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Drinking Boza

The drink Boza.

The drink Boza.

Boza is a strange fermented wheat drink that you can find in almost every grocery store.  Very often you can also find it in Bantitsa shops.  I tried it once in August.  I didn’t love it.  Actually I thought: holy smokes, people actually drink this stuff!?!

But my cousin is here visiting me and I am trying to give her a Bulgarian experience so I bought a bottle of it.  Thus far, we’ve had shopska salad, shepard’s salad, kebapche and kyufte, bantitsa, street pizza, frech fries with sirene cheese, and snezanka salad.  Today, I made her drink boza.

The thing about this drink is that it’s slightly fermented and made out of wheat.  It’s not alcoholic but it is really, really thick.  Texture-wise, it’s kind of like drinking a yogurt smoothy in the States.  The flavor however is uncompareable. 

What makes this drink kind of  strange is the conistency, the flavor and the color.  I guess the people could say the same thing about egg nog.  But just to be clear this drink does not taste anything like egg nog.  However, maybe a big spash of whisky would make the Boza more palitable.

The best part of this experience is this:

My cousin trying Boza for the first time!

My cousin trying Boza for the first time!

This is her Boza-Face.  I couldn’t help but laughing and laughing.  Lucky for me she’s a good sport and is up for trying anything.  She didn’t finish her Boza but then again, neither did I.  I have a hunch that she’s not going to take up Boza drinking.

After lunch, I did something I hate.  I threw out the nearly full bottle.  I bought the 1 liter bottle two days ago for .55 leva. This is next to nothing but I still hate not finishing things.  Only I knew that I would never finish this bottle.  Sorry Boza.

35 Responses to “Drinking Boza”

  1. beth says:

    Why is no one commenting on our awesome adventures!!?

    And for the record: it tastes exactly like dishwater, if dishwater came in yogurt smoothie form. GROSS!

    • Alex says:

      I love boza. I cringed when reading the part about you throwing it away. I got to this post while googling how to make it. It’s a bit difficult to obtain in Los Angeles.

      I can’t say I’ve drank dishwater before…but I’m pretty sure boza is a bit sweeter.

      Cheers,

      Alex

      • karolinka27 says:

        @Alex I am sorry! This said, it’s probably time for me to revisit boza. I mean there was a long time where I didn’t like most veggies. Good luck finding it/making it in LA!!

      • David says:

        Alex, not sure if you found where to buy or if you just make your own but I found a place in Chicago (FYI: Chicago has a very large Bulgarian community) that sells Boza and ships free in the continental US. Their website is http://www.bozausa.com. they sell by the case of 24 -16oz bottles at $3 a bottle.

  2. asnklv says:

    FYI, boza uses aspartame these days, so I would strongly recommend against drinking it.

  3. Matt Thompson says:

    Carolyn,

    I concur. Boza is NOT good at all. Maybe it takes years and years to get over the wretched smell, taste, and texture. I have no idea why people like this other than it’s very cheap and can fill your stomach for a long time. Yuck.

  4. Aunt Ruth says:

    Okay, so how is it really different from that Russian drink you made us drink — Kvass? — when we visited Russia?

  5. Aunt Ruth says:

    Oh, and there are no comments from me about your adventures because I didn’t check the blog. Somehow I didn’t think Carolyn had time to make posts considering what I figured the two of you were out doing. I’ve been checking Twitter and the photo link you sent and that has given me some idea of how busy you are. :-) Been thinking of you both having fun. Wish I could be a little mouse in the corner.

    • karolinka27 says:

      @Aunt Ruth– We’ve been having a wonderful time in Sofia. It’s been a good mix of sightseeing, tourism, shopping and eating but we’ve also had to do some work. Me: planning classes and B: doing some translating. So I’ve had a little bit of time here and there to write on the blog and we’ve done some things that are just to great not to write up!!

  6. Boza…*shudder*. It tastes like fake sugar foremost. Then thick sludgy unpleasant boza taste that is yes, indescribable.

