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Banaban Tradition: Cutting Coconut Toddy

Updated: May 9, 2021

Te Koro Karewe

By Linda Karakaua

2nd Placegetter ‘Banaban Literary Prize’ Rabi High School, Rabi Island, Fiji 1995.

(Published Banaba-Ocean Island News No. 22, July-Aug-Sept 1996) (1).

TE KAREWE (Coconut sap)

Is extracted from arin ten ii but there are several points to be considered before doing the task. The selection of the nii is important where the height, the health and the strength of the leaves must be noted carefully. The ari must be still enclosed in the nangobaa. If butona shows up below the nangobaa then it is ready for the koro karewe.

First te ari is massaged so that a lot of karewe is extracted. Then with a sharp katati butona is split open and te nangobaa is bound firmly with te tora to prevent if from opening. The rope must be bound until it is 4 ½ inches from the tip of the nangobaa. From there, the nangobaa is removed and te ari is exposed. The binding is then continued until it is only ½ inch from the tip which is to be cut off.

TE ARI (Spathe of Coconut Palm)

Which is pointing upwards should be horizontally slanted so that it is easier for the extraction of te karewe. Te ibu is hanged at the end of te ari and they are connected with a piece of pinnule of a coconut frond placed in te ibu to allow for the easy flow of te karewe. Another bent part of the frond is used to cover the opening of the te ibu to avoid flies and other insects.

At first (about 4 days of so) the emission of te karewe is not very great, but then, te ari will be gradually producing more and more. Every morning and evening the owner climbs the palms and removes te ibu which has been hanging and is full of te karewe. He then cuts off thin slices of te are. Next, he hangs an empty ibu below the end of te are which he has rebound and returns the coconut frond connecting them. The frond covering the opening of the ibu is changed every morning to prevent te karewe from going sour.

TE KATATI (Toddy Cutting Knife)

For the koro karewe cannot be used for cutting meat or other things and it is kept sharp only for this purpose. The number of ibu which have been used are washed thoroughly and hanged to dry and they are ready for being used again. This is done so that te karewe does not go sour.

Banaban Roeka Tebuanna Cutting Coconut Toddy Ratirati, Uma Village, (2) Rabi 2021

Copyright: Helen Bureitetau (4)


There are different types of te karewe used in the different societies. These different types of te karewe serve totally different purposes.


Is the first fresh karewe obtained from te ari. This karewe is definitely nutritious and is mostly given to infants and nursing mothers. According to Grimble (1939) toddy is given to nursing mothers because it is believed that it is good for breast milk.


Is referred to as te karewe which is slightly boiled. This can be drank and left until evening without going sour. This type is mostly drank by older men and women who cannot take the richness of te moan ari.


Is obtained by boiling te karewe up to 5-6 hours where it will turn reddish brown. Te kamaimai can be used as a substitute for sugar. It can be drank with tea or water. The thicker kamaimai is eaten as honey, either with breadfruit or bread. Not only does te kamaimai serve for domestic purposes but it has become a commercial product in Tarawa, Kiribati. It is sold to outer islands and other nearby island like Christmas Island. It can be sold because it cannot go bad for as long as one year. This is one type of te karewe which is the most important to the Banabans. They cannot be short of sugar since they make their own sugar out of te karewe.


The other type is the kamanging which is an alcoholic drink from the fermented karewe. It is done by simply allowing the fresh karewe to stand for two or three days or by simply putting freshly gathered karewe into an uncleaned ibu in which there is still some old karewe. If this is done, the karewe will be fermented in 12-18 hours and be ready to drink. This drink is mainly enjoyed by men, during different occasions. One occasion is during the major festivities held in the maneaba where the shy ones are able to stand for themselves. Before the traditional dances the participants frequently drink kamanging in order to be able to dance well and not to lose face in front of the crowd.


Today the younger generation are misusing te karewe or te kamanging by drinking excessively. They drink so heavily that they cause social and health problems. They behave so irritably and disgustingly that they disturb everyone in the community especially their poor families who will be greatly affected.

As time changes the younger people are looking down on te karewe, regarding it as old fashioned when considering sugar. They prefer sugar to the kamaimai which is their traditional food and drink.


1. Linda Karakaua, was a senior student at Rabi High School and this is her entry which was awarded 2nd Place in the annual ‘Banaban Literary Prize’ 1995. (Sponsored by Banaban Heritage Society and published in Banaba-Ocean Island News No. 22, July-Aug-Sept 1996).

2. Location Ratirati, Uma Village, Rabi Island, Fiji

3. Te Kamaimai is available today through Banaban Virgin Coconut Oil, Rabi Island, Fiji.

4. Copyright permission should be sought from Helen Bureitetau for download or use of this video.


Helen Bureitetau


Nasinu, Central, Fiji

Helen narrated and recorded the video that appears in this article. She recorded Banaban local, Roeka Tebuanna cutting toddy at Ratirati, Uma village, Rabi Island.

A new branch bearing coconuts is used, as illustrated in the video to extract toddy sap. After the sap is extracted it is boiled to make Te Katete which is so tasty and healthy. No water is added. If the te katete is left boiling it will thicken in texture and turn into a golden syrup called, Te Kamaimai.

Coconuts, known as 'The Tree of Life' has been the main staple food in the Banaban diet for centuries. The coconut sap provides a much healthier sweet substitute for cane sugar, which was introduced to the Banabans when the te I-Matang (Europeans) arrived on the homeland, Banaba (Ocean Island) at the turn of last century and the discovery of phosphate.

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