Just beneath the mango tree, off the coast of ‘nkran’, Accra, you find men playing draft and listening to music brewed from the traditional ‘seprewa’, a guitar like instrument, enjoying local beverages such as ‘nsafuo’ also known as palm wine, pito among others despite the fortunes spent on foreign wines and beverages every year.
Observing the joy locals have when taking in these beverages enjoins me to share some of the several varieties produced for centuries before the introduction of European grape (fruit) wines to the continent.
I begin with:
Also popularly called 'Palmie', this is a sweet, nutritious drink derived from the sap of various species of palm tree such as the palmyra, date palms, and coconut palms. It is delicious when it's freshly tapped, but after a few days when it gets fermented, it acquires a slightly sour taste which indicates that there is the presence of alcohol.
The cloudy, whitish beverage with a sweet alcoholic taste and said to have a very short shelf life by many has now been bottled without going bad or losing its amazing taste by Nkulenu Industries Ghana, a promising exporter of African Palm wine.
Like everything new and exotic, many non-Africans who taste palm wine for the first time say it’s like an old indigenous drink they are familiar with; it’s definitely a taste you have to get used to and it’s a taste you can’t forget about when properly chilled.
Known by some as maize/corn beer, this is made from crushed fermented corn and sugar. It is found in almost every part of Accra, especially in markets. It is sometimes mixed with milk for a more creamy taste.
Nmedaa, indigenous to the Ga people of Accra is made from sprouted corn, with added sugar, and salt, and tastes like African malt.
Also indigenous to the Ga is the ntinshinu. This is water from boiled kenkey (local meal prepared from corn)
Pito is made from fermented millet or sorghum or sometimes malt and it is popularly found in the Northern part of Ghana. It can be served warm or cold, and usually in a calabash. It is a strong alcoholic traditional beer that is sometimes used in performing certain traditional rites.
Made from the Hibiscus leaves, this is a delicious drink and a very healthy treat for everyone. Also called Bissap, this drink is infused with ginger and pineapple juices to give it its sharp unique taste. It is usually served chilled and accompanies any spicy meal. Some bars have created cocktails out of this drink making it a uniquely popular and favourite drink of every Ghanaian.
The unpopular but easy to prepare “Zoomkoom” is simply a flour-water. “Zoom” means flour and “koom” means water. Mostly found the Upper East Region of Ghana, this drink is offered to (unexpected) guests, it is easy to make and delicious to taste! So “zoomkoom” is usually described as a welcome-to-my-house drink.
There are two different variants of “zoomkoom”: the traditional one and more modernized.
In modernized “zoomkoom” instead of Guinea corn millet flour is used and sugar is also sugar is added, not shea butter – the rest is the same.
It has an interesting taste, it is hot (spicy) and sweet at the same time! It is really nutritious and advised for sportsmen.
For you to try it at home, follow this recipe for traditional “zoomkoom”
Guinea cornflour mixed with pepper, shea butter and water
How to prepare
Mix the flour with shea butter and stir till properly mixed. Use kalabash.
Add some water and stir thoroughly.
You now have your “zoomkoom”
While Western wines have become a global brand and a multi-billion dollar industry, Ghanaian locals have remained resolute, still enjoying their ‘local’, ‘brandless’ and faceless wines and beverages.
These amazing insights about Ghanaian drinks prove that although ‘coffee, tea, and juice’ is what we usually think about when the African beverage industry is mentioned, Ghana has traditional beverages (many of the alcoholic) that you can try whenever you are in Accra.