    Supposedly, back in the past it was made fresh daily and could be procured at various cafes and other restaurants. My husband says the bottled kind they have now is nothing like fresh boza. There are recipes online to make it at home, though I think they would make the average American think twice about trying to make it.

    http://www.omda.bg/engl/cook/boza.htm There’s one that is less icky sounding than some others I’ve found.

    Make sure she gets tikvenik banitsa, meatball soup, shipka marmalad, nucrema (which kicks nutella’s butt), halva, turkish delight, local wine and rakia. ;)

  7. sibel caliskan says:

    the boza i used to drink years ago was far better tasting…it used to come fresh in glass bottles and nothing could take the place of the famous pair banitsa boza but nowadays i agree with you that the taste of boza is revolting…especially the aftertaste!

  8. sibel caliskan says:

    …I was talking about Bulgarian Boza. As you may have noticed most of the food and drink in Bulgaria are actually Turkish or Greek in origin but mostly Turkish, dating back to Ottoman times. It is known that in 1600s there were more than 300 boza shops in Istanbul where 1100 bozacı used to work.(http://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dosya:Turkish_bragagiu,_1880.jpg) In those times boza was sold on the streets by streetsellers called “Bozacı” calling, “Boooozaaaaaaa….Boooozaaaaaaaa” till the very late hours of the day. Still sometimes on special days you can hear them selling boza in this traditional way.

    Here in Turkey boza is lighter in colour and it is not as tick as the one made in Bulgaria and it is seasoned and served with cinnamon and roasted chickpeas (I haven’t tried that one — if only i liked cinnamon!) Surely, It is a winter drink. One that is sold in supermarkets nowadays can stay fresh up to 25 days in +8C degrees. Fresh? How fresh?

    http://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dosya:Boza.jpg

    http://img182.imageshack.us/img182/4940/bozabozaaaaaaef6.jpg

    • Vlado says:

      Stop lying. Bulgarian boza has got nothing to do with the Turkish junk named after the Bulgarian drink – it’s not even produced from the same ingredients.

      • Will says:

        The Turkish Boza (at least Vefa) tastes fine and doesn’t contain any aspartame etc. to cheaply pad out the flavour.

  9. sibel caliskan says:

    Here, one of the traditional Boza Shops in Istanbul:

    Vefa Bozacısı

    http://site.mynet.com/vefasemti/boza2.jpg

    I talked a lot. I’m sorry.

  10. Adopted Grandad says:

    Great pictures of Boza and Boza consumer. I think I will not have any thank you.

    Love you despite your eating habits of late.

  11. Rudi says:

    Hi,
    accidentally got here but felt obliged to defend my Boza:D (that equals lol).
    Sometimes people consider their taste and customs the best and only correct thing. Completely wrong road to walk.
    First time I was in US i tried few of the most weird tastes in my life:
    1) American style “Pickles” – WTF?!?!
    2) “Patty’s” – the ones in the burgers!!!??? Some grease with seasonings.
    3) “BBQ Sauce” – don’t want even to comment it;
    4) “Root beer”
    5) “Corn Dog” (almost as awful as the HotDog but on a stick and deeply fried)
    6) “Gumbo Soup” – it is shame to call that a meal
    7) “Honey Mustard” – you have to choose one – the Honey or the Mustard
    8) Peanut Butter – I guess I never got “The GOOD ONE”
    The list continues and never ends.

    But after time (for some more for some less) I got used to it. Because that is that country’s way of life and if i’m there I adapt to it.

    I’ve been traveling around, Spain, Egypt, France, US and on… Everywhere there is something different.

    Just don’t deny it. If you don’t like it get something else. ;)

  12. beth says:

    @Mom: No, it’s nothing like kvas, because kvas is good.

  13. dougspangler says:

    Hey you guys, I don’t want any of the boza either. Don’t even think of bringing it back to Walla walla
    Doug

  14. Emi says:

    Boza is awesome :) Especially with banica. It’s a classic!:) You must have gotten some bad boza.. but yeah, it’s not for everyone. And the taste has changed a lot since now they add preservatives and other artificial stuff to it. Back in the days the bakery where my grandpa used to get me breakfast made their own boza and it was amazing.

  15. A says:

    Jeesus!

    You should never drink commercial boza! It’s made from rotten pastries and other rubbish.

