Bosnian Coffee

Kahveni Takum or Bosnian Coffee Set

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!

Ground 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  BosniaHerzegovina’s identity.”


Rahat Lokumi Početna – GA-ME-HA

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.

Bosnian Coffee Presentation

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.

Bosnian Coffee –


Bosnians sit for hours drinking coffee, making conversation with their companions, and enjoying the small things in life.


Rahat Lokum Orah Vizual –

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).

Bosnian Coffee – CoinaPhoto

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.

Bosnian Coffee –

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”!

Sirkeci, Beyoğlu, and Eminönü Istanbul

Hagia Sophia Sultanahmet District at Night

I’ve spent the last several days exploring Istanbul neighborhoods seeing famous attractions and observing everyday Turkish life. The weather is slightly overcast but not cold or unpleasant. Hopefully we’ll have more sunshine in the next few days.

Sirkeci Istanbul – Afar

Beyoğlu and Eminönü – Istanbul’s Backstreets, Bazaars, Hookahs, and Çay

Istanbul has 39 districts and many unique quarters, boroughs, and neighborhoods. Today I explored Eminönü and Beyoğlu. Sirkeci is in Eminönü, a neighborhood in the Fatih District of Sultanahmet on the Bosphorus Strait waterfront. Beyoğlu is part of the Taksim Square area known for its cafés, nightclubs, and theaters.

Blue Mosque – Nashi Travel

Sultanahmet’s ancient cobblestone backstreets are fascinating! On Thursday I explored the Fatih District – not far from the exotic Grand Bazaar and near the remains of ancient Roman aqueducts and stone walls built to surround Istanbul. Some streets in Fatih are very steep with small steps on either side. Many are narrow and one-way only. One area I explored was mostly occupied by shoe and carpet merchants. There were outside displays where old, weathered Turkish men were hanging out and moving their wares around on wooden carts.

Turkish Çay Tea & Hooka

I discovered delicious Turkish traditional black tea (Çay) and stopped at cafés along the way to smooze with the locals and drink tea. Depending on which area of the city you’re in, you can pay from 1 Turkish Lira (about fifty cents) up to 5 Lira for the same cup of tea served piping hot in pretty tulip-shaped glasses called “ince belli”. Çay has an interesting, strong full-bodied flavor and isn’t sweet like Moroccan mint tea.

Many of Istanbul’s coffee and tea cafés also have hookahs on the tables, but I haven’t tried one yet… The place I enjoyed most was an outside café on a hill overlooking the Golden Horn which was full of wiry, serious looking Turkish merchants with solemn, weathered faces. They were friendly and seemed amused I had joined them in their daily tea ritual. It was fun!


Handmade Local Pottery

Street Cats, Mosques, Burkas, and Turkish Delight

There are many stray cats roaming the streets of Istanbul. Some are in bad shape, but none look emaciated. They’re well fed by tourists and locals. Often the cats get shooed away. I tried petting one. At first it flinched and then when it realized I wasn’t going to hurt it, melted into my touch and purred. It’s sad Istanbul doesn’t have better animal control. Somehow the cats exist on their own and are a well-known part of the city.

Istanbul Street Cats

Istanbul Street Cats

Since there are mosques all around Istanbul, the haunting Muslim call to worship definitely makes itself known at dawn and dusk and several times throughout the day. I think there’s a special Islāmic observance happening now and keep forgetting to ask about it. Most Muslim women wear headscarves but I’ve only seen a few full burkas. It’s amusing to see women wearing burkas walking a few steps apart from others dressed in miniskirts and platform boots.

Fruit Stand

Fresh Fruit Stand

Istanbul is full of gorgeous fruit and vegetable stands. You can buy a glass of fresh pomegranate juice squeezed right in front of your eyes for about a dollar – delicious! Turkish delight and seductive pastry shops are abundant with displays of local candies, baklava variations, tarts, and fancy cakes. I tried a bright green pistachio sweet the other day that was incredible.

Istanbul Card

During rush hour – 7 to 10 and 4 to 7 – Istanbul traffic is atrocious! Cars back up and come to a complete standstill all over the city – both main and backstreets. I bought an Istanbul Card that can be used on all the public transportation lines – buses, metros, ferries, funiculars, and tramways. So far I’ve ridden most methods of Istanbul transportation, including taxis. The trams and underground metro are clean, inexpensive, fast, and efficient and a great alternative to getting trapped in Istanbul’s brutal traffic jams.

Galata Tower – The South African

I got hopelessly lost today and by the time I figured a way out of the situation (8 hours later) I had used every mode of transportation in Istanbul except ferry – saved for tomorrow. The areas had few English-speaking residents and even the police did not understand my basic direction questions. I planned to go to Kobatas and caught the wrong tram, so at Karakoy I had to switch – a long story resulting in my going around the block 10 times to get next door. After learning the hard way, NOW I’m more confident about finding my way around Istanbul – but certainly could get lost again easily…

Hagia Sophia Istanbul – Earth Trekkers

With today’s outing, I realized that when you’re in Istanbul’s tourist districts you’re charged triple and sometimes quadruple for any service or food – fact of life. It’s a depressed economy in Turkey but Istanbul seems to be flourishing and vibrant. You really have to pay attention when shopping . Today I bought a small gift but not until I walked away and the street vendor followed me to accept my price. The first price asked was totally absurd. I don’t mind paying a little too much, but draw the line at outright robbery.

Turkish Sweets

Turkish Sweets

Turkish merchants are aggressive and if you’ve walked by their shop and admired the window display (from outside) they might come out and get on your case for not coming inside to buy something. I had that happen and met Suleyman Aun and his Ukrainian wife.

Istanbul Bridge – Why Wander

Restaurants & Rugs

Suleyman appears to own the whole block next to my hotel, including Alemdar Restaurant that has live entertainment including Sufi music, whirling dervishes, and belly dancers. He has a carpet shop with gorgeous handmade rugs, a travel agency, an art gallery, and a jewelry shop. Suleyman invited me into the carpet shop for apple tea and of course tried to sell me a $14K handmade Turkish silk-on-silk rug which he said was a bargain at that price. Apparently it took the artisan almost a year to complete – incredible colors and design with no visible flaws! These fine handmade silk rugs, called Hereke, are truly masterpieces.

Handmade Silk Rug

Hereke – Handmade Silk-On-Silk Rug

Suleyman’s nephew, Murat, who runs the travel agency offered to prepare a custom travel itinerary for me listing other parts of Turkey he recommends visiting after leaving Istanbul – not sure how much Turkish Lira that will cost…

Turkish Kebap

Last night I had dinner at Altin Kupa Restaurant where the most popular dish was a fancy kebap which came out of the kitchen in a flaming earthenware pot! The waiter broke off the top of the pot before serving the kebap – a pretty dramatic presentation! I’m planning to write a post on cuisine and am still learning about delicious Turkish food. You can find a fancy meal in Istanbul for under $30. Many food shops offer healthy, fresh meals for under $10.