Boza is a popular fermented beverage in Turkey, Albania, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, parts of Romania and Serbia. It is a malt drink, made from maize (corn) and wheat in Albania, fermented wheat in Turkey and wheat or millet in Bulgaria and Romania. It has a thick consistency and a low alcohol content (usually around 1%), and has a slightly acidic sweet flavor.
In the Republic of Macedonia boza is much thinner and lighter, and tastes sweeter.
In Turkey it is served with cinnamon and roasted chickpeas (Leblebi in Turkish), and is consumed mainly in the winter months. The Ottoman Empire was known to feed its army with boza as it is rich in carbohydrates and vitamins.
In southern Serbia, boza is produced and sold in the whole country.
The variant found in Romania is called bragă, and it is sweeter than in Turkey and Bulgaria, but thicker and darker than in Republic of Macedonia.
Boza enjoyed its golden age under the Ottomans, and boza making became one of the principal trades in towns and cities from the early Ottoman period. Until the 16th century boza was drunk freely everywhere, but the custom of making the so-called Tartar boza laced with opium brought the wrath of the authorities down on the drink, and it was prohibited by Sultan Selim II (1566-1574). He describes a type of non-alcoholic sweet boza of a milk white color made for the most part by Albanians
In the 17th century Sultan Mehmed IV (1648-1687) prohibited alcoholic drinks, in which category he included boza, and closed down all the boza shops. The 17th century Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi tells us that boza was widely drunk at this time, and that there were 300 boza shops employing 1005 people in Istanbul alone. At this period boza was widely drunk by janissaries in the army. Boza contained only a low level of alcohol, so as long as it was not consumed in sufficient quantities to cause drunkenness, it was tolerated on the grounds that it was a warming and strengthening beverage for soldiers. As Evliya Çelebi explained, 'These boza makers are numerous in the army. To drink sufficient boza to cause intoxication is sinful but, unlike wine, in small quantities it is not condemned.' In the 19th century the sweet and non-alcoholic Albanian boza preferred at the Ottoman palace became increasingly popular, while the sour and alcoholic type of boza that had generally been produced by the Armenians went out of favor. In 1876 Haci Ibrahim and Haci Sadik brothers established a boza shop in the Istanbul district of Vefa, close to the then center of entertainment, Direklerarası. This boza, with its thick consistency and tart flavor, became famous throughout the city, and is the only boza shop dating from that period still in business today. The firm is now run by Haci Sadik and Haci Ibrahim's great- great-grandchildren.
"Vefa" shop, located in the Istanbul district of Vefa, is now a minor tourist attraction. Karakedi Bozacısı of Eskişehir, Akman Boza Salonu of Ankara and Soydan of Pazarcık, Bilecik are less famous but well known other vendors in Turkey.
Beside all these good brands, the fastest growing Boza brand and most preferred Boza taste of Turkey, is Omur Bozacisi , of Bursa, Turkey. Omur Bozacisi has kept its original Ottoman Albanian taste since family's immigration to Turkey, 1950, as they had also produced and served Boza in Bulgaria for generations.
The most famous Albanian boza brand name in Tirana, Albania, is the Pacara Boza , produced and sold by Shyqyri Pacara. It has a long tradition of being produced in Albania
The most famous boza shop in Macedonia is "Apche", located in Debar Maalo area, near the Universal Hall in Skopje. The shop was founded by Isman Kadri in 1934. People called him Apche (the pill), jokingly claiming that his boza is a cure for all ills. He renamed the shop in 1940. Other famous boza hotspots in Skopje are "Palma" and "Sheherezada." Besides ethnic Albanians, boza-making tradition is also present among ethnic Macedonians. One of the characters in the 1928 play Lence Kumanovce/Begalka (Lenche of Kumanovo, AKA Eloped Bride) by Vasil Iljoski is Trendo, the boza-vendor.
Boza is produced in the Balkans and most of the Turkic regions, but not always using millet. The flavour varies according to the cereal which is used. In a scientific study of boza carried out by the Turkish Science and Technology Institute for Vefa Bozacisi, the drink was found to be extremely healthy and nourishing. One litre of boza contains a thousand calories, four types of vitamins A and B, and vitamin E. During fermentation lactic acid, which is contained by few foods, is formed, and this facilitates digestion.
As boza spoils if not kept in a cool place, boza fermenters in Turkey (traditionally) don't sell boza in summer months and sell alternative beverages such as grape juice or lemonade. However, it is now available in summer time due to demand and availability of refrigeration. In Albania and Macedonia, however, boza is produced as refreshing beverage year-round.