A few centuries-old tradition, Bosnian coffee is more than a caffeinated drink. Discover what is Bosnian coffee in this article.
Bosnia and Herzegovina have many traditions, and coffee is one of them.
So, what is Bosnian coffee?
Short answer: It’s a strong unflitered coffee made by boiling the grounds in a pot called džezva.
But in this country, coffee is not just a drink. What looks like a regular black coffee is actually an important part of the culture.
Even though I’ve been numerous times to Bosnia and Herzegovina, I can never get enough of the unique experience that comes with this coffee.
Let me tell you more about this beautiful tradition.
The Historical Significance of Bosnian Coffee
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the coffee tradition is several centuries old. From the 15th to late 19th century, this country was occupied by Ottoman Empire. And since Islamic customs prohibit alcohol consumption, the Ottomans brought coffee. To be precise, Turkish coffee. But as it usually goes, the drink was tweaked over time, and that’s how a new variation was born – Bosnian coffee.
Today, over a century after the Ottoman occupation, this drink is still very popular. In fact, it’s more than a drink. Bosnian coffee plays a huge role in the daily lives and social rituals of the people living there. It’s consumed on literally any occasion, be it baptism, wedding or even funeral. As the ultimate gesture of hospitality, Bosnian coffee gathers people of all ages for a long chatting session.
Distinctive Features of Bosnian Coffee
Since Bosnian coffee is developed as a variation of Turkish coffee, there are many similarities between the two drinks. But there are several key distinctions as well. Most importantly, the difference lies in the preparation method.
Traditionally, Bosnian coffee is made in džezva, which is a small, long-handed pot with a high neck and a pouring lip. The term originates from the Turkish cezve, while in Greek, it’s called ibrik.
However, it’s worth noting that ibrik in Turkish is not a coffee pot but a pitcher. So even though the Greek term is often used synonymously for džezva in the Balkans, I’ll stick to the original term to avoid confusion.
To make Bosnian coffee, water is first boiled before coffee grounds are added to the pot. With Turkish coffee, on the other hand, you combine water with coffee grounds right away. As a result, Turkish coffee is more bitter than its Bosnian counterpart.
Those who find it too strong and bitter can add sugar to Turkish coffee, together with the coffee grounds and water.
But doing the same with Bosnian coffee would be a disgrace. This is not to say you can’t make it sweeter. Bosnian coffee is served in sugar – and we’ll get to that in a little bit.
Both Turkish and Bosnian coffee is made with very fine coffee grounds, almost like baby powder.
However, while the former is usually made with a dark roast, the latter is generally made with a medium roast. That’s why Bosnian coffee is not as bitter and strong as its Turkish counterpart.
Bosnian Coffee Preparation: A Step-by-Step Guide
To make authentic Bosnian coffee, you’ll need a ǆezva. Made of copper, this special pot has excellent heat conduction ability, which speeds up the brewing process. The high, slightly narrow neck is responsible for creating the foam, which is an essential part of Bosnian coffee.
This is not to say you can’t make Bosnian coffee without the special pot. A regular, small saucepan can work, but the final result won’t be exactly the same.
When brewed, Bosnian coffee is served in a fildžan, which is a small cup like a demitasse, but without a handle. It’s held with both hands so that you can feel the warmth of coffee.
While you can make several cups at once, to make a single cup of Bosnian coffee, you’ll need:
- 2 tablespoons coffee
- ¼ cup water
Alright, let’s get brewing. Here’s what to do:
- Add water to ǆezva and place it on the stovetop on medium heat.
- Leave the pot on the stove until it’s starting to boil. You should keep a close eye on the pot, as the water should be removed as soon as it’s starting to form bubbles.
- Right before it starts boiling, which you’ll notice once small bubbles start forming inside, pour out a bit of water into a cup. We’ll need this later.
- Remove the pot from the heat, add coffee grounds, then place it back on the stove to boil.
- When you see the mixture starting to foam and rise, remove the pot from the stove again until the foam subsides. Add the water you poured into a cup, then put the pot back onto the stove. Repeat the process once or twice to get an even foamier layer.
- Remove the pot from the stove and let it sit for at least a minute before pouring it into a fildžan. This will allow the sediment to settle on the bottom of the pot and not get into your cup.
Serving and Enjoying Bosnian Coffee
Aside from preparation, another key difference between Turkish and Bosnian coffee lies in serving. Turkish coffee is served in a cup, while the pot is left in the kitchen.
But when it comes to Bosnian coffee, the pot is served along with the cups (fildžans) with a saucer. That way, everyone can pour more coffee later.
The key feature of Bosnian coffee is the foam layer on top. Similarly to espresso crema, this foamy layer contains the most aroma and flavor, so it’s essential to a delicious cup of coffee.
