Turkish coffee, when brewed correctly, should be foamy, thick, and roll over your tongue. Much more than just a drink, Turkish coffee has its own history, coffeehouses, drinking rituals, and traditions of fortune telling.
The origins of Turkish coffee have not been definitively traced but it’s thought to have been introduced to the Ottomans in the mid-1500s, either by Syrian traders or by Özdemir Pasha, the governor of Yemen. However it arrived, its popularity quickly exploded and coffeehouses and small shops roasting coffee beans popped up all over Istanbul and beyond.
What Makes Turkish Coffee so Special?
There are three aspects that set this traditional Turkish beverage apart:
- The Grind: Turkish coffee is a non-filtered coffee, so it is important that the grind of the beans is very fine.
- The Cezve: A cezve (or ibrik) is a small pot with a long handle, used to brew the coffee.
- The Foam: When brewing Turkish coffee, a dark foam will build around the rim. This is a good (and important) element of the drink.
In 2013, Turkish coffee was added to the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. According to UNESCO, “Turkish coffee is regarded as part of Turkish cultural heritage: it is celebrated in literature and songs, and is an indispensable part of ceremonial occasions.”
How to Make Turkish Coffee
- Before you begin, make sure that your coffee beans are finely ground, almost to a powder, and that you have your cezve, a small pot with a long handle, ready.
- For each serving of coffee, place one demitasse (a small coffee cup) of fresh water into the cezve.
- Add one heaped teaspoon of coffee per serving, along with sugar and any spices you’d like. Remember, this is a small beverage with a strong coffee taste, and you won’t want to add sugar afterwards—so, sweeten accordingly. Normally, for medium-sweet coffee, one small spoonful of sugar per serving will do.
- Stir the mixture before cooking and then warm over low heat.
- When the coffee froths up, pour a little of the foam into each cup.
- Return the cezve to the heat and as soon as the coffee froths up again, pour it out into the demitasses.
Turkish Sand Coffee
Turkish sand coffee requires the same tools that regular Turkish coffee requires. The big difference is that Turkish sand coffee uses a hot bed of sand to heat the coffee, producing a more consistent temperature. Once filled with water, coffee grounds, and sugar the cezve is nestled a couple inches deep into the bed hot sand. The process is slower, but some say this method produces a more smooth and flavourful cup of coffee.
Tips for Drinking Turkish Coffee
- Turkish coffee is always served with a glass of water; use it to first cleanse your palate.
- Never stir the coffee once it’s in the cups; this disturbs the coffee grounds and will leave you with a mouth full of “mud”.
- Equally, be sure to sip your coffee gently so as not to disturb the grounds.
- Always serve the eldest guests first.
It is said that the art of reading coffee grounds is as old as the coffee itself, and it’s certainly an interesting way to pass the time after you’ve reached the bottom of your cup. Turn the cup upside down on the saucer and allow the grounds to cool. After turning it up again, the person telling the fortune will examine the patterns left by the grounds and will hopefully give good news about future love, success, and fortune.
Have you had a cup of Turkish coffee?