    Find some recipes and make your own.

    • karolinka27 says:

      @A don’t worry we were unable to drink the stuff. I’ve never been able to drink more than a sip. It’s something about the texture, smell and consistency. But is it really that much better if you make it yourself?

  16. someone says:

    Hmmm I liked boza, but nowadays they make it different from this we were drinking some years ago. It was sweaty and tasty, and the consistency was better – more liquid, but this was long ago.
    Did u tried the classics – banichka s boza (or banitza with boza ;) )

  17. Георги Назъров says:

    Dear Karolinka,
    I really regret that nowadays I can’t find the real fresh Boza in shops. In my childhood we used to drink litres and litres of Boza on my birthday party for example.
    The original Boza is not prepared from wheat, but from millet. To get the real taste after preparation it was left digged in the ground in a water-skin for 12 days to ferment properly (the ground keeps the temperature constant during the fermentation). The advantage was the taste. The disadvantage – it lasts only for a day or two after you take it out from the ground. Because it’s made with sugar, the fermentation continues converting the sweet drink in a sour alcoholic drink, which can reach up to 12 alcoholic degrees and is really hard to swallow.
    The nowadays Boza has nothing to do with that. You’d be lucky if your bottle of Boza is prepared by wheat (like it’s written on the bottle). Mostly it contains wafers, sweets and other products not sold on time in the shops. Furthermore, to avoid later fermentation, instead of sugar they use aspartame (as you already know from previous posts).
    The most notorious region in Bulgaria for the production of Boza was Radomir. It’s a village nearby Sofia, where it was a family business and a well preserved tradition. Nowadays it’s hard to find someone producing the real Boza. :(

    Some advises to recognize real Boza:
    1. The real Boza is not suitable for consumption more than 3 days after it was produced.
    2. The real Boza is not so dense, like the one I saw in the pictire
    3. The real boza is not prepared from wheat.

    If you have the luck to find the real Boza, please give it a try. I’m sure you’ll find the difference. Like you’ve said in other posts, most probably it would be prepared at home by someone. You have the right to like it or not. But at least you will know that you have tasted Boza!!! :) ))
    Good luck.

    P.S. The same chain of thoughts is valid for the Bulgarian “Kiselo mljako”. Someone call it Yoghurt. If you haven’t had the chance to taste a home made kiselo mljako, it means you haven’t tasted kiselo mljako. But that’s another topic. :) ))

  18. Djgeorgie says:

    Well, it’s quite normal not to like Boza. Even as a Bulgarian, I don’t like it too. Maybe the older generations got used to it,but nowadays the young people don’t drink it too much.

    P.S. I have never seen a westerner to like Boza. Never ever. And it’s normal I believe.

  19. Deni says:

    We cannot all like the same things. I like boza. I don’t drink it often, since they put aspartame and preservatives in it, but every once a month I drink a bottle. And I like it.

    The trick is to buy a boza from a producer you trust. Otherwise, the risk to throw the bottle is big-the variety in the quality is immense. It’s not so much about the consistency (or the color-I mean what do you think a coke looks like before adding all kind of chemistry in it?). It’s about the taste-not all the drinks have the same taste.

    And the boza is very economic way to get lunch :) I drank a small bottle and I was full for 4 hours :P

    P.S. to the nice person who claimed that most of the Bulgarian meals come from Turkey and Greece-dude, 1.5 century ago, we were all part of the same empire. There was no Greece, no Turkey and no Bulgaria back then. It’s hard not to share meals when you shared everything else!

  20. Maggie says:

    Hey Carolyn,
    like some of the readers of your blog, I accidentally found it. I am a Bulgarian living in Connecticut for nearly 5 years and most likely staying here since my husband is American plus we just bought a house in CT. So, here I am missing the ‘boza’ drink and thinking how to explain ‘boza’ to my friends from work… I googled ‘bulgarian boza’ and your article was the 4th choice (which should tell that you did a really nice job with this). Of course I read it and curiously looked at your blog. Well, just realized I spend about 2 and half hours reading (it’s 3am) and looking at your photos. Your stories are very interesting; I truly enjoyed them. Moreover, part of this reminded me of my own experience, when I went back to Bulgaria last summer. Keep on doing the good job and enjoy the summer!
    Since there is no place I can buy boza from here, I might try to make it. :) ))) I just hope it’ll be the same as the one from Bulgaria.
    Best of luck,
    Maggie

