The Story Of Boza, Turkey's Favorite Winter Drink (And Where to Try It)

Boza in Vefa
Boza in Vefa | © William Neuheisel
Feride Yalav-Heckeroth

One of the most popular wintertime drinks, boza is a fermented beverage that has a history in Turkey but also in countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Kosovo. We took a look at the tradition of drinking boza in Turkey, as well as the best place to get your hands on this particular drink that’s a bit of an acquired taste.
Fermented drinks from cereal flour or millet first made their appearance during the 9th and 8th millennia BC during the time of the native Anatolians and Mesopotamians. During the 10th century, the drink gained the name ‘boza,’ and became popular among the Central Asian Turkic people, later spreading to the Caucasus and the Balkans. Under the Ottoman Empire, where everything related to the culinary world flourished, boza also enjoyed its golden era.

Boza in Vefa

Due to a very low but present level of alcohol, the drink faced some problems in the 17th century when Sultan Mehmed IV prohibited the consumption of alcoholic drinks including boza. After this ruling, the prohibition was reinforced and loosened several times over the course of history, until a sweet and non-alcoholic version was introduced in the 19th century and became much more popular than its sour and alcoholic predecessor. It was during this time, 1876 to be exact, that brothers Hacı İbrahim and Hacı Sadık established a boza shop in Istanbul’s Vefa district that continues to serve the city’s most iconic boza. When Vefa Bozacısı opened, it quickly became a favorite among the sultans and the aristocrats that used to inhabit the neighborhood. Run by the original owners’ great-great-grandchildren, Vefa Bozacısı is still the most nostalgic place in Istanbul to try the drink in all its traditional glory. In the shop you can even find the glass dating to 1937, which was used by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic.

The Boza Man

Boza is made from hulled millet that is boiled in water and then poured into pans in order to be cooled. Once it’s sieved, water and sugar are added to the mixture, and a very sweet yet tangy flavor emerges. Boza is served with a spoon because of its thick consistency and is a bit of an acquired taste. The drink is always topped with cinnamon or leblebi (roasted chickpeas). In the winter, wandering peddlers begin to sell boza in certain neighborhoods with a large canister in tow as well as their iconic call that brings anyone in the mood for boza to the window. In his novel A Strangeness in My Mind, even Orhan Pamuk alludes to this romanticized memory of the boza seller who wanders the streets and calls out ‘Boo-zaaa!’ The novel follows the life story of main character and boza vendor Mevlut Karataş who arrives in Istanbul when he’s 12 and grows up in a city that is rapidly changing all around him.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article