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Boza: A 139 years of true legendary taste of Turks

Haci Sadik Vefa starts to produce and sell ‘boza’ in Vefa, Istanbul in 1870… The unique taste was distinguished by the people who await Haci Sadik Bey on the corners.

The story of the oldest drink of Turks or even humanity starts as such. Literature says that history of this drink goes back to 9 thousand years ago up to the Central Asia. Consumed both a food and a drink in most part of the world, the story of boza is told us by Sadik Vefa, the fourth generation son of the founder of Vefa Bozacisi in Vefa, Istanbul. He said, “We try to keep his mission as good as possible. It is an original drink of us. We use domestically produced grains as raw materials. Now we aimed to sell it in abroad, starting from the Balkans.”

What is the history of Vefa Bozacisi?

The story starts in 1870 when Haci Sadik Bey, my fourth generation grandfather, immigrates from Prizren, Albania, to Istanbul to establish a business. He settled first in Vefa, a prestigious quarter in the city where royal, aristocrat, wealthy families and officials live Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire Istanbul. He was one of the well-known sellers of boza in his hometown. He observed that, in this great and magnificent city, there are about 200 makers of boza in their small shops and houses. Those were the times that the boza has been sold as a dark, watery and sour form as a thick slightly fermented drink made of millet. He tried another method for production and he developed the now known boza, thick, light yellow, slightly sour beverage that has newly fermented bubbles in it. He started to sell his product around the Palace.

He opened his first official business, a mom-and-pop shop, in Vefa in 1876. The name of boza shop was Vefa Bozacisi where he developed a standard to produce and sell this traditional beverage that has been selling since than, generation-to-generation.

Haci Sadik Bey produced this special Turkish beverage for many years in order to preserve its stiffness and taste and later he handed his business to his son Ismail Hakki Vefa and provided his adaptation to the production of Vefa Bozacisi.

As the 4th generation now, they have the tenacity to sustain the production of boza, the traditional beverage business started by the grandfather and brought to the present day as a result of the devotion and efforts of all the family members, with a great harmony and in the best way, staying loyal to the traditions of the family.

Prof. Dr. Ahmet Turan of Kirikkale University describes boza, a form of dish made of grains, as the first food of humans, having a history of 9 thousand years.

What is your input for production and where do you procure them?

We use domestically produced grains harvested from this land. Boza is made of millet. We buy grains farmed in Bitlis, Hizan, or Simav. They were grained, boiled and when it is ripe sugar is added and it became ready to serve.

Some of the customers come to us by prescriptions of MDs. It is good for mothers of new-born because it increases milk production. Production is carried out in our hygienic factory, because it is very sensitive to bacteria.

What are the basic uses of boza when prescribed by doctors?

When we studied it, we observed that boza had been preferred in cold steppes in the world. Made of local produce, somewhere from rice, or bulgur, any kind of grain can be used. Even there were special boza makers in the Ottoman army.

Bacteria in boza produce lactic acid, healthy for human body and for stomach. It is also an anti-oxidant. It helps digestion. Refresh the flora in intestines. It has 4 vitamins B, according to studies of Tubitak. One who consumes two cups of boza, gets its daily intake of vitamin B. It contains no fat so is good for hearth. Prevents obesity because it produces a sense of fed up. There is a saying of a doctor that it is the only bacterium that goes to cancerous cells. We do not oversell or over advertise our products; it is not good. There is no need for this.

We are keen on our moral values and traditions. When I am going to decide on major issues, I look at the photos of my grandpas. I try to figure out what would be his decision. Our personnel also have share similar morals and values. We celebrate eids (festivals) with them and with their families and give them their gifts. We are still stick to the values of our culture and our traditions. We always thank for Allah for all what we were endowed.

Boza is boza

There are some people who demand variety in boza. A study was made in Uludag University for producing varieties. However, we advice our customers to consume the boza as boza. If they want different tastes they may have it with strawberries or pomegranates. We do not change our product and its enormous taste.

You built a new factory in Corlu. Will you mention about it?

Machinery that were still operating in our premises in Vefa, Fatih, Istanbul, was made by a master who worked in Halic shipyards, during the times of our grandfather, Ismail Hakki Vefa. Our new factory is built on 3 thousand sqm. land. Most of the production is made over there. Taste and production process is continuously checked for their hygienic standards. Production volumes is adjusted to demand. 5 to 7 tons of product are made daily on the average. During Ramazan month, demand goes up, because it facilitates digestion.

Opening up to the Balkans

We plan to send boza to the Balkans. In this regard we have to extend the shelf life of the products. We keep our research going in cooperation with Tubitak. We made 189 experiments. We got some demand and orders from some countries in Europe. Boza is a living product. On the one hand you should not kill the useful bacteria while on the other hand to extend its life cycle. The shelf life of boza is presently about 18 days. It should be at least two months. Then it will be subject to export.

Are there any other products besides boza?

Our grandfather Ismail Hakki Vefa, was making grape must. When left over they were turned into vinegar. In the past, vinegar was used to clean house and carpets. Even people applied it on their hairs to make them shiny. In cooperation with some Germans we modernized the vinegar first. Now we sell these. To my understanding, deep-rooted companies also should have made themselves renovate if they want to leave a good heritage for the next generations.

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