A Taste from History: Boza

Boza is a fermented beverage produced from grains such as barley, corn, rye, oats, and millet. The history of boza, which has an important place in Turkish cuisine, goes back to ancient times. It is thought to have been produced for over 8,000 years. Boza is derived from the Persian word “buze” and its meaning is “millet”.

Boza, which is consumed almost everywhere where the Turkish tradition is dominant, is a winter drink and has high calories. It gives the body a feeling of warmth and satiety. Boza, which has nutritive properties, has been consumed by people throughout history as an important food item.

Boza Making

Many different grains are used in making boza. The most delicious is millet. Millet is shredded and boiled. Water and sugar are added. Add some of the boza made before, and let it ferment for 24 hours at around 30 degrees. Then it is cooled to 4-5 C and served. This boza made should be consumed within 5 days at the latest.

Boza is a very rich drink in terms of protein, carbohydrates, fat, and various vitamins. It is seen as a very useful food in terms of nutrition due to the lactic acid it contains, and it has positive effects on the digestive and intestinal flora.

It is written in different sources that Turks drank boza throughout history. This tradition naturally came to the Ottomans. The presence of boza shops among the tradesmen of that period shows their loyalty to the Ottoman tradition of drinking boza. Boza is also consumed in today's Turkey. The protein and B vitamins it contains provide benefits to the body have a mind-opening and calming effect. Although it is not possible to come across street vendors anymore, it is possible to buy boza from markets.

Boza Sellers and Bozahane

Boza is started to be drunk with the cold days of autumn and is drunk until the last cool days of spring. On cold and snowy winter nights, they hear the cries of “Bozaa... Haydi boozaa... Boza...” that Istanbulites are accustomed to hearing. The beginning of selling boza on the streets in Istanbul is considered a harbinger of winter. 

It used to be a very common occurrence to see these boza sellers. It's hard to find them anymore. Until the 19th century, there is a boza seller type with a clogged hand, a cup holder on its waist, and bagels on a string.

In old Istanbul, there is the word "bozahane", which means the place where boza is sold and drunk. It is prepared by pounding over a strong fire. There are records from the 16th century regarding the old bozahane in Istanbul. During this period, there were two types of boza, the first was the sour boza, which was alcoholic enough to get drunk. There was also a sweet boza.

Western travelers also mentioned the boza shops in Istanbul and the types of boza sold there. Eyliya Çelebi has allocated a large space to boza makers, bozahanes and boza varieties in his Seyahatname. According to the information given here, 1005 boza makers were working in 300 bozahane in Istanbul in the 17th century. According to the information in this source, boza makers were a very important class in the army of that period. Boza, if drunk in moderation, would give strength, body warmth, and satiety to the soldier.

It was seen that boza was also among the prohibitions on alcohol, coffee, tobacco, and opium, which were frequently observed throughout Ottoman history. The most severe of these prohibitions is IV. Murad (1623-1640), IV. Mehmed (1648-1687) and III. It was seen during the reign of Selim (1789 – 1807).