Salep and boza, Turkish cozy winter drinks for all ages make a return
Published: Oct 13, 2021 02:28 PM
Turkish restaurant owner Alaaddin Colak (2nd, R) and his wife Mrs. Lin(C) displays free meals made for epidemic prevention workers to express their support and encouragement together with staff of their restaurant in Fuzhou, southeast China's Fujian Province, Feb. 9, 2020. (Xinhua/Jiang Kehong)

File photo:Xinhua

As the winter is around the corner, the right time for two Turkish traditional drinks, salep and boza, is nearing. The first one warms people up while the latter cools them down, offering a different experience for enthusiasts.

Salep, a hot creamy beverage, is an all-time winter favorite in Turkey, especially in Istanbul, the country's largest city, cultural hub, and gastronomic melting pot.

It is made with milk, sugar and a namesake flour from orchid bulbs, topped with a generous sprinkle of cinnamon on each serving.

Boza is one of the oldest Turkish beverages, also popular in the Balkans, and made from fermented grains. Although boza is not served hot, it is a winter treat too.

The presence of these two drinks in Turkish culture dates back to the days when the Turks accepted Islam in the 10th century. With the adoption of Islam, boza and salep took the place of alcoholic beverages.

A few decades ago, people could only buy boza from street vendors who would shout "fresh boza" at the top of their lungs at night.

For hours, sellers would be peddling from one neighborhood to another, despite the piercing cold. The penetrating bawl heard from warm houses and flats would mean that winter has finally arrived.

Nowadays, there are fewer street vendors in big cities, and boza can be purchased in specialty shops.

Aylin Oney Tan, a culinary researcher and one of Turkey's leading food writers, said the unique drink has the consistency of a pudding or a smooth, drinkable porridge.

"People in Turkey crave boza on cold winter days just as many people long for a cold beer in summer months," she told Xinhua. The researcher highlighted the history of drinking beverages of fermented millet, wheat, bulgur, rice, or other grains, saying it is still popular after many centuries.

"This strange drink is omnipresent in Turkey's literary scene and even its military history, as a fortifying beverage of the Janissary corps of the Ottoman army," the elite soldiers of the ancient empire, Tan said. As for salep, also known as saloop, or salop, said Tan, the drink also became popular in the 17th and the 18th centuries in Britain with some different ingredients than those used in Turkey.