How a Disgusting Alcohol Could Save Our Bees

By Brian Lemay 100 comments

Over the last decade, North America
has lost nearly half of all its bees. Europe has lost nearly a quarter. And when I say lost I’m not talking
about your child in a supermarket. These bees are dead. Which is a huge problem. We rely on bees for all sorts of things. Bees pollinate nearly a third
of all our crops. And I for one am not ready
for this beeless future. So here in a bar on my last day in Ethiopia,
I’ve come up with a solution to all of our problems. We’re going to get drunk. Today’s episode operates on a very simple
principle: The more we rely on an animal, the more likely it is to survive. There are more cows today than there
could ever possibly be naturally. There are more pigs. More chickens. More donkeys. More dogs. Even the silkworm thrives
because we say it does. Our ability to survive a species is long proven. And I say we prove it again. We need bees. They’re more than just honey,
they’re pollination. They’re a major part of the ecological cycle. Losing them is losing more than
we’re bargaining for. You may not be incredibly keen on insects,
but we need them to keep eating fruit. And fruit’s pretty good,
so I say we keep them. And I’m sure you do too. You seem reasonable. The problem is that nobody really knows
what to do about these things. How do you save bees from their existentialist futures
if you can’t even save yourself from yours? But don’t worry, I have a plan. We need to socially engineer the next generation
of ironic alcoholics. And I’ve found the perfect drink for them. It’s called tej. It tastes like rubbing alcohol. They’re going to hate it. Tej is the generic name for a range of
traditional Ethiopian spirits made from the sugars of wild honey. Over hundreds, if not thousands of years,
brewers have perfected the art of producing alcohol from a little wax, a little water,
and a twig from a local tree. They call it honey wine. Which makes it sound so innocent. Ooh, a mix of honey and water, you think. How summery. But in reality, it’s diesel fuel. You could drive a truck on this stuff. If you go to a true tavern and order a glass
of tej, you’re getting something with food colouring just
so it looks orange. Because they’ve definitely fermented
every inch of that honey. The only sweet thing you’re going to feel
is when you get it back out of you. People say it tastes better
if you lower the alcohol content, but I’m going to have to take their word for it. Because although we’ve met dozens of people
drinking it in Ethiopia, I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s asked for it to come weaker. Even in countries with overwhelming religious
pressure, people flock to alcohol. Regardless of the taste. And not just us in the modern day, either. Throughout all history. Drinking is a string through time
as far back as the eye can see. In Axum, the civilization at the dawn of
Ethiopian history, they brewed tej. Like coffee, like chat, for as long as
it’s been here, it’s been popular. And when tej is popular,
beekeeping is popular. Ethiopia has the most apiaries of
any nation on the continent. And these are not the technologically
supported hives of the West. Most local apiaries still rely on an ancient
system that uses little more than wood and cloth. Nothing is standardized and yields
are incredibly low. For any honey brewed in Ethiopia, there’s
an 80% chance it ends up in a tej bottle. This is just the average guy trying
to brew some drinks. To make a little money selling to the bar. Most everywhere on earth, cheap alcohol
is a strong driving force. It’s not different when that alcohol
comes from honey. Over the course of thousands of years, the people
of this region have become socially conditioned to associate bees with their desire for alcohol. They’ve safeguarded the future of their colonies
by attaching them to the future of their stupor. It’s obviously unintentional,
but I still think it’s genius. The ends justified the bees. Certainly, something to learn from. We’re all drinking alcohol anyway. So why not save our apples
while we’re at it? We should be spreading the message that
a good environmentalist walks their streets convincing their neighbours to drink tej. And I think it’s going to work. Because even though tej kind of tastes like someone dropped a single splenda into a tall glass
of furniture polish, it does have its strengths. For example, they’ve really
mastered the look. The serve it in a glass called a berele,
which is objectively awesome to use. Okay, sure. You pour a bit on yourself,
but that’s fine. It looks like something Whoopie Goldberg
would serve you in the bar on Star Trek. And on top of that, it has a very
distinct colour. If someone sets down a mad scientist’s glass
in front of you full of an orange frothy liquid, you’d be pretty certain something
interesting was about to happen. It kind of sells itself. The real trick is keeping people
hooked after they try it. It kind of tastes like what you’d expect those silica gel
caps to taste like if you broke them open and mixed them into some old orange paint. But someone out there is going to want it. And since it isn’t available,
they’re going to have to brew it. Soon, a nation of ironic alcoholics are going
to be watching our bee situation like hawks. They’ll start blogs,
they’ll create brewmaster associations, and eventually once the food network catches wind
and it spreads to the average dude,
we’ll be back in beesness. Now, for those of you still taking this seriously,
obviously I don’t expect tej to take the world by storm. It’s just a metaphor for how we choose
what’s important to protect. But the reality is that our insects are dying. Not just our bees. It’s not a problem we can choose to ignore. We genuinely need them. And all joking aside, we should be doing
something about it. We need a reason for average people
to care without prompting. Tej is just a symbol for that care. In Ethiopia today, there are millions of people
who are worried about their hives. But it’s not because they’re environmentalists. It’s not because they’re world conscious. They’re just doing it so they can get drunk. And honestly, to me,
that’s a pretty sweet deal. This is Rare Earth. Aah, every time. You should be way more leaned back.
Yeah. Good stuff.


