Things You Should Know About Turkish Coffee
Below you will find everything you need to know about Turkish coffee, a coffee made by the oldest coffee brewing method in the world.
Turkish coffee is very famous all around the world for its rich and thick taste, showy foam, and being a good company of warm conversations and rituals. Most people have either heard some stories about it or already tried it on occasion. Now, it is time to dive into more details about Turkish coffee and its culture.
What is Turkish Coffee?
Turkish coffee is a traditional coffee brewed by slowly heating the very fine ground coffee in cold water up to the boiling point on ember if possible or on the stove. To do so, a unique mostly copper-made Turkish coffee pot named “cezve” has been used for years. However, automated Turkish coffee machines have recently been developed and they are also very good at reflecting the traditional taste and texture of Turkish coffee.
There are four coffee brewing methods classified depending on how the water is introduced to the coffee around the world. We explained these four methods broadly in our dedicated blog. Of these four methods, Turkish coffee is made by decoction or boiling. Even though boiling is used to name this method, in fact, boiling is not wanted when making Turkish coffee because the boiling temperature causes the bitter acids to be released into the coffee. Not “boiling” but “heating up to a point very close to boiling” is a more correct way to explain how Turkish coffee is brewed.
Making coffee by boiling is the oldest coffee brewing method in the world. In fact, it was the main method until the late 1800s when some sophisticated appliances such as filters, cafetières, moka pots etc. were developed to brew coffee. When making Turkish coffee the extremely fine ground coffee is put in cold water and heated up slowly. This slow heating process allows coffee beans to release all the inherent flavors into the water including aromatic oils which other coffee brewing methods mostly lack. It is exactly 205°F (96°C) that the aromatic oils in the coffee grounds are released so Turkish coffee should be heated up till this point. However, it should not be boiled to avoid the bitter acids dissolving into the coffee as mentioned above.
Turkish coffee making method produces a coffee thick in texture and very rich in flavor. It feels filling due to its oily structure. Turkish coffee is not filtered after brewed so the coffee grounds compile at the bottom of the cup. Normally, these coffee sediments at the bottom, named “telve” in Turkish, are not expected to be consumed but some coffee lovers eat them after they finish the drink. Turkish coffee is very hot when it is first brewed so it is necessary to wait a while for it to get cold enough before drinking.
The Coffee Beans Used to Make Turkish Coffee
Ethiopian and later on Yemen coffee beans were used to make Turkish coffee during the Ottoman Empire. However, today arabica coffee beans from Central and South America are mainly used to make Turkish coffee. Those who like stronger coffee taste also prefer a mixture of arabica and robusta coffee blends.
Coffee beans from different countries yield different coffee tastes. Ethiopian coffee beans consist of fruity and floral notes and provide a soft and balanced Turkish coffee experience whereas Yemen coffee beans have chocolate and spicy notes and yield an intense consistency and strong taste in Turkish coffee. On the other hand, Colombian coffee beans offer an extremely soft, smooth, and easy-drinking Turkish coffee experience.
The coffee beans to make Turkish coffee are roasted medium or dark and then ground very finely, finer than espresso. Turkish coffee should be ground so finely that it looks like powder. If the coffee grind size is not fine enough, then they will not sink down and will float within the drink and ruin the coffee experience. There will not be any foam over the coffee, either. If you prefer grinding your coffee freshly instead of ground coffee, possessing a Turkish coffee grinder will be very helpful to achieve the extremely fine grinding.
How to Store Turkish Coffee and Keep it Fresh
In order to preserve the freshness of coffee, you should be careful about the factors such as heat, light, and humidity. These three factors cause coffee to go bad quickly and lose its taste. Oxidizing fatty acids in coffee beans results in Turkish coffee having no foam and an intolerable bitter taste.
Here are some suggestions for you to keep the Turkish coffee fresh:
- Buy Turkish coffee as whole beans and grind it just before using them if possible. This yields the most perfect coffee experience but is not practical in our daily lives.
- Buy Turkish coffee in small quantities or packages to consume in a short time. This is the practical alternative of grinding coffee before each brew mentioned above.
- Transfer the Turkish ground coffee or the whole beans to an airtight container as soon as you open the original packaging. The coffee container should be made of glass for the best result.
- Make sure that the coffee in the container is not in contact with air, moisture and heat sources.
- Do not leave metal or plastic coffee measuring spoons in the container since these cause coffee to lose its freshness.
