Turkish Coffee

by Selma Sevkli

A good turkish coffee by Maria Rosaria Sannino

My favorite break at work on a busy afternoon involves a nice cup of strong Turkish coffee. One of my colleagues asks if we would like some, and it is rare that anybody refuses. We take turns and volunteer to make it for everyone. When it is not in the office but at a friend’s house or a cafe, we take our time and read each other’s fortunes from the coffee cup. This coffee cup reading involves inspiration and creativity, as well as experience. We do not completely believe what is said but we do not completely ignore it either.  As the traditional saying suggests: “Don’t believe the cup but do not ignore it”.  There are some fortune tellers who could be professional readers in a cafe.  Or it could be a friend’s grandma, who is exceptionally successful at it. In any case, they really can tell something about you without knowing you at all, and predict some of the future.

Turkish coffee was introduced to Istanbul in the 15th century during the Ottoman period. The Turks discovered a new method of making the coffee in a special coffee pot called a “cezve”. It was welcomed by the society very quickly and became popular. Soon after, coffee houses opened all over the country where poetry was read, chess and backgammon were played, and discussions about politics and literature were held. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Turkish coffee shaped the social life along with tea since those times.

It is not drunk early in the morning, but after breakfast. Its importance is even reflected in the language: We call breakfast “kahvalti” which means “before coffee”.  So we eat our delicious breakfast simply to avoid drinking the coffee on an empty stomach!

So many aspects of social life are still related to Turkish coffee. It is the most important component of the “kiz isteme” ritual in which a boy’s family visits a girl’s family to get permission for their wedding. Salt is added to groom’s coffee instead of sugar to see his reaction. The groom should not complain or make faces in order to get the father’s permission to marry. Half serious, half joke, this ritual still continues in most parts of Turkey.

As the coffee has an important role in the culture, the way it is brewed and served are critically important. The fanciest way to serve it is in a porcelain coffee cup instilled in a copper holder, with water in a small clear glass and a piece of Turkish delight on a nice tray.

Image byy Tema (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)

It is said that Turkish coffee tastes best when cooked in a copper cezve.

Image by Fmucar via Wikipedia creative commons

Making it is pretty simple and practical but requires serious attention to details for the best results.

Here are the proper steps:

1- Put a teaspoon full of Turkish ground coffee in a coffee pot (cezve).
2- Pour one Turkish coffee cup of water in it.
3- Add sugar according to taste. It could be plain, one sugar cube for mild or two cubes for sweet.
4- Put the coffee pot on the lowest flame possible and stir every 30 seconds until it starts rising.
5- Turn off the fire and do not let it boil as that would kill the foam. (You can tell by the thickness of the foam if the coffee is good or not.)
6- Pour the coffee very slowly into the coffee cup to save the foam.
7- Enjoy with a friend’s company and try to read the fortune afterwards.

For fortunetelling from the coffee cup, the cup should be placed upside down on the plate. A ring could be put on to relate the person and to cool it quickly. One should wait until it is completely cold which takes about 10 minutes.

Turkish coffee is the only coffee in the world that you can tell the fortune from as it is the only one served with the grounds at the bottom.

Image by Jeff Kubina via Wikipedia commons

If you want to buy some to take back home, Mehmet Efendi is the best brand around for more than a century that can be found in any store.

Do not forget to specify that you want Turkish coffee when ordering, as even we locals call it Turkish coffee instead of just coffee.

Afiyet Olsun! (Bon appetit)

Selma Sevkli is a cultural orientation trainer for refugees and a freelance writer living in Istanbul.  We met Selma through Couch Surfing and hosted her and a friend in Bali, Indonesia.  Besides writing, she is also inspecting, photographing and recruiting apartments for us.  

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