Rare Earth

Jul 7, 2019, 6:02 pm Reply

You just have to bee-lieve:


Jul 7, 2019, 7:23 pm Reply

It dint work.
When you try to pass a environmental message with alcohol as the subject, usually alcohol takes over the conversation.


Jul 7, 2019, 6:07 am Reply

Looks like something Rick Sanchez would mix and drink. Glass and all


Jul 7, 2019, 3:05 am Reply

“Honey wine” so basically Mead but wayyy harder? I love Mead, but I’m was so curious about if there was a stronger form somewhere. Now I know lmao

That said, I would totally drink this. The presentation alone looks player af, and I bet shots would smack. I’d brew it with some spices tho to give it some added kick; likely some cinnamon or peppermint for a nice aftertaste and fuller body. Hell, I might even add a few orange rinds just for the flavor, but this Tej video has definitely given me a few ideas 😉


Jul 7, 2019, 3:07 am Reply

I'm 19 but can I have some


Jul 7, 2019, 6:45 am Reply

Keep the good work

Min Lungelow

Jul 7, 2019, 6:47 pm Reply

Mead, tho.

Generic Username

Jul 7, 2019, 8:26 pm Reply

Your species survives because we will it. Does that make me feel like a god, an angry jealous god? You bet it does. #SelfEsteemRising

biniam t

Jul 7, 2019, 11:00 pm Reply

In Eritrea we call this mace, sweet af. Got drunk of this at a wedding when i was 16 :-p


Jul 7, 2019, 10:19 pm Reply

Brilliant video Evan.


Jul 7, 2019, 8:34 pm Reply

Honey bees aren't the problem, wild insects are the one that need protection. They make fields have like 30% more crop


Jul 7, 2019, 11:30 pm Reply

It's actually not a huge problem. The honey bee is an invasive species brought to North America from Europe. It's a problem for farmers and perhaps produce prices but it's not a problem in terms of the environment.


Jul 7, 2019, 4:40 pm Reply

Just here to add to the long list of people saying mead.

Carter Wiedman

Jul 7, 2019, 2:14 am Reply

Won't Africanized bees swarm and kill you? They will chase you for miles and sting you until your dead.

James Thomas

Jul 7, 2019, 6:32 am Reply

… Feed the people for cheap…. Save the bees…. Obviously one eats the other, eventually… But its hard to tell someone to go hungry/not make $….. Just wait till we can't eat the fish cause of micro plastics…

Jacky Tang

Jul 7, 2019, 2:56 am Reply

Don’t get me wrong but ever video about alcohol you made you sound like a drunk guy try to persuade the people next him he is absolutely right about whatever he’s talking about. And I Like that…


Jul 7, 2019, 9:55 am Reply

My friend you have to try Medica it's a spirit that tastes just like normal honey. But has loads of alcohol in it

Divan Visagie

Jul 7, 2019, 3:15 pm Reply

Mead! Another!

Clubber Lang 85

Jul 7, 2019, 9:49 pm Reply

Ive never in my life heard, seen or drank
Tej that was strong
Its why it’s called honey wine and not liquor

Gordon Tendick

Aug 8, 2019, 2:42 am Reply

Went to a Somalian restaurant just to get this drink. It's much better than you describe it 🙂 Thank you for the experience!!


