Bosnia & Herzegovina Tea Places

The Best Tea House in Sarajevo

I first heard it whispered about in the cozy kitchen of The Doctor’s House hostel in Sarajevo. Čajdžinica Džirlo, or ‘the hippie tea shop’ as the girls at the hostel put it. It was my second day in Bosnia and I was having breakfast with some other guests at the hostel, girls from Spain and Britain. We got to talking about when they told me I had to visit this place, near the Ottoman fountain in Baščaršija, the old town market.

One girl grabbed a map and the place was pointed out and circled.  “It’s awesome,” she said, “You have to go.” I did go, and it was awesome.

Finding Čajdžinica Džirlo

You can’t miss this spot. If you start at Sebilj, which is an old Ottoman fountain in the middle of Baščaršija and a common meeting point, you only need cross the street north and stick diagonally to your right, where you’ll begin ascending up a hilly street called Kovači.

This quiet street in the old part of Sarajevo is where you’ll find the tiny and bright tea house.

Day or night, tea is waiting for you at Čajdžinica Džirlo. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

Day or night, tea is waiting for you at Čajdžinica Džirlo. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

The friendly owners of Čajdžinica Džirlo

The second time I visited the tea house, it took me a moment to find the entrance because a crowd of school kids was blocking the way. They were surrounding a man sitting on a bench out front and asking him for autographs and to take his picture. Shrugging, I went inside.

Dijana Džirlo greeted me as I entered. She and Husein are the couple who founded Čajdžinica Džirlo (čajdžinica means teahouse) after returning to Sarajevo after the war.

Dijana led me to a seat and shook her head. “Poor guy,” she mentioned to the fellow being mobbed by children. “Who is he?” I asked. “Dino M,” she replied. I must have looked blank because she added, “he’s a pop star.”

Bosnian pop star Dino Merlin at Čajdžinica Džirlo. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

Bosnian pop star Dino Merlin at Čajdžinica Džirlo. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

Yes, turns out I crossed paths with one of Bosnia’s most succesful artists. Only in Sarajevo.

The first time I went, I’d barely sat down when Husein came over and greeted me. I immediately liked him. His extravagant energy, big smile and pirate-like appearance, plus happy demeanor makes it impossible not to chat with him. He is the very definition of a people person.

Don’t speak Bosnian? No problem.

We got to talking, and it turns out he speaks a handful of languages. Our conversation started in English, then switched to German where he’s more comfortable. He also speaks Italian quite fluently — he lived there for several years. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few other languages he knows too.

Husein is one of the owners of Čajdžinica Džirlo. Can you feel his energy in that smile? (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

Husein is one of the owners of Čajdžinica Džirlo. Can you feel his energy in that smile? (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

I told him I was a photographer and that I was off to scenic Lukomir in a few days. On hearing that, he grabbed a well-thumbed book of beautiful photos from Bosnia to look through for inspiration. It reminded me of pouring over old copies of National Geographic in my Dad’s study. There’s nothing better than a worn out old adventure book with a broken spine. He told me to come back after I visited Lukomir so I could show him my photos.

Are you starting to see why he and Dijana are the most amazing people? If Hussein and Dijana don’t win you over, the tea house cat Mimi sure will.

Mimi the cat in front of Čajdžinica Džirlo. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

Mimi the cat in front of Čajdžinica Džirlo. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

I told Husein I didn’t know what to drink and he told me I had to try the salep, so I said, “Okay, I’ll have the salep.” Two seconds later I said, “So, what is salep?”

Drinking Salep

Salep is a thick, milky drink with a base of orchid root flour. It’s combined with hot milk, sugar and cinnamon and tastes very much like drinking hot tapioca pudding.

When you get the drink you add the sugar and cinnamon on top, then using a long spoon stir it vigorously to make sure all the orchid root flour dissolves. The consistency is almost like a milkshake. The first time he brought me salep, Hussein stirred it up himself to show me. You can give it a beating. You don’t want any flour left on the bottom.

This is salep! (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

This is salep! (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

Other than salep, there’s a huge choice of tea available, and of course, Bosnian coffee.

The wall of tea at Čajdžinica Džirlo. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

The wall of tea at Čajdžinica Džirlo. (Mel Hattie/Mel Had Tea)

When you go

If you go, please say hi to Mimi the cat for me, or try the salep and have a conversation with Dijana and Husein.  I can’t tell you how much I love this little shop. There’s just such a magical atmosphere of cross-cultural meetings and adventure and friendship.

I went back several times while I was living in Sarajevo for a month, and brought several friends there as I was kind of obsessed with showing it to everyone. You can sit there for hours and there are even blankets if you get cold. There are books and always good conversations available in the little tea shop that feels like home.

If you go, I’d love to see your photos! Post them in the comments below or tag me on Instagram, @melhadtea.

Cajdzinica Dzirlo Tea House (Facebook / Website)

Kovači 6, Sarajevo 71000, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Hours: 8:30 A.M. to 11:00 P.M. Daily

 

You Might Also Like

7 Comments

  • Reply
    Candice
    February 7, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    This post makes me miss Bosnia so. <3

    • Reply
      Mel Hattie
      February 7, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      I miss it all the time. Had some great experiences there. And definitely haven’t had coffee as strong since then!

  • Reply
    Tea Time Links #4 - Books and Tea
    April 3, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    […] just can’t get enough of Mel’s travels on Mel Had Tea. This post about the best tea house in Sarajevo is another one full of […]

  • Reply
    Andrew
    May 3, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Can you contact me about a freelance HFX opportunity: andrew@themacdonaldnotebook.ca

    • Reply
      Mel Hattie
      May 5, 2017 at 8:59 am

      Thanks Andrew. I sent an email your way. Take care!

  • Reply
    Teas Foreign and Domestic at The Camellia Sinensis Teahouse in Montréal — Mel Had Tea
    July 10, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    […] inspired him to open a teahouse blending Bohemian lounge and Asian tea culture. (Kind of like my favourite tea house in Sarajevo). Since then they’ve come a long way, and their business has grown to include a tea school, three […]

  • Reply
    36 Hours in Sarajevo — Mel Had Tea
    November 12, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    […] a block up from Sebilj is Čajdžinica Džirlo, my favourite Sarajevo tea house. I absolutely recommend stopping here, taking a break to rest your souvenirs and having a drink of […]

What do you think?

%d bloggers like this: