Dating back to the 15th century, Turkish coffee is more than a cup of beverage. It is a symbol of friendship, a tool for fortune telling and an excuse for chit chatting.
What history tell us
It was first discovered in the Kaffa region of Ethiopia and then spread to Yemen in the 15th century. From Yemen, the coffee reached Istanbul and then expanded to Europe. We can say that Europeans learnt about coffee from the Ottomans. Moreover, the first coffee shop to be recorded in world history was opened in the Tahtakale neighborhood of Istanbul.
How to make Turkish coffee?
To make Turkish coffee, you need finely grounded coffee beans, cold water, sugar –amount of which is upon preference – and a special coffee pot called “cezve.” Cezve is a small long-handled pot, generally made from brass or copper, specifically used to make Turkish coffee. The coffee is cooked slowly to generate an ample amount of foam. This cooking and brewing method was found in the Ottoman period, making the coffee exclusive to these lands.
Why foam is so important?
Culturally, Turkish coffee without foam is not welcomed; it is highly desired when drinking a cup of coffee for quality reasons. Actually, it is quite possible that you hear someone demanding a nice, rich layer of foam when ordering Turkish coffee. Yet, more importantly, it helps the coffee stay warm for a long time.
Always served with water
For hospitable Turks, guests are important. Observing what the guests drink first is a polite way to understand whether or not they are hungry. If water is drunk before the coffee, it means that the guest is hungry and the host prepares a meal. Second, it is used to cleanse one’s palate before and after drinking coffee. Third, during the Ottoman period, it was used to understand if the coffee presented to the sultan was poisonous. All of the meals prepared for the sultan were tested by the “çeşnicibaşı,” an attendant whose function is to test the sultan’s meals for poison. Since the coffee is made for one person, the sultan had to test it himself, by pouring a little water into the coffee. If the coffee bubbled with water, then that meant it was poisonous.
Coffee grounds in the cup
The grounds left in the little Turkish coffee cup is majorly used for fortune telling. When the coffee is consumed, the cup is covered with its saucer. Then, one makes a wish and turns the cup over, making the thick layer of grounds form shapes. After the cup is cooled, the shapes are interpreted.
Salty coffee for the groom
The coffee is at the heart of another Turkish tradition, when a groom-to-be, who comes with his family, asks a woman’s father for her hand in marriage, during which he is served salty Turkish coffee. Decades ago, the tradition would be that if the girl did not want to marry the boy, she would put a lot of salt in his coffee, indicating that she refuses the offer. But over the years, with arranged marriages dropping in numbers, the tradition has changed, and now it is a must for the groom to drink salty coffee during the ceremony.
Turkish delight or lokum
Another old tradition to politely know if the guest is satisfied is to serve the coffee with lokum. If the guest is satisfied with the host, he eats the lokum. Although this tradition has faded, Turkish coffee nowadays can also be served with treats other than lokum, like chocolate.
Turkish coffee balances the level of cholesterol in the blood. It increases the effectiveness of the painkillers, helping the pain to pass through more quickly. It helps prevent a majority of heart diseases and it is also very effective on the digestive system.
Protected by UNESCO
With its unique brewing and cooking techniques, the traditional Turkish coffee was inscribed to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2013.