I have a post on food, so it is high time for drinks. There are some interesting ones. And yes, aha means “drink” in Ewe.
No surprise, water is vital. The tap water isn’t drinkable, nor even always running. Most of the locals don’t use bottles though; they use bags: approximately hand-sized baggies of water. They’re mostly made and factory sealed by the same companies as the bottles, just cheaper and easier to find. You’ll see head porters everywhere selling it, often crying “PURE WATAH!”
I’ve been sticking to bottled water. I haven’t quite mastered the art of nipping the edge of the bag so it makes only a small hole, and doesn’t get all over you and into the dirt. Plus, I don’t trust carrying a stack of bags in my purse for the day like I do with my bottles. It’s make for a lot of water-bottle-case-buying, but it’s also helping out! Right? Since, you see, everyone reuses bottles to sell other things (I’ve seen juices, motor oil, tomato sauce…), someone always shows up to take away my empties.
“Tea” is super common. But the word seems to refer to anything you mix or steep into boiling water, and to which you usually add sugar and/or milk – which is tinned, evaporated milk (unless you happen to have gone to the big supermarket in Accra to get shelf-stable milk cartons imported from Europe. . . ahem). So that could be:
– Instant Coffee – AKA Nescafe (and there doesn’t seem to be any non-instant coffee – fine by me, I don’t drink any!)
– Milo – a choco-malty energy drink like Ovaltine with a boost
– Tea – Lipton’s or imitation Lipton’s is most common, but I’ve also found (bagged) Earl Grey and Rooibos (non drink-related, but I’ve also got some tasty South African imported rooibos, rooibos-honey, and rooibos-lemon yogurt right now – yum!)
The juices are delightful. The INVTC Catering class makes some great fresh pineapple and orange juice for quite cheap, and I’ve also had mango elsewhere. There’s also “sobolu”, a dark red, almost-berry-like drink with a surprise – ultra spicy ginger. Pineapple juice also sometimes gets the spicy ginger treatment. And then there’s that corn drink I haven’t been brave enough to try. It’s made from dried corn (“maize”), and looks like slightly yellow milk. Hm. Some day?
All the juices can be made into “ice cream”, which is basically frozen juice in a baggie. I really haven’t mastered nipping a hole in the bag to get ICE out. But I was great entertainment for everyone around when I tried and ended up with bright orange mango fingers. At least one woman recorded me with her cell phone while I made a big mess. So that’s out there.
There are also “minerals” (which I’d call pop). Coca-Cola is everywhere, plus its siblings Sprite, Fanta Orange, and Fanta Lemon. And the semi-fizzy Malta drinks are all over too. They are somewhat sweet and malty, with a reputedly higher nutritional content than the usual soft drinks. Someone described it as “non-alcoholic Guinness”, but I’m not sold on that description. They’re quite nice!
Speaking of Guinness, much of Accra seems to be sponsored by them with billboards, bar signs, and painted walls everywhere. Guinness Foreign Extra is served in pretty much every bar or spot. Then there’s the Ghanaian beers which all have names that seem like they should be shouted (or at least written in capitals): CLUB!, STAR!, STONE!, EAGLE!! The first three I’ve tried – all quite similar pilsners, a la Steamwhistle – but Club is my favourite so far. I have yet to try Eagle, which is newer (the signs all say “Eagle has landed!” – heh), and it’s made of cassava, which sounds interesting.
Bitters seem to be hip by the number of signs advertising different types, but I haven’t seen what they’re used in. Schnapps is apparently the traditional gift for a local chief or for a traditional religious shrine. West of Accra, I tried some handmade palm wine off the side of the road (in a reused water bottle, of course). Quite tasty. Even tastier when mixed with Guinness, as recommended by a local. I also know a few people whose employment here in the Volta region was distilling sugar cane – perhaps like rum? – but I have yet to see any of that handmade liquor. Perhaps it’s time for another road trip. . .
A drink out of a BIG bottle of palm wine on a rainy rainforest day.