Aug 8, 2019, 12:33 pm Reply

More Mead!

Xavier Ng

Aug 8, 2019, 12:47 am Reply

Hey Evan, your videos are amazingly pleasant, keep it up!

Andreas Oloan Sihotang

Aug 8, 2019, 11:16 am Reply

Friar Tuck : " Yeay!!!"

Vincent Gonzalez

Aug 8, 2019, 6:42 am Reply

North America Needs Less EUROPEAN Bees
they displace the natural pollinators


Aug 8, 2019, 8:34 am Reply

i'll stay with mead


Aug 8, 2019, 11:03 pm Reply

What could it bee?


Aug 8, 2019, 4:35 pm Reply

Let's save the bees

Tonks Moriarty

Aug 8, 2019, 8:31 pm Reply

Sounds like Scumble from Discworld, but with honey.

"What's it made of?"
"Honey, mostly…"


Aug 8, 2019, 10:06 pm Reply

You have to come to Poland and taste our miód pitny (mead in english). It is made from homey and it is delisous.

amy m

Aug 8, 2019, 9:19 pm Reply

What? I hate high proof alcohol, but I love tej. Why? Because Tej definitely doesn't taste like rubbing alcohol at all. A lot of people don't like it because of the yeasty flavor, not the alcoholic content.
Is this an attempt at humor? Because it's not based in fact and frankly it's offensive

Mark Webb

Aug 8, 2019, 1:19 am Reply

so.. should we eat endangered animals?

Stephen Zogas

Aug 8, 2019, 4:04 am Reply

I love Tej. Possibly my favourite alcohol.


Aug 8, 2019, 5:14 pm Reply

Brilliant and very enjoyable Rare Earth gang, I learned and was delightfully entertained. Bravo!

Daniel Munyan

Aug 8, 2019, 6:34 pm Reply

Very funny with a good message. That said, When ever smart people see a problem they created as an unintended consequence of something they created, their first instinct is to "do something about it". That tends to mean "create a solution", which ironically is exactly how the problem they are now addressing came to be. Better to figure out what they are doing that is causing the problem and stop doing it. Every other solution will have unintended consequences, creating new problems that need to be solved. Nature will fix itself if we stop the specific act of ours that is hurting it. Our attempts at restoration are doomed to failure, because we never fully understand the follow on effects. The scary thing is that this is exactly the same cycle of break – fix – break something else that we have been performing since the Paleolithic age.


Aug 8, 2019, 1:03 am Reply

Try not to think about how (or if) they cleaned that glass.

Bereket M

Aug 8, 2019, 5:12 pm Reply

Although I admire your message of saving bees, what you said about the taste of Tej is very false. Tej does not taste like jet fuel lol.

André Luis Marín

Aug 8, 2019, 11:25 am Reply

I love tej, it tastes amazing


Aug 8, 2019, 5:59 am Reply

I've had tej, it's not that bad…

Alex Jhons

Sep 9, 2019, 2:43 am Reply

Dude you got your Tej and Areke mixed up. Tej is sweet and mild.


Sep 9, 2019, 7:53 am Reply

"save the bees and save the apples at the same time" and THEN you can make CIDER from the apples…

Anthony Lemkendorf

Sep 9, 2019, 6:58 pm Reply

I keep Bees Our Bee population in California is almost completely recovered but I don’t know about the rest of Country.o

T306 41

Sep 9, 2019, 5:15 pm Reply

cheezeburger freedom man would like to know your location

Lukas Aurelius

Sep 9, 2019, 6:04 pm Reply

A next generation of "ironic alcoholics" !!! LOL

dave smith

Sep 9, 2019, 8:00 pm Reply

Don`t stop Bee leavin.


Sep 9, 2019, 11:39 am Reply

Isn’t mead made out of honey

Bjorn A’grin

Sep 9, 2019, 5:06 am Reply

So if they go nuts for this " rubbing alcohol,…. Then uh… Has anyone given them good mead? …

Bjorn A’grin

Sep 9, 2019, 5:09 am Reply

Grow hopps.. For the bees


Sep 9, 2019, 1:11 pm Reply

Man, this drink is called – "Meed". It's very sugary and tasty, and made of honey.

David Redfearn

Sep 9, 2019, 6:59 pm Reply

Count all the bees in the hive, multiply them by six, and you have the bee's knees.

