The place to Explore Benin and its Culture
Drinking is part of welcoming stage when anyone enters a home in Benin. Drinks are immediately served and you are expected (but not obligated) to take a sip as a respect to the host. In remote areas, the drinks are served in a calabash bowl and passed around to share. It might feel creepy or uncomfortable to share a bowl with multiple people but it’s part of the customs especially when visiting villages. Calabash bowls are also used to serve food in.
There are a few unique beverage to try in Benin. They both alcoholic and non-alcoholic and can be bought on the street as you would buy Beninese food. Most of them are made in the homes of the seller using traditional filtering methods. They are sold either in plastic bottles or in a wooden bowl that you usually have to drink fast and give back to the seller who will then clean it and re-use it with another buyer. They are cheap and are worth trying to get an idea of what they would taste like.
This is Benin #1 alcoholic liquor. It’s made with fermented Palm tree sap that is infused with local fruits and herbs. It’s the Beninese version of Vodka and it can be found practically in any town in Benin. Sodabi is what the locals pull out when you are invited over and is also the most requested and used liquor during many religious activities especially Voodoo. It’s often sold on the street but certain bars carry it as it has become commercialized . It’s a 60% proof alcohol and is cheap to buy ( a liter cost about $3! )
Tchapalo is fermented corn that is distilled and bottled before selling. It’s usually processed in a wooden jar with lemongrass. This method of fermentation give it a very unique earthy and woody flavor. It contains a very small alcohol content however, kids can be seen consuming it in Benin. It’s a beverage that is very refreshing and cheap to buy. It can be found on the streets and it’s served cold so the fermentation doesn’t continue and turns into a higher alcoholic beverage.
Tchouk is around the same family as Tchapalo but is of a much higher alcohol content and can with maid either with corn or sorghum or both mixed together. This beverage usually looks brown and cloudy. It is however very refreshing, a little tart and taste every earthy. It’s usually served in a calabash bowls or is put in a clear bottle with holes on the top to let it “breathe”. It’s usually sold on the street, cheap to get and is worth a try.
This is Benin national Beer as well as the cheapest Beer to buy. The breweries are located in Cotonou (in the South of Benin) and Parakou (North of Benin). The taste is very similar to Amstel light or Heineken.
Bissap juice is a non alcoholic drink made with dried hibiscus flower which is boiled with sugar and other herbs. In the Caribbean countries, it is known as Sorrel. It looks like cranberry juice juice but with a very floral note. It’s high in Vitamin C and is very delicious and refreshing. Some sellers make pops out of them or it can be consume as a juice. It’s usually infused with vanilla beans or lemongrass for an extra added touch of flavor.
The best part of all these beverages is that they are easy to find and cheap to buy. Do not be surprised if you see children purchase some of the alcoholic beverages. Although Benin has an age limit of 18, some of the lower alcoholic beverage such as Tchakpalo are seen consumed by them. However, they are conscious of the ones with higher alcohol content and will not be seen drinking them.