Boza: The Healthy Heavyweight Albanian Take on a Refreshing Drink - Into Albania

Boza: The Healthy Heavyweight Albanian Take on a Refreshing Drink

Brought to the modern day from the Ottoman period and Mesopotamia before that, boza is a delicious heavy malt drink that is strangely refreshing in the summer and heartwarming in the winter.

What is boza?

The malt drink of very thick consistency is made by fermenting any of the following grains: wheat, corn, millet, or barley. This creamy textured and colored drink is perfect when served chilled or warm. Its acidic mild flavor is actually a bit indescribable as it neither falls in the sweet nor sour or bitter categories. Albanian boza, however, is slightly sweeter than normal. Though for Albanians the drink is delicious, most of those who taste it for the first time are surprised. Indeed an acquired taste, boza is so good that it has survived almost ten millennia! 

From the Ottomans to the Albanians and vice versa

Though boza was served since the 8th century B.C. in Anatolia and Mesopotamia, its popularity reached new heights during the Ottoman era. The traditional formula contained some percentage of alcohol, a rather inconsequential 1%, but gradually, no alcohol was permitted under the Ottomans. It was during this time that boza began to be made in Albania. It was, strangely enough, the Albanians who reintroduced a sweeter nonalcoholic boza to the Ottomans at the time when the drink began losing its popularity. Specifically, Haxhi Sadiku was the Albanian who set up his famous boza shop in Istanbul in 1876. The Vefa Bozacisi shop is located near the Sultan Sulejman Mosque to this day. Though boza was one of the most popular refreshments in Albania during the Communist period, with the fall of the regime boza took a backseat to western soft drinks like Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

Health benefits

Rich in lactic acid bacteria, boza normalizes blood pressure. Specifically, it lowers the blood pressure for those who have a high one. It also increases milk production in women who are breastfeeding and helps with digestion. Boza is especially valuable for those who engage in physical activity as it contains vitamins A, C, E, and four types of B. Not to mention its high content of calcium, iron, and phosphorus. Unlike soft drinks, drinking boza is actually good for you!

Where to find it and how to consume it

You can always find boza served and sold in nostalgic cafes and bakeries around town. If you see sweets, ask if they have boza. Both local markets and supermarkets sell bottled boza, as well. It is a bit more challenging to find freshly-made, i.e. not bottled, boza which is actually exponentially better tasting than bottled boza. The best option these days is to have it delivered to your home by Agral, which brings fresh boza in a glass bottle to your house.

Boza ice-cream floats anyone?

The best way to drink boza is chilled, by itself or with ice cream. The idea resembles that of the traditional American coke-float, but boza-floatstaste much more like a milkshake and are absolutely delicious.

Boza in everyday lingo

How do we know that boza was way too popular once upon a time? There is an expression that Albanians still use when something has become too much, repetitive and monotonous like an overly-played pop song. We say “you made it bozë.” If that doesn’t say how much boza Albanians have enjoyed throughout the centuries, we don’t know what does. It is that good!  

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