Big Hosafat

Sep 9, 2019, 5:28 pm Reply

Where then, are your sources?


Sep 9, 2019, 9:43 am Reply

There's tons of bad cheap alcohol out there. Tej probably tastes a lot better if made to higher standards, just that of course the most popular is whatever'll get you shitfaced the fastest for the least money.


Sep 9, 2019, 11:44 pm Reply

Not sure that pilfering honey helps bees and caring alone doesnt help. If your dad just kept looking up instead of climbing, where would he bee?


Sep 9, 2019, 2:38 am Reply

Maybe if everyone all over the globe would give honey bees a couple years of not harvesting their honey, maybe they would recuperate. Think of it this way, if the only time we were to get any real food was the food you grew in the garden in the summer months and then for the rest of the year we'd have to live on sugar water the rest of the year, it's likely we'd all die pretty quick. Think of what happened when people crossing the ocean in the olden days would die from survey from a limited diet. We're likely doing the same to the bees.

Lexy Starwatcher

Sep 9, 2019, 1:11 am Reply

Well…not sure gonna go after Tej, but I do plan to make mead. If I had a slightly bigger yard I would keep my own hive.

Damien Reyna

Sep 9, 2019, 11:26 am Reply

"…you seem reasonable." Um, yeah that's me. No really! I am! 😳

Damien Reyna

Sep 9, 2019, 11:31 am Reply

Looks like a "full potion of rejuvenation" from Diablo 1.


Sep 9, 2019, 4:10 pm Reply

Show me proof! Where are the bee bodies?!?!?! 🤣

Boa Moa

Sep 9, 2019, 1:24 am Reply

Honey bees kill other bees

Shane Harger

Sep 9, 2019, 7:53 am Reply

I love tej. It's tasty af… You guys are crazy.

dawit dessalegn

Sep 9, 2019, 2:23 pm Reply

i had a liter of tej some time ago with a friend and lets just say we were F_Up….just like the dude said dont let the name fool you "honey wine" haha…….the thing is it tastes really sweet and boom before you know it you are dancing in the rain talking to yourself naked


Sep 9, 2019, 9:01 am Reply

Mead/tej needs to age for at least a year like wine.

Bram van Bennekom

Sep 9, 2019, 12:39 pm Reply

I've only tried it in Europe (in Ethiopian restaurants), so maybe the exported stuff is of higher quality, but I really enjoy a good glad of tej

Peter Kizer

Sep 9, 2019, 5:48 am Reply

Great stuff (your videos, not tej).

Shannon Mcvey

Sep 9, 2019, 2:23 pm Reply

As a number of your other commentors have already stated, to heck with the nasty tasting Tej…we already have mead, it is delicious and has been popular in western culture for over a thousand years.

rate eightx

Oct 10, 2019, 3:53 am Reply

I Mean, We Could Just Make Some Mead Instead, Right?

This is Not The Algorithm

Oct 10, 2019, 12:07 pm Reply

I'm digging it

This is Not The Algorithm

Oct 10, 2019, 12:10 pm Reply

I spend my Sunday's picking up trash on the side of the road. Not because I want money nor attention but because I genuinely care about this planet. Ya know what I take that back. I'd like some attention. I hope those driving by see me and it plants a seed of inspiration. So, they too will contribute to a more clean, equal and peaceful planet.

Simon Peter

Oct 10, 2019, 12:39 pm Reply

"They've mastered the look, they serve it out of a berele, which is abyssinian for Round Bottom Flask."


Oct 10, 2019, 3:54 am Reply

Why not mead?

Stew F

Oct 10, 2019, 6:23 pm Reply

The Russians purposely confused the words of water and vodka. Tej is not likely to get that. Use Mead.


Oct 10, 2019, 12:30 pm Reply

That's the same as mead isn't it? Mead is fairly popular in the UK already

Walter Bunn

Oct 10, 2019, 6:14 pm Reply

Honey Bees are already in demand.
We don't need to ramp up production of weird bush moonshine to make them useful to us as a species.
What we need is the reduction of experimental pesticides that persist in the environment, and academic honesty with regard to the impact of those pesticides on pollinators.

If you wanted to address the main reason why Europe has less die off than the USA, it's directly related to outright ban and longer standing prohibition on Neonictinoid pesticides within the EU compared to the USA, and the USA's inability to actually control agricultural business in a meaningful way as to mitigate harm.

