Ayran is a drink from Central Asia that people have been drinking since 1000 BC.
It is traditionally a cold drink made of yoghurt, water and salt which is similar to kefir. No one knows exactly where it comes from, but it is believed to originate in Turkey. It is very popular in the Balkans and Central Asia.
The exact recipe differs from one country to the next, and the drink has a special name in each region.
Ayran can be chilled before drinking. For instance in summer, ice, mint leaves and cucumber can be added to make the drink even more refreshing.
In Turkey, ayran is so popular that it actually competes with well-known beverages such as Coca-Cola, and major fast food chains like McDonald’s and Burger King have added it to their menus.
In Armenia there is a drink with similar properties to ayran called tan. It is believed that long ago only the people living in the mountains knew the secrets of making tan and that they were very keen on keeping that knowledge to themselves.
According to legend, in the mid-19th century Russian doctors became interested in the longevity of the people in the Caucuses. They found that tan had bacterial properties and relieved a number of stomach and bowel problems. However, it was difficult to obtain the starter, because the Armenian mountain people would not disclose their recipe. The village elders actually warned the young dzhigits that if they gave away even a small part of the magical starter, all of the starter would be destroyed.
However, a beautiful Russian woman found out the secret of the starter because an Armenian prince could not resist her beauty. When proposing to her he did not offer half his kingdom, but 40 pounds of tan starter. And so the drink found its way to Russia and is now known all over Europe, including Estonia. We do not import ayran – we make it in the small town of Kose in Harju County.
Folklore tells us about the health benefits of tan for people. Caucasian people used the drink to balance the salt and water levels in their bodies, and also as a quick hangover cure.