Istanbul is unique. It is the only city in the world where two continents meet. Enjoy old and new in the cultural capital of Turkey with Istanbul expert Marc Guillet

Boza, an Ottoman fermented ‘milkshake’

Posted on 28 January 2019

Photos  ©  Slawomira Kozieniec

The strangest tasting drink I had in Turkey? Defenitely ‘Boza’.

A kind of ‘milkshake’ type of drink without milk. The taste is between sour and sweet. It is a malt drink made from fermented wheat in Turkey, maize (corn) and wheat in Albania, and wheat or millet in Bulgaria and Romania. It has a thick consistency and in non-Muslim countries it has a low alcohol content (usually around 1%), and a slightly acidic sweet flavor.

In Ottoman times the drink was sold on the streets and in so called boza haneler, joints where you could drink your boza. The alcohol content could go up to 9 percent. Mostly Christian Armenians were in the business of selling this drink.

This traditional, fermented beverage is popular in Turkey, Central Asia and the Balkans. It is consumed mainly in the winter months. This drink dates back thousands of years. Archaeologists discovered clay pots that held boza dating back to around 400 BC.

There are different types of boza, the most prominent being Turkish, Bulgarian, and Albanian.

boza drink2In Turkey the Albanian type, sweet boza (tatlı boza) without alcohol, is the only one produced at the moment. It is served with cinnamon and roasted chickpeas. During Ottoman times professional soldiers got this drink, as it is rich in carbohydrates and vitamins.

The oldest tavern like boza shop is located near the Süleymaniye Mosque and the Valens Aqueduct, in the district of Vefa. This Vefa Bozacısı is run since 1876 by an Albanian family. Nostalgia is king here, as it still is the original wooden building from yesteryear. On a shelf high against one of the walls is an old glass in a case; the one from which Atatürk drank his boza here in the 1930s.


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