Traditional Kyrgyz drinks usually involve tea or fermented milk products, with tea being the everyday drink of choice. Residents of south Kyrgyzstan love green tea, while those in the north prefer black tea, sometimes with the addition of milk. In Issyk-Kul and Naryn a tea mixed with homemade fatty milk and lumps of sugar is very popular, and all across Kyrgyzstan tea with salt is common.
In southern Kyrgyzstan tea is served in small bowls so that the drink stays hot for longer, while in Issyk-Kul people like to drink from larger cups called chyn (pial). In Talas and Naryn it is customary to boil the water for tea in samovars.
Kurrma tea includes the addition of milk, sprouted wheat and fried flour. Depending on personal preference, either salt or sugar is added to this Kyrgyz tea before consumption. It is customary to drink kurrma to ward off colds.
Atkanchay, which literally translates as “cooked tea”, is a hearty tea with salt and milk which is usually served for breakfast. In some regions butter, sour cream and even sesame seeds are also added.
A drink called sweet honey, which vaguely resembles non-alcoholic mulled wine, is made from ginger root, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and bay leaves. Once the drink has boiled it is removed from the stove and tightly covered with a lid. After 5-10 minutes the honey is added and filtered. It is customary to drink sweet honey while it is hot.
Kumys (kymyz), a mildly alcoholic, fermented mare’s milk, is among the favorite dairy drinks in Kyrgyzstan.
Ayran, another fermented milk drink, is served in many cafes and restaurants.
Maksym, a sour drink made from barley, wheat, millet and corn, is the national drink of modern Kyrgyzstan. Chalap (tan) is essentially ayran diluted with water. Maksym and chalap can be mixed to create a drink called aralash.
Two other Kyrgyz drinks are popular with adults: Bozo is made from millet, corn or a millet-yeast mixture. It has an alcohol content of 4-6% and a mildly sweet taste. Dzarma (zharma) is a drink made from barley which also contains trace amounts of alcohol.