My Java Journal

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Hand-Ground Coffee Heaven

I last left my story in India. In India I was exposed to experiences predominantly associated with tea. There are however, many similarities between the routines and conventions of coffee and tea. On returning home from India I had to get myself sorted out. I returned sick and thin. Medication and fattening up were my priorities in order to deal with the ailments I picked up from my travels.

With protocols in place and working to get me back to health, I got back to work. I rejoined the service industry I had left to travel. However, I found that I was falling back into poor habits; largely resultant from the awkward and long work hours. It was a time for a change.

That change? Join the military.

I already shared the value of coffee and ritual to a soldier; especially a cold and tired one. As a Canadian soldier, Tim Horton’s was the garrison coffee of choice. This was mostly due to access and availability as it was the only coffee on base and therefore the only choice for the daily ‘coffee run.’

Bosnia and Herzegovina changed this for me.

Already well versed in coffee culture from my time in Vancouver, I realized that I hadn’t truly been exposed to the full spectrum of coffee styles.

In Bosnia, it became a much more personal and ritualized experience. Aside from observation post and guard duties, I spent most my time during my first tour to Bosnia on patrol. We conducted foot patrols and we also covered some 70 miles of area via vehicle patrols. In all instances, every meeting and engagement with locals consisted of coffee – and oddly, walnuts. We were always cracking the proffered walnuts; they were delicious.

The predominant coffee offering in Bosnia was Turkish. Families lived together with three, sometimes four generations pretty standard for each household. Regardless where we were, Baka, the elder female, seemed to be always turning the handle of a coffee grinder. She would grind this forever it seemed. The result was, heaven. The grind was so fine and the flavour so deep, rich and bold. After drinking this Turkish styling I was never able to go back to Tim Horton’s. For a while the Starbucks Bold did suffice, but it had a bitterness that just wasn’t the same. It was from this point on that Turkish and espresso-based coffees started to replace my previous choices.

The hospitality in Bosnia was really quite remarkable. Coffee and walnuts were always on offer, but so too was their coveted sugar, and pickled vegetables. These were remarkable and resilient people. It was to be an education in other coffee cultures and a reinforcement of the importance of the coffee ritual.

Enjoy the long weekend!