When serving Bosnian coffee, a little bit of foam is added with a teaspoon to each cup first. Then, coffee is slowly poured, ensuring that most sediment remains in the pot. Some of it will inevitably end up in your cup, but it will settle at the bottom.
Aside from the fildžan, the serving also includes:
- A cup of water
- Sugar cubes
- Rahat lokum (Turkish delight)
The idea is to eat rahat lokum first, drink a bit of water to quench the thirst, then start sipping on coffee.
As for the sugar, you’re not supposed to mix it into your beverage. Instead, simply dip it into the coffee, then bite on it, followed by a sip of coffee.
Even though the serving is small, Bosnian coffee is not meant to be gulped down. You’re slowly taking sips every now and then, enjoying every bit of the experience. Of course, since the pot is right next to you, you can pour yourself some more.
When you’re finally done drinking coffee, turn the fildžan upside down. Don’t worry about getting leftover sediment on the saucer- that’s actually the point.
After a few minutes, the sediment will slide onto the sides of the cup, leaving streaks. Now it’s time for a popular pass time in the Balkans – fortune telling.
Those streaks for the sliding sediment are supposed to give some insight into your future. Now, I’m not saying that most people doing this are actually superstitious. For many of them, this is just a fun part of drinking coffee.
Bosnian coffee serving might be small, but it’s drunk for a longer period of time. The coffee is a main part of “kafenisanje,” which in Bosnian is a verb that literary means “coffee-ing.”
When someone invites you to this activity, it basically means spending hours chatting and enjoying coffee in the company of other people.
What’s really interesting is that there are different words for Bosnian coffee, depending on the specific time of the day it’s drunk.
So, for instance, there are:
- Razgalica – the first cup of coffee in the morning, usually made extra strong to wake you up
- Šutkuša – coffee consumed in silence, typically in the early evening
- Dočekuša – coffee served to guests that just arrived
- Sikteruša – this coffee is served last and is a sign for guests to leave home
Modern Adaptations and Variations
As you can see, there are specific “rules” of Bosnian coffee, from preparation to serving. However, that’s not to say changing something would mean what you’re drinking is not Bosnian coffee.
In fact, a good portion of the Bosnian diaspora enjoys this type of coffee, far away from home. While it might not be made in the traditional ǆezva, nowadays, small metal coffee pots are widely available to find.
Those who find Bosnian coffee too strong nowadays often add either sugar or milk to it. This makes the coffee more palatable for casual drinkers.
Health and Nutritional Aspects
Since traditional Bosnian coffee is made with just coffee grounds and water, it practically has no calories.
However, it’s quite high in caffeine. A single cup of Bosnian coffee can have up to 165 milligrams of caffeine.
And given that most people don’t stop drinking after the first cup, the caffeine content easily adds up.
So while the daily recommended dose of caffeine is 400 milligrams, many consumers of Bosnian coffee easily exceed that amount.
Health implications of having too much caffeine can range from having a hard time falling asleep to cardiovascular issues, like high blood pressure and irregular heartbeats.
Visiting Bosnia: Coffee as a Cultural Experience
In Bosnia and Herzegovina? Well, it’s time to have some real coffee experience. And the best place to do that is – Baščaršija. Baščaršija is the old bazaar and the historical and cultural center of Sarajevo, the capital. Built in the 15th century, Baščaršija is today the main tourist attraction of the city.
How to order Bosnian coffee? Simple. Since you’re in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there’s no need to refer to it as “Bosnian.” It’s local. Just ask for a cup of coffee, and you’ll get an authentic cup of java.
A friendly reminder – don’t refer to it as Turkish coffee. Even though there are similarities between the two, you don’t want to offend the locals by not realizing that Bosnian coffee is an important part of their culture.
- Džezva (special copper pot)
- Filǆan (a small cup)
- 1 tbsp coffee
- ¼ cup water
- Add water to ǆezva, then place it on medium heat.
- Leave the pot on the stove until it’s starting to boil.
- Right before it starts boiling, pour out a bit of water into a cup. Save for later.
- Remove the pot from the heat to add coffee grounds. Place the pot back on the stove to boil.
- When the coffee starts boiling, remove the pot from the stove again until the foam subsides. Add the water from the cup, then put the pot back onto the stove. Repeat the process once or twice.
- Remove the pot from the stove and let it sit before serving.
Final Thoughts on Bosnian Coffee
Bosnian coffee is a centuries-old tradition and an important cultural aspect of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The best place to try authentic Bosnian coffee is – well, Bosnia and Herzegovina. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a pretty good home version of it. But for the best experience, get yourself a džezva and a fildžan!
Looking for an alternative coffee brewing method to try? Here are ten home coffee brewing methods.
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