The Roots of Turkish Coffee
Coffee making is known to have been invented in Ethiopia in the 14th century and moved to Istanbul in the 16th century. There are two different stories about how coffee traveled to Ottoman lands. According to these stories, either two Syrian marchants brought coffee beans to Istanbul for business purposes, or Özdemir Pasha, then governor of Yemen, offered coffee beans to Suleiman the Magnificent, then ruler of the Ottoman Empire, as a gift.
Regardless of the stories, however, coffee started to be brewed in the Ottoman Palace before it was known by the public. Coffee beans were ground and slowly brewed in hot water in copper pots over ember in the kitchens of the Palace. And it is served with water and Turkish delight, and sometimes with sherbet, a sugary drink of the time.
Starting from the 17th century Turkish coffee became a prominent figure of official ceremonies and started to be consumed by the public. It also spread to Europe in this century via the coffee houses opened in major cities of Europe especially by the merchants from the different areas of the Ottoman Empire and the European ambassadors.
The first Turkish coffeehouse opened in Tahtakale in 1555, and that is how coffee was first introduced to the public. Later, Turkish coffee became a company for the people gathering in coffeehouses to discuss intellectual topics, read poems, play chess, or backgammon. In this way, Turkish coffee has become an integral part of social life and culture.
Turkish coffee was invented in the Ottoman palace, and the Turkish coffee culture and traditions started in Turkish coffeehouses in Istanbul. Afterwards, European ambassadors and merchants introduced Turkish coffee to Europe. The first coffeehouse in Europe was opened in Venice in 1645, followed by Malta, Paris and London.
Turkish Coffee Culture and Tradition
Turkish coffee is a traditional unifying element of social life. It is part of marriage ceremonies and a symbol of hospitality and friendship. People invite each other to have a cup of coffee and make intimate talks over drinking it. There is also a spiritual side of Turkish coffee and its grounds are used to foretell the future by some people with good intentions. Coffee has an important place in literature and songs. There are many proverbs and idioms in Turkish language reflecting the coffee culture in society. Below are two most well-known examples with semantic translations:
“A cup of coffee will never let the friendship down for 40 years.”
“The heart neither wants a coffee nor a coffeehouse; the heart wants an intimate conversation with a sincere friend, coffee is just a means to this end.”
Turkish coffee culture and tradition got listed in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2013 with its unique brewing method and its important role in social life.
Characteristics of Turkish Coffee
There are three distinct features unique to Turkish coffee making process:
- The coffee beans are ground extremely fine.
- Brewing time is longer and the whole brewing is over a heat source.
- It is not filtered at all.
These features make Turkish coffee different from other coffees such as filtered, espresso or steeped as listed below:
- Turkish coffee has a thick texture and foam which causes coffee taste to stay longer in the mouth. It tastes thicker, softer and more flavorful than other coffees.
- Turkish coffee is served in small cups with a very thin handle. The fact that the handle is very thin and the thick foam keep coffee stay warm longer.
- The brewing continues even in the cup because coffee grounds are not filtered.
- Since it is brewed at a temperature very close to the boiling point for a longer period and the grind size is extremely fine, all flavors in the coffee beans including aromatic oils dissolve into water during brewing and that makes Turkish coffee very flavorful compared to other coffees.
- Turkish coffee provides a balanced caffeine level which may boost mental and athletic performance.
- Due to its oily structure it feels filling so it is a great helper to overcome the feeling of hunger.
Potential Benefits of Turkish Coffee
Turkish coffee provides not only a great palate experience with its flavorful and consistent taste and texture but also health benefits which may motivate you to incorporate a cup or two of it into your daily routine.
- Its concentrated caffeine level is a great booster to wake up and increase consciousness level in the morning.
- It enhances mental performance and helps stay focused, alert, and on-track during the day.
- As well as improving mental performance, drinking Turkish coffee regularly decreases the risk of a stroke and dementia.
- Being an antioxidant, it supports the immune system and helps avoid diseases like cancer and liver problems. It also helps regulate bowel movement.
- Turkish coffee contains powerful compounds such as diterpenoids that help reduce inflammation in the body, protect against infection, and provide support for heart health in general.
- Turkish coffee feels filling after being drunk and helps overcome the feeling of hunger. So, it is a great supporter when on a weight loss diet. It also helps burn fat faster and increases metabolic rate.
- It enhances athletic performance thanks to its caffeine level.
- Coffee grounds are very beneficial to skin and make the skin soft and smooth when applied directly.