Wambaki was initially inspired to explore the idea when he was still working as a security guard, and had a conversation with a fellow Kenyan who told him all about Muratina.
Wambaki was initially inspired to explore the idea when he was still working as a security guard, and had a conversation with a fellow Kenyan who told him all about Muratina. [Photo/ Bandari ya Pombe]

Muratina is a popular Kenyan brew from Kenya’s Central region. A key part of Agikuyu culture, the traditional brew is finding a new lease of life in bars and stores in the United Kingdom – immaculately packaged in black and gold champagne-style bottles and sold under the brand name Muratelia.

Muratina, made from the fruit of the ‘Sausage tree’ (Kigelia africana) – a wild tree –  features a distinct flavour with a lingering sweetness. It was traditionally served in cow horn at gatherings including weddings.

Interestingly, Nairobi-born King’ori Wambaki was living in the UK and had never had a sip of muratina when he started laying the groundwork for the business. He was initially inspired to explore the idea when he was still working as a security guard, and had a conversation with a fellow Kenyan who told him all about Muratina – it was Wambaki’s first time hearing about it. It was in that conversation that Wambaki surprisingly realized that no one had packaged or sold the drink internationally before, and spotted his opportunity.

Bottles of Muratelia
Bottles of Muratelia

After calling numerous wineries in the UK, he got lucky as he connected with a Kenyan in the UK who could make muratina. Wambaki then poured his energy into enhancing the taste and refining the product.

He sources all his ingredients from the UK where the drink is manufactured and sold, and has previously stated that two wineries in Kenya initially refused to produce Muratelia for various reasons including lack of capacity. He, however, has plans to start producing the drink in Kenya. Currently, only a limited amount of the stock is available in Kenya, with the UK being Muratelia’s primary market.

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“What you should expect next is a winery in Kenya to actually start producing this muratina in Kenya. That’s definitely the dream. That’s something that needs to be done,” he affirmed in one interview.

A bottle of Muratelia retails for around 12 pounds (Ksh1998). The company is also exploring bringing other traditional Kenyan brews to the mainstream, including Chang’aa and Busaa.

The company encourages people in the UK to try various cocktail recipes with muratelia. Muratelia-infused cocktails are proving popular, with one review by the London Cocktail Blog describing; “A delicious and refreshing drink – great complexity and balance.”

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