Despite of the cold weather in winter, there are some nice traditions that can warm up your soul… As an Istanbullite, one of the nicest tradition of winter is a famous local drink called “Boza“. Made from a fermented grain, boza is a cold drink served with cinnamon and roasted chick peas. It has a thick consistency with a little acidic sweet flavor and low alcohol content (usually around 1%). This tasty drink’s history dates back to thousand years ago in Mesopotamia. It’s said that because of its vitamin contents (A, B and E) it was mostly drunk by the soldiers for strength. It was first made by the Central Asian Turks in the 10th century and spread to the Caucasus and the Balkans. Boza became very popular during the Ottoman period.

Until the 16th century, boza was drunk freely everywhere, but because of the fact that it contains alcohol, it was prohibited by Sultan Selim II (1566–1574). And also in the 17th century, during the sovereignty of Sultan Mehmed IV (1648–1687), boza kept being prohibited adn all the boza shops were shut down. Later it came back eventually and became a popular drink again in the 19th century. Istanbul’s favourite boza shop Vefa was also openned back then in 1876. Brothers Haci Ibrahim and Haci Sadik established this boza shop in one ofe the districts in Istanbul called Vefa. It’s still in business today and serves as a traditional spot for boza lovers. Also in old Istanbul, there boza sellers on the streets and natives were hearing their voice screaming as “Booozaaa!” and walking around to sell their products in the evenings.

There are some special conditions belong to boza. For example it can’t be a side drink for meal but should be drunk seperately by itlsef. It should be kept in cool place and thefore not preferred nor sold during the summer time. Because it has such a thick content you can eat it with help of a spoon.

It’s not an easy drink to make but if you can’t find any boza near you, you may like to give it a try. First of all you should note the ingredients in order to make it;
* 2 kg bulgur (boiled and pounded Wheat)
* Water
* 1/2 kg granulated sugar

And here are some instructions for boza making; Rinse and drain some bulgur and then place it in a large saucepan. Add 8 cups of water. The mixture should stand overnight. Next day cook over low heat for about 2 hours or until very tender. And then place into a food processor container. Add some sugar. Keep until it gets creamy and put strained creamy mixture in a glass bowl. Keep it in refigerator. You can taste it the next 3-4 days but again I have to remind you that it’s not easy to make it. Do not forget to sprinkle cinnamon and add roasted chick peas while you’re drinking it.

Besides its benefits of vitamins A, B1, B2, C and E as well as the digestive lactic acids, some say that it helps to enlarge women’s breasts. If you are in Turkey during the winter you can also find boza sold on the shelves of many supermarkets, packaged in 1-litre PET bottles. They are not as tasty as Vefa’s because they lack the sourness and consistency of traditional boza and they are sweeter and less dense.

posts by Umut