Bosnian coffee is “part of Bosnian and Herzegovinian culture and national identity”. A big deal, it’s a tradition and social ritual. Preparing Bosnian coffee isn’t as easy as using a French press or drip machine or making espresso. At first, I was clueless and asked my landlord if there was a French press coffee maker for the kitchen. The response was a slightly offended “no”, followed by a funny look.
I bought the powdery local coffee – no other choice – measured a teaspoon, put it in a cup, added boiling water, stirred, and it was awful! I mentioned this to a Bosnian who seemed approachable on the subject. He lifted his eyebrow, stared at me in disbelief, and explained the complicated process of making “proper” Bosnian coffee!
“In a country under foreign rule for centuries, with the atrocities of war still fresh in the collective memory, national identity gains new importance. Coffee is part of Bosnia–Herzegovina’s identity.”
Making Bosnian Coffee
This is how to make Bosnian coffee:
- Boil water in a small pot – šerbetnjak.
- Put 2-3 teaspoons of Bosnian coffee in a copper-plated pot – džezva.
- Heat the dry coffee on a hot stove for a few seconds.
- Pour boiling water into the džezva but not all the way to the rim.
- Stir and let it settle for a few seconds.
- Place the džezva back on a hot stove until it boils (rises but doesn’t spill over).
- Remove the džezva from the heat when a mousse-like foam appears on top.
- Let the foam settle and repeat the process.
- Scoop up the foam.
- Pour the coffee into a tiny cup – fildžani.
- Add the scooped up foam on top.
- Take a sip of water and place a bite from a sugar cube under your tongue.
- Sip your hot coffee and enjoy!
You don’t have to use a fancy copper džezva and cups but you must follow the steps precisely. One thing you should never, ever do is order “Turkish” coffee in Bosnia-Herzegovina! The two are not the same. It’s a different process.
Bosnian Coffee Utensils
“Bosnian coffee is served in a full džezva (which holds three cups of coffee) placed on a round copper tray with a ceramic cup, a glass of cold water, a dish of sugar cubes, and sometimes rahat lokum, Bosnian candy that foreigners call Turkish delight.
There are advantages to serving coffee in a džezva. The sludge of unfiltered coffee that forms in the bottom remains in the pot instead of your cup. This “decreases the chances of an amateur drinker ending up with a mouthful of grit” :o(. Copper-plated džezvas keep coffee hot a long time – important because “while a cup of Bosnian coffee might be small, it’s also very strong” and better when sipped slowly.
Bosnians sit for hours drinking coffee, making conversation with their companions, and enjoying the small things in life.
A complete Bosnian coffee set is called a kahveni takum and includes a tabla (copper tray) with a džezva (pot with a handle for boiling the coffee), šećerluk (container for sugar and Turkish Delight), and fildžani (demitasse cup without handles).
Drinking Coffee Throughout the Day
Morning coffee – razgalica – is made strong enough to refresh and wake you up. At some point later in the morning but before afternoon coffee, there’s razgovoruša, coffee drinking to encourage socializing and conversation.
Šutkuša is coffee enjoyed in the peace and quiet of early evening. Dočekuša is coffee for entertaining guests. Sikteruša is very strong coffee given as a “subtle hint that it’s time to wrap up the socializing and guests should take their leave”!