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Tis the Season to Get Tipsy for Musk Lorikeets in Australia as Alcohol Drips Down Eucalyptus

Image for representation/Reuters

Image for representation/Reuters

The cider gum eucalyptus of Australia secretes a sweet sticky sap which ferments naturally as it drips down the tree. Though not all eucalyptus trees bear alcohol, the aboriginals would warn you.

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Manu Remakant

Every year in Australia when the winter season arrives, hundreds of musk lorikeet find themselves unable to fly. They drop down from branches, lay there dazed for a while, and slowly gather themselves to their feet merrily, and plod around on the ground in some drunken stupor. Local people take them to nearby pet hospitals, where after a night's treatment the lorikeets wake up, drowsy and hungover.

What happens to them?!

Appalled by the strange phenomenon, naturalists studied it in detail and found that one of their regular food source, eucalyptus nectar, ferments on the tree during the season. The unwary birds drink this juice, available in abundance, and suddenly find themselves stupefied. Minutes later they wake up to their senses in some pet hospital nearby.

It's the alcohol from eucalyptus! After knowing this, you'd be cursing yourself for brushing aside all those eucalyptus trees you've seen on the roadsides and never thought they'd be worth a bit.

Though not all eucalyptus trees bear alcohol, the aboriginals would warn you.

The cider gum eucalyptus of Australia secretes a sweet sticky sap which ferments naturally as it drips down the tree. Just imagine, from a single tree as many as four gallons of fermented sap drips down on a single day, making the lives of the aboriginals a bit more comfortable than we imagined. Especially, after toiling under the harsh sun in the outbacks.

Today, the Tamborine mountain distillery in Australia is winning awards with its Eucalyptus Gum Leaf Vodka and Australian Herbal liqueur distilled from the leaves. However, the technique of drawing the fermented quintessence of eucalyptus doesn't confine itself to the continent. Come to Italy.

During the nineteenth century when malaria infections were at its peak, people put the blame squarely on bad air rather than those wily mosquitoes. To purify the atmosphere and the filthy soil, trappist monks in Tre Fontane Abbey planted eucalyptus trees all around the monastery. When the disease finally got controlled, the big trees around the abbey which drained all the water sources around became a burden. Were they worth anything?

The monks began to experiment with eucalyptus leaves. First, they tried to distill the leaves and drank the concoctoion calling it tea but it failed to give the kick they expected. Frustrated monks then decided to experiment with fermentation, by adding a little sugar and that worked magic.

So, if you plan to visit the abbey, which is near Rome, do not forget to pick a bottle of sweet Eucalittino delle Tre Fontane, a liqueur made of macerated eucalyptus leaves.

It is the ideal drink for cold winter nights, as you sit near a fire, and fancy a brotherhood with those dumb lorikeets from a distant continent.


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