Distilled and fermented beverages - Romania
Braga is a thick, beige-colored fermented drink with a pungent, sweet-sour taste. The percentage of alcohol can vary from producer to producer. It is prepared from a variety of grains such as wheat bran, corn, milled or rye, which are left to soak (and sprout for a slightly alcoholic version). These grains are then slowly roasted and made into a flour, which is mixed with water and yeast and left to ferment in a wooden barrel. Next, it is moved to clay pots or glass containers. It is served chilled, and can be sweetened with sugar or honey to taste. The proportions of the various ingredients vary from producer to producer, and so braga drinks have a variety of tastes. The drink is well suited for hot climates, and can only be fermented from May to October. It has a short shelf life, and should be consumed a few days after preparation. Braga is a regional drink that survived as Turkish heritage in the former Balkan territories of the Ottoman Empire. It is known as boza in neighboring Slavic languages. The figure of the street braga merchant (bragagiu) calling out his trade is emblematic for turn-of-the-century urban cultural landscape in Romania, especially in market towns. It is a typical street beverage. It can still be found in some farmers’ markets in certain Romanian cities, particularly in Dobrodja and southern Romania – multicultural areas with a rich Turkish heritage. Consumer awareness of braga is decreasing, as the drink is rarely accessible today. The commercial versions of the drink contain added artificial sweeteners and aspirin to preserve and adapt the taste to tastes. Interest in the traditional version is declining as the rustic sensory qualities of the drink (appearance, consistency, smell and taste) do not fit modern consumer expectations of hygiene (that is, the homogenous sensory qualities found in commercially produced beverages). Due to its very short shelf life, distribution directly from producers through farmers’ markets is very important for the survival of braga production.