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
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!