I'd be willing to bet agriculture is directly responsible for the rise antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria too, but, that'd require something in-depth on factory farming.


Oct 10, 2019, 6:25 am Reply


Craig Stewart

Oct 10, 2019, 1:08 am Reply

or we could drink mead and have good booz

Yahushua Jahweh

Oct 10, 2019, 12:17 pm Reply

Beer mafia in europa in the world is big


Oct 10, 2019, 1:36 pm Reply

this is a cool Channel be-careful you don't go Anthony Bordain!

wiire time

Oct 10, 2019, 3:04 am Reply

Just crappy Mead

Shiny Daddy

Oct 10, 2019, 6:26 pm Reply

Definitely one of the most humorous editions of Rare Earth. In Nepal it's Rakshi and I loved it.

testicular oxide

Oct 10, 2019, 6:59 pm Reply

Easy to put an apiary in most backyards… $500 bucks n ya honey for life…

Lyndon A Clifton

Oct 10, 2019, 12:56 am Reply


ttystikk rocks

Oct 10, 2019, 9:42 am Reply

You should try honey Mead. Same bee karma, but tastes MUCH better!


Oct 10, 2019, 10:19 pm Reply

Shoreline Beverages in Umbogintwini, South Africa are killing thousands of bees every day. I've tried to expose them but nothing works. Please, everyone contact these bastards and demand they stop.


Oct 10, 2019, 5:00 pm Reply

Uhh tej is delicious wtf are you talking about

Kelp Engineer

Oct 10, 2019, 5:57 pm Reply

The insect die off is terrifying! Between that, ocean acidification and dead zones, my sense of existential dread is growing precipitously. This honey wine may be just the thing to calm my nerves… lol

amer ican

Oct 10, 2019, 6:27 pm Reply

The entire world: our bees are dying off!
Also the entire world: spray everything in pesticide because bugs destroy crops!

Alex Hamon

Oct 10, 2019, 6:42 pm Reply

Make mead great again, we can do better than whatever this is.

Tori Gratton

Oct 10, 2019, 10:28 pm Reply

Or you could try Mead… 🤔

Florian Tolk

Oct 10, 2019, 10:54 pm Reply

Or, just start selling more mead?


Oct 10, 2019, 11:11 pm Reply

Rare earth dude, Ethiopia is majority Muslim. They're not supposed to be drinking alcohol anything. How'd this get into their society?

Fenrier Ulven

Oct 10, 2019, 5:13 am Reply

Tej is Mead, and is awesome

Jason Egan

Oct 10, 2019, 11:37 am Reply

Check out Dogfish Head Brewery’s “Bitches Brew” it’s a mix of Tej and a stout(if I remember correctly..) . Sam Calagione was on to that stuff years ago for the anniversary of Miles Davis “Bitches Brew”
Gota love a collaboration of beer brewing and Jazz!!

Eric White

Oct 10, 2019, 4:42 pm Reply

Relable it as skooma

Eric White

Oct 10, 2019, 4:42 pm Reply

Ehh mead is probably better

Fred Jackson

Oct 10, 2019, 8:26 am Reply

Why does every one of your videos sound the same, despite none being about the same place or topic?

Your intro and monologue cadences are fucking immaculate, I guess.

Website guy

Oct 10, 2019, 12:42 am Reply

Nicinoids are killing the bees . Its an insectacide made by damned bauyer like bauyer asparin and now they own mudering monsanto too.

Website guy

Oct 10, 2019, 12:43 am Reply

Of course this video isnt really about saving bees.


Oct 10, 2019, 7:55 pm Reply

It would be more accurate to say 'honey bees'. They aren't native to America, they were brought by Europeans. There's about 5000 other species of native bees that Pollinate plenty, they just don't make honey. And they aren't in that much danger either.

Trav Jones

Oct 10, 2019, 1:39 am Reply

The one animal we depend on the most is the cell phone .more than bees. And if the cell phone towers are killing off the bees then they're probably going to go extinct.

Thomas Lucas

Oct 10, 2019, 4:26 am Reply

If you ant to save the bees we need to outlaw roundup and Glyphosate.


Nov 11, 2019, 12:36 pm Reply

Alcohol is always my plan bee!

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