Together with çay (tea) and Turkish coffee, Salep is, without doubt, one Turkey’s top three most famous winter drinks.

An interesting history

With a long and interesting history, dating back to Ottoman times, this drink is still popular in cafes
and can also be bought from street vendors in cities all over Turkey.

Salep for sale in Istanbul
Salep for sale in Istanbul

Cups of hot, thick, creamy Salep can be found in nearly all the countries that once formed part of the Ottoman Empire.

Even in England, during the 17th and 18th centuries, the drink had significant commercial success.

A drink from nature

Salep is made from the ground root (tuber) of specific orchids: Orchis mascula and Orchis militaris.

Salep orchid
Salep orchid

Originally, flour made from the ground tubers was added to water and heated until thick, at which point it
would be sweetened and flavoured with rose water.

These days salep is now often made with hot milk instead.

Too popular

The Kahramanmaraş region of Turkey is a major producer of salep but the popularity of the drink in Turkey
has led to a significant decline in the orchids.

As a result, it is illegal to export genuine salep and instant salep drinks are now usually made with artificial flavouring.

salep

The drink was even known in Ancient Rome, when orchid bulbs were ground to make drinks,
which incidentally they considered to be a powerful aphrodisiac.

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