Traditional Kumis is a fermented mare’s milk, which has a slightly sour taste and a small percentage of alcohol.
Kumis is considered an alcoholic beverage though it is neither made from fruit nor from grain. If technically it is closer to wine, because of the fermentation that occurs from sugars, given its traditional consumption Kumis is much more similar to a beer.
Kumis is made by fermenting raw unpasteurized mare’s milk for several days, often while stirring or churning. During the fermentation process, Lactobacilli bactery acidify the milk and yeasts turn it into an alcoholic drink. This fermentation took place in horsehide containers which might be left on the top of a yurt (tent used by nomadic people); nowadays wooden vat or plastic barrels are used.
Kumis is white in color and it has a foamy sour taste, which is the result of the natural sugars in horse milk.
Traditionally, Kumis is drank before eating so the full healing effects can kick into the body before the consumption and processing of foods begins. Kumis is served cold or chilled: it is drank from small, handle-less, bowl-shaped cups called piyala.
Nomadic people of the Steppe consider kumis to have a variety of medicinal benefits and drink it during the summer phase of transhumance.