SUUSAMYR, Kyrgyzstan (AP) – In Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan Mountains, the season for making the fermented drink known as kumis is in full swing.
Connoisseurs of kumis, an important part of the diet of nomadic tribes for untold centuries, say that the Suusamyr Valley is home to the best version of the drink.
In winter, the valley, which is 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) above sea level, is covered with snow meters deep. When the thaw comes, the abundance of water feeds grass and dense forbs. In late summer, the valley is awash with a thick, emerald carpet of juicy blades of grass that the horses eagerly devour.
Grass and herbs give a particular flavor to the milk that the inhabitants draw from the mares in the fields where they graze. The milk is then left to ferment, or sometimes whisked to promote fermentation, until it becomes slightly alcoholic.
Cow’s milk can also be used, but is considered inferior. Mare’s milk has a higher sugar content, which makes it more susceptible to fermentation.
Rustam Tukhvatshin, a professor of Kyrgyz medicine, says kumis promotes the growth of blood cells and detoxifies the body, among other benefits. He says you should never come to Suusamyr when kumis production is at its peak.
Tourists and people from other parts of Kyrgyzstan are also taking notice of the region’s kumis. Large wooden-framed tents known as yurts have been set up along the road with tables where kumis are sold. With time to spare, a shopper can relax in the yurts while sipping the much-loved beverage.