Coffee in BiH

Coffee. A drink prepared and served in numerous ways. Here in Bosnia-Herzegovina, kafa or kava is at the center of almost every conversation. Drinking coffee with others is an opportunity to (moment in which one can) relish in the present, to bath one’s self in good company, to slowly release all worries.

Traditional Bosnian coffee is prepared using a dish called a džezva. (pronunciation: /ʒɛzvə/) This is at best translated as “Turkish coffee pot.” The use of a džezva to prepare coffee is of Turksih origin, introduced into the Balkan region during the reign of the Turks, the Ottoman Empire. This coffee pot is still seen and used throughout southeastern Europe as well as Turkey and… It is made of various types of material and design and comes in various sizes. A typical traditional džezva here in Bosnia is made of copper, occasionally brass or silver. In souvenir shops you will find that these pots are still made and engraved by hand. There are also factory made ones available in supermarkets.

The word džezva originates from the Turkish word cezve, which is of Arabic origin. Cezve is simply Ottoman Turkish spelling based off of the Arabic script. The original meaning of the word: a burning log or coal. The pot then received its name possibly because it was cooked over that said burning log or coal. The shape of a džezva is very distinct, with just differences in neck width, material and design.

A typical set used when serving coffee to your guests includes of course a tray, the coffee in the džezva, sugar, milk (sometimes), and some little drinking cups. A traditional cup for coffee in this region is called a fildžan(pronunciation: / fɪlʒɑ:n/), small and handless. [another form of spelling: findžan] The word is of Greek or Arabic/Turkish origin. Cups are sometimes served with a zarfa, an Arabic word meaning dish, envelope. These coverings are commonly handmade like the džezva and are intended to protect you from your burning hot fildžan. These handless cups are more or less espresso size but it is assumed that one will sip the coffee slowly as to enjoy it. (unlike the espresso) However, in cafes it is possible to order a coffee that is made in such a way that you can drink it like an espresso. (kraća, duža: short, long—ordering the short coffee means you want to drink it quickly, the ‘long’ (duža) coffee slowly)

Bosnian coffee is usually served so that when the grains settle to the bottom, they are quite thick. Don’t drink those grains at the bottom. Thinking I needed to finish the entire cup of coffee including those thick grains, my taste buds quickly told me otherwise. Our American coffees are watery and dessert-like compared to coffee in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

How it’s made (the method I learned)

Fill your džezva with ground coffee so that it appears to cover half of the bottom and half of the side of the pot when tilted (just a helpful trick learned, but it depends mostly on the size of the džezva, how much coffee one intends to make, and of course preference in taste)

Fill the džezva half full with water, stir the coffee and water just enough to mix them.

Then place the pot on a stove top on medium high heat.

When the water rises to the top, remove from the burner. Do this three times before completely removing from burner. (doesn’t have to be three times, just something I picked up from here in BiH)

Add ready boiled water (boiled separately) to the džezva, filling it to the top.

Your Balkan/Bosnian coffee is now ready to serve.

Preparing coffee in this region varies greatly as well as how it is served.

When serving your coffee from a džezva the foam on the top is skimmed off and placed into the bottom of each fildžan. Some people will then add a bit of sugar to the bottom as well. Pouring the coffee is not too difficult since the džezva has a spout. (But don’t pour too slowly nor too quickly, to avoid spills) Each individual can then by personal preference add sugar and/or milk. A glass of water is also usually served alongside each cup of coffee. Very traditional coffee (especially in tourist areas) is served with a piece of Turkish delight, those small square/cubed gel sweets/candies. And the sugar is commonly served in the shape of a cube/little block.

A traditional approach to drinking coffee when one is served his or her own džezva starts with the adding of a little bit of water to the coffee from the water glass it is served with. Next, mix the bit of foam and remove some of it to put in your little handless cup. Pour yourself a cup and then dip the sugar block into the coffee which you then first put in your mouth to suck on before putting the rest of the sugar into your cup. One should then enjoy the coffee sip by sip while simultaneously enjoying one’s company.


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