The tradition of coffee in Bosnia and Herzegovina


Exactly 138 years after the Ottoman Empire left Bosnia Herzegovina and then came the Austria-Hungary. Today this country shows many signs of its nearly four centuries of Turkish rule: the architecture, the occasional shared word, the complimentary glass of rakija after dinner.

Large part of the population uses the word kahva, which is the original Arabic word. The tradition of drinking coffee begins in the 16th century and Sarajevo had the first well set coffee tavern in 1591. According to the books, the first coffee lovers claimed that kahva quenches thirst, has beneficial effect on numbness, helps against hunger and postpones sleep.

Most people do not approve of the statement that Bosnian coffee is Turkish coffee; they say the difference is in the process of making. Good coffee should not be too much roasted but it should be moderately roasted  (it has to have brown color). After that brown coffee beans are ground to produce fine powder, like flour. It is cooked in a small copper-plated pot with a long neck, called a đezva (or cezve in Turkish). But the Turks add the coffee and optional sugar to cold water before placing it on the stove. When preparing Bosnian coffee, the cold water goes on the stove alone.

A well-made coffee must have cream (the bubble brown foam) on the surface. According to the traditional Bosnian rules of serving, kahva is never served alone, as it is the custom in western parts of the world. Kahva is served with lokum, juice or something sweet which makes perfect sense because coffee should not come into empty stomach so that the stomach does not absorb directly the caffeine.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, a coffee pot (đezva) is the metal, kitchen dish with handle designed especially for cooking kahva. Read more about the traditional Bosnian coffee pot in our previous post.

So when you come to Bosnia and Herzegovina, be sure to try our traditional kahva and enjoy the drinking ritual. If you like it, visit the souvenir shops and buy a đezva to take home as the perfect reminder of this rich tradition.

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