  21. Jessica Trifonov says:

    I love Bulgaria and get to visit often to Montana. I’ve tried many new things there, I’ll try anything once. Boza is defiantly an acquired taste. As far as being dangerous dew to newer ingredients, well there’s a whole bunch of Bulgarians drinking it right now. I doubt they’ll die anytime soon from it. Montana is great! If you guys get near there check out the nice parks and the town center with a huge statue. I may be spell this wrong but the hotel Schita Meer is in the town center with cheap rooms. The fountains outside are only on in warmer months like April thru September or something like that. Sofia is interesting also. Don’t forget to go to the amusement park and Elancy (a large flee market) there. Back to the Boza, it really does taste like grainy chocolate mixed with spoiled yogurt. My husband says it’s great with some pig stomach soup. Jstalilred.

  22. Geo says:

    People in the US have been conditioned by their very profitable food industry to consume bad food. When you consume something like that your tastes change so much you reject most of the good stuff. It is true that what they sell in bottles in any country now (due to the economic imperialism) with aspartame and 50 other small printed ingredients, is probably garbage but the real Boza (which spoils in 1-2 days) is one of the best drinks on the planet.

    • karolinka27 says:

      @Geo I don’t doubt that the fresh made boza is probably much better than the store bought-processed kind–but I am not sure that I like the consistency and the fermentation as a combination in the drink. I assume that based on this, fresh made boza probably won’t be a hit for me any time soon.

  23. Geo says:

    Hi Karolinka,

    You are absolutely right, it’s a matter of taste. My comment was very general so please discard it. I’ve been living in US for 2 decades now and I am sick of the “modern” and unhealthy food.

    I’ve been thinking about boza yesterday the whole day and I am pretty sure the real boza must have a short shelf life (1-2 days at room temperature). Last night I couldn’t resist and made 2 liters of a very basic boza (braga in Romanian) from 0.5 cups of whole wheat flower (using an easy recipe from the internet). By now (morning) it’s already WELL fermented (using dry yeast and some sugar and keeping the pot in a warm place) and I am adding the rest of sugar and stuff the boza in the fridge :-) . It has the texture and smell of the real thing. If the final result tastes good I will be making it for about 10-12 cent/liter which is remarkable. The old Romanian saying “ieftin ca braga” (cheap as bosa) seems to be true.

    Regards, Geo

  24. Geo says:

    Oh and another thing, I think adding cocoa and yoghurt makes it taste weird (not to mention shelf life extending ingredients). The boza I drank in my childhood is just wheat flour (maybe millet), yeast, water and sugar. For instance, here you cannot find bread which tastes and feels like real bread because the large number of ingredients they put in it (see the garbage “Wonder Bread” as an example). The tastes adapt though and people love it. It’s just enough to go on the street and watch people’s waist lines and see the result of all these “wonder” products.

    Miter,
    Please post any proven recipe. Thanks! Geo

  25. Katja says:

    I had boza in a kafana in Sarajevo, ot was light. It tasted a bit like lemonade. I thought it was good. I sometimes make kvas. Not bad if you van get REAL black Russian rye bread. My mother used to make kvas. She is who taught me how it is done. I got hold of a recipe for Albanian style boza, which is made from of all things corn-meal. It is damn near the same as Cherokee corn beer! I have some in the fridge right now. I ended up being given a lot of corn-meal and already knew boza could be made from corn meal and about Cherokee corn beer. It is not at all hard to make at home and if you add some REAL vanilla, a few stopa on top and a little sprinkle of cinnamon, it is not at all bad. People who put aspartame in boza are defeating the whole purpose of the drink. The stuff will keep good more than three days in a cold enough fridge, and Real boza is very nourishing.

    The real thing has lactic acid, it has B vitamins and it is far better than that awful bottled swill. I woulnt feed a pig that stuff, probably the pig would not eat it! ت

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