Boza or bosa, is a fermented beverage originating from the Middle East. It is made by fermenting various grains: wheat, maize, barley or other grains. It has a thick consistency, a low alcohol content (around 1%), and a slightly acidic sweet flavour.
Fermented cereal flour drinks have been produced since the 9th or 8th millennia BCE, and Xenophon mentioned in the 4th century BCE how the locals preserved and cooled the preparations in earthen pots that were buried. In the 10th century CE, the drink was called Boza and became common amongst Central Asia, then it spread to the Ottoman Empire.
Until the 16th century, boza was drunk freely everywhere, but in the 17th century, Sultan Mehmet IV (1648–1687) prohibited alcoholic drinks including boza, and closed down all the boza shops. This prohibition would be reinforced and then loosened several times in the history of the empire. The 17th-century Turkish traveller Evliya Celebi reported that boza was widely drunk and that there were 300 boza shops in Istanbul alone. In this period, boza was widely drunk by the Janissaries. Evliya Çelebi explained in his Travelogues that "These boza makers are numerous in the army. To drink sufficient boza to cause intoxication is sinful but, unlike wine, in small quantities, it is not condemned." In the 19th century, the sweet and non-alcoholic boza preferred at the Ottoman palace became increasingly popular, while the sour and alcoholic type of boza went out of style. In 1876, brothers Haci Ibrahim and Haci Sadik established a boza shop in the Istanbul district of Vefa, which is the only boza shop dating from that period still in business today, and is now run by the founders' great-great-grandchildren.
The ‘Did You Know’ series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus) and the Active Citizens Fund.