Microbiological and Biochemical Study

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Category Resource Papers
Allied Category Botany
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Title of the Paper - Microbiological and Biochemical Studies of the Traditional Fermented Beverages of the Darjeeling Hills and Sikkim

Author - Jyoti Prakash Tamang

Of - Microbiological Research Laboratory, Department of Botany, Sikkim Government College, Gangtok, Sikkim 737102

Traditional fermented beverages constitute an integral part of dietary culture and have strong ritual importance among the ethnic people in the Darjeeling hills and Sikkim. Description of alcohol-drinking custome in the Sikkim Himalayas has been cited in some historical documents. On the basis of average consumption rate, common traditional fermented beverages are kodo ko jaanr, bhaate jaanr, makai ko jaanr and lesser-known alcoholic beverages which are consumed by less than 10% population are gahoon kon jaanr, jao ko jaanr, simal tarul ko jaanr and faapar ko jaanr. Raksi is a distilled liquor prepared from fermented starchy materials. Total annual consumption of kodo ko jaanr in the Darjeeling hills was 40178.7 ton and in Sikkim was 35748.7 ton; bhaate jaanr was 9538.8 ton in the Darjeeling hills and 6648.1 ton in Sikkim; makai ko jaanr was 10463.8 ton in the Darjeeling hills and 4800.7 ton in Sikkim during 1996-97. Survey data indicate that 57.6% of people prepare fermented beverages for home consumption in the Darjeeling hills and 76.7% in Sikkim. It showed that production of the traditional fermented beverages is mostly done at the individual household level.

Microbial load in marcha and jaanr smaples varied from 103 to 108 cfu/g. Sixty strains of filamentous moulds, 203 strains of yeasts and 163 strains of lactic acid bacteria were isolated from marcha and jaanr samples. Microorganisms originally associated with marcha and various types of jaanr samples were filamentous moulds: Mucor circinelloides, Mucor sp.(close to Mucor hiemalis), Rhizopus chinensis, Rhizopus stolonifer variety lyococcus; yeasts: Saccharomycopsis fibuligeru, Hansenula anomala, Saccharomyces cerevisiae; lactic acid bacteria: Pediococcus pentosaceus and Lactobacillus spp. Marcha making technology reflects the traditional method of sub-culturing desirable inocula from previous batch to new culture using rice as base substrates. This technique preserves the microbial biodiversity essential for beverages production. Marcha retains its potency in situ for over a year.

Proximate composition of jaanr and raksi samples has been analysed. Increase in alcohol, acidity, reducing sugar and mineral contents in almost all types of jaanr samples was remarkable. Jaanr contains about 1.7 MJ/100 g calorie and it serves as high calorie food beverage to low-income group of people. Jaanr is also rich in minerals mostly Fe, Zn, Mn and Co. Changes in microflora and some biochemical profiles during kodo ko jaanr and bhaate jaanr fermentation were studied. Amylolytic activity of isolates were tested and found that Saccharomycopsis fibuligera showed highest amylolytic activity indicating that it is the dominant and main starch-degrader in jaanr fermentation.

Kodo ko jaanr was prepared at the laboratory by using a mixture of cell suspension of selected strains of mould, yeasts and lactic acid bacteria, previously isolated from marcha. The product was organoleptically compared with market sample using the consumers’ preference trail, and it was found that laboratory-made jaanr was more acceptable than the market sample. Laboratory-made jaanr may have advantages over the jaanr prepared by using marcha due to better quality, maintaining consistency and maximum utilization of susbtrates. Outlines of findings are :

  • Microbial biodiversity ranging from filamentous moulds (Mocor circinelloides, Mucor sp.(close to Mucor hiemalis), Rhizopus chinensis, Rhizopus stolonifer variety lyococcus;) to amylolytic and alcohol-producing yeasts (Saccharomycopsis fibuligera, Hansenula anomala, Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and lactic acid bacteria (Pediococcus pentosaceus and Lactobacillus spp.) associated with marcha and various types of jaanr products has been isolated, characterised, identified, indexed and preserved.
  • Proximate composition of these traditional fermented beverages have been determined to know their food value.
  • Attemp was made to upgrade the traditional processing of beverages using selected strains instead of conventional marcha - a step for sustainable development in the Sikkim Himalayan regions.


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