10 Feb Bosnian Coffee
Even today, 136 years after the Ottomans ceded it to Austria-Hungary, Bosnia & Herzegovina shows many signs of its nearly four centuries of Turkish rule: the architecture, the occasional shared word, the complimentary glass of rakija after dinner. But where other countries in Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa still serve what is essentially Turkish coffee (they use the same methods and finely ground beans; they just give the drink a regional name) Bosnia & Herzegovina is one of the few places where calling the coffee by an eponymous name isn’t just a point of national pride. It’s a matter of distinction.
Biggest difference between Bosnian and Turkish coffee is in the process of making.
Both start out with roasted coffee beans that are pulverized into a fine powder and cooked in a small (generally) copper-plated pot with a long neck, called a džezva (or cezve in Turkish). But the Turks add the coffee and optional sugar to cold water before placing it on the stove. When preparing Bosnian coffee, the cold water goes on the stove alone.
After coming to a boil, a small amount of water is set aside. The coffee is then added to the džezva and put back onto the stove for a few seconds. This allowes the liquid to boil yet again, rise to the point of overflowing and create a thick foam. This process may be repeated several times. Then the hot water that had been set aside is added.
To all but the biggest connoisseurs, these differences seem minute. But adding the hot water at the end creates even thicker foam. Adding the coffee later in the process often creates a more robust flavor in the already intense coffee. At least that’s what I was told when I received my Bosnian coffee making certificate from Rahatlook, a lovely café in Baščaršija that offers a quick, somewhat gimmicky lesson in the procedure.
Turkish coffee is served in a single small cup; Bosnian coffee is servedin a full džezva (which holds three cups of coffee) on a round iron tray with an empty, ceramic cup, a glass of water, a dish full of sugar cubes and a rahat lokum – Bosnian candy that foreigners might call Turkish delight.
When you’re ready for your coffee, first take a sip of water. Spoon out a layer of foam from the top. Pour from the džezva before adding the foam to the cup. Bosnian coffee with no foam is no Bosnian coffee at all. If you want sugar, don’t plop it in your drink. Instead, take a bite from one of the sugar cubes on your tray. Put it under your tongue to dissolve as you sip.
Bosnian coffee is more than tradition, it’s way of life and the best way to socialize with the people. If you visit Bosnia, visit Sarajevo or Mostar, and many other beautiful cities in Bosnia, you will see that many local people are drinking Bosnian coffee and sometimes they can talk for hours, just with one cup of coffee.
Book our Sarajevo Walking Tour – tour of Old Town Bascarsija and drink a coffee with us.
A truly unique experience.