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What is Turkish Coffee?

Turkish coffee is made of very finely ground coffee beans, most usually of the arabica varieties. Turkish coffee is not filtered, and it is made with Turkish coffee pot, a special coffee pot made of several different materials including copper and stainless steel, with a long and thin handle. 

One of the most striking differences of Turkish coffee making is that the ground coffee is stirred in cold water and then brewed, contrary to all other coffee varieties like espresso or Americano. 

Although coffee was consumed as a drink in other countries like Yemen and Ethiopia before, where coffee originates, the first coffeehouses where people gathered and enjoyed coffee just like today’s cafes appeared in Turkey, then the Ottoman Empire. Coffee then was taken to Europe by Turkish merchants and spread to the entire continent. 

How to Make Turkish Coffee?

The recipe for Turkish coffee is quite simple. To make Turkish coffee, you need finely ground Turkish coffee, a Turkish coffee pot, called cezve in Turkish, and cold water. If you like freshly ground coffee, you can always get a manual grinder for Turkish coffee. You put water and roasted coffee in the pot and boil it on a burner, stirring occasionally. Some traditionalists might prefer brewing Turkish coffee on the sand, just like back in the Ottoman Empire Istanbul. Depending on your palate, you can add sugar in before brewing. Turkish people indicate their sugar preferences by “black or unsweetened”, “moderate sugar”, and “sweet”, which respectively refer to no sugar (sade in Turkish), a medium amount of sugar (orta şekerli in Turkish), and more sugar (şekerli or tatlı in Turkish). Its color comes out as dark brown unless it is mixed with milk. 

Today, a lot of Turkish people use Turkish coffee makers or Turkish coffee machines which eliminate the requirement of attending to while making Turkish coffee. If you are using a coffee pot, make sure that you take the pot off the burner on time, or else Turkish coffee boils over quickly. 

A standard of best Turkish coffee is the foam on top of the coffee cup. Turkish people appreciate foamy Turkish coffee. 

Turkish Coffee Varieties

Turkish coffee is made of ground Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) most of the time, but robusta coffee (Coffea canephora) is used as well, all deriving from certain Coffea plant species. 

The Turkish coffee-drinking tradition quickly spread to the other parts of the Ottoman Empire and beyond. The ex-Ottoman states such as Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the entire Arab world, North Africa, and the Caucasus countries like Armenia and Georgia make and drink Turkish coffee. Turkish coffee is also popular in countries like Czechia, Slovakia, and Poland, which are traditionally associated with the Turkosphere. And these cultures add extra ingredients and flavors to their coffee. Greeks, for instance, add mastic, aka Arabic gum, in their Turkish coffee, a valued plant resin from mastic tree native to the island of Chios of Greece and western Izmir province of Turkey. In most Arab countries such as Syria and Egypt as well as in Iran, people add cardamom in their Turkish coffee to make it more aromatic.

Turkish Coffee Traditions

Turkish coffee is just more than a drink in Turkey, and it is more like a ritual as it plays a great role in daily Turkish life and traditions. A Turkish coffee set generally includes Turkish coffee cups, called fincan, with saucers, and a coffee pot called a cezve. Turkish coffee is always served with water, and though most people drink the water after coffee, the water is traditionally intended to drink before the coffee to clean and remove the remaining taste in your mouth. Turkish coffee is so big in Turkey that the word for breakfast in Turkish "kahvaltı" literally means “coffee base.” When coffee became a regular drink in the Ottoman Empire, people felt the urge to eat something before coffee in the morning unlike in the West where people drink coffee before breakfast. As the Turkish coffee grew as a tradition, Turkish people started serving it with other foods such as Turkish delight and chocolate. 

Turkish Coffee and Turkish Wedding

In Turkey, we can say that Turkish coffee is the official drink of asking for the girl’s hand in marriages. After the couple decides to marry, the family of the bride-to-be invites the family of the groom-to-be in their house where the families exchange pleasantries. The father of the groom asks for the girl’s hand but before that, Turkish coffee is made and served by the bride to everybody in the room. As a tradition, the bride puts salt in the groom’s coffee cup instead of sugar.

Turkish Coffee Fortune Telling

Turkish coffee reading is extremely popular in Turkey. The fortune-telling is made from the Turkish coffee grounds at the bottom of the coffee cup. When you finish your coffee, you make a wish without revealing it and turn the Turkish coffee cup upside down on the saucer. You wait until the coffee cup is cold, which indicates the grounds are set. Some people put metal such as a ring on the coffee cup to speed up cooling. Then the fortune-teller picks the Turkish coffee mug off the saucer and observes the shapes and forms in the cup as well as on the saucer. At the end of the fortune-telling session, the fortune-teller asks a couple of questions and discloses whether the person’s wish will come true. The tradition is that whoever drank the coffee must rinse the coffee cup and the saucer under running water as soon as the fortune-telling is over.

Turkish Coffee Health Benefits

Turkish coffee offers all the health benefits of other coffee varieties. One cup of Turkish coffee is around 45 calories, so it makes a good choice for those looking to lose weight, but you need to hold off the sugar and enjoy your Turkish coffee unsweetened or sade as Turkish people call it. If you would like to aid your digestion, try Turkish coffee with cardamom, which is also a mild energy booster.