brewing techniques. Findings of microscopic archeological remains of starch and phytoliths from maize (Zea mays L.) in ancient pottery in Northwest Argentina, reinforces the evidence that brewery practices could have been carried out by South American natives 4,000 years ago

(Lantos et al. 2015). Brewing tools and vessels were found on the north coast of Peru where pre Inca civilizations like Moche (1,900 years ago) and Chimu (1,000 years ago) had their empires (Hayashida 2008). There is no accurate data to exactly when fermented drinks began to be produced in Andean Latin American lands but archaeological studies support the theory that even prior to the Inca expansion and establishment in South America, aboriginal peoples from Northwest Argentina already had knowledge of complex processes for the production of drinks in large amounts (Leibowicz, 2013). Identification has been based on the presence of brewing tools and vessels (for milling, cooking, fermentation), by products (e.g., strained mash), and features (e.g., hearths, pits for germinating grain) (Hayashida 2008).

Fermented beverages constituted a fundamental part of indigenous meals, which were produced by native American peoples. With the Incan civilization, technologies such as drying and fermentation achieved a exceptance for food conservation and modification. It is remarkable that these techniques were especially developed in the South American highlands along the Andean mountain range. The Indigenous peoples of South America were skilled farmers and owners of an advanced knowledge in practices for soil cultivation. The aboriginal agricultural systems were noteworthy and allowed them to produce a large quantity of diverse fruits and vegetables which were the main constituents of the Inca diet (Browne 1935).

The production of different meals and dried and fermented products was possible due to the fertile and cultivable soils of the lowlands and highlands of South America, which resulted in the production of an astonishing variety of vegetables. Different varieties of maize and potatoes (Solanum tuberosum L.) were domesticated in this region and they became an important staple food along with tubers and other crops such as the now acclaimed quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) and amaranth (Amaranthus spp. L.). Such richness in the food crops available resulted in the development of indigenous techniques for food conservation such as the freezing and fermentation.

Fermentation became a complex process that was applied to many vegetables in the Andean lands which in turn led to the manufacture of different fermented beverages in Latin America that received the common or general name of chicha. This term in discussed later in this chapter. Andean Aboriginals fermented most of what they grew in the Andes. In the Andean regions of Latin America that were ruled by the Inca Empire, the manufacturing of beverages was among the main practices involving spontaneous or wild fermentation processes. The production of alcoholic drinks played an important role in their spiritual beliefs and they were considered to have a level of high symbolism because of the Incan beliefs. The spontaneous fermentation was used as a mean of alcohol production on the basis of native (in pre Colombian times) and Old World crops (during post Colombian times). In certain cases this process was refined and became a complex technique. These processes led to the obtainment of alcoholic beverages with a low to moderate alcoholic content (2-12%). Substrates rich in sugar and/or starch such as manioc or cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz), banana (Musaparadisiaca L.), sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum L.), sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.), rice, cacao carob beans (Theobroma cacao L.) and maize were and are still being used for the elaboration of traditional fermented beverages. In some cases, preliminary steps such as chewing, germination or roasting can be carried out to allow the processes to occur easily and to create assorted drinks. Considering that maize production was of great importance, this food crop also gained importance due to the fact it was the main ingredient in beverage manufacturing. Along the Andean Region the most important and well known drink was produced: maize chicha. There existed other chicha-like beverages in Andean Latin America whose production processes followed a similar methodology and they also received the same name.

Indigenous fermented beverages played key roles in human culture towards the development of fermentation technologies. These products were always considered to be healthy because of their nutritional values and sensorial attributes. They helped in the establishment of agriculture and food processing techniques (McGovern et al. 2004). These indigenous technologies have passed from parents to progeny for thousands of years and they are still in use. Certainly, some fermented products and practices not only survived the passage of time but were also tested for different conditions and changes in the region they belong to (Battcock and Azam-Ali 1998).

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