Turkish coffee is more than a caffeinated beverage that helps you wake up in the morning. It is steeped in tradition and has evolved over the centuries to become an integral part of Turkish culture. It is, for example, unthinkable to propose to a woman without first consuming the titular beverage. If the bride approves of the match, she prepares and serves sweet coffee; if she does not, she prepares and serves a salty variation. Over the years, the tradition has evolved, and the sit-down visit to ask for the bride’s hand has become more of a formality. Nowadays, it is almost mandatory for the bride to serve the coffee salty in order to test the groom’s resolve to drink it without making a face.
Fortune telling is another popular Turkish pastime associated with coffee, and as the expression goes, “there is an app for that.” You can literally upload a photo of your coffee grounds to the app, and a fortune teller of your choice will forecast your future directly on your smartphone.
These are just a few of the numerous facets of Turkish coffee culture, as recognised by UNESCO! The titular beverage and its associations were inscribed on the Representative List of Humanity’s Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013.
How to brew coffee
Following this lengthy introduction, let’s take a closer look at the coffee. The coffee is ground finer here than it would be in a filter coffee machine. Traditionally, it is prepared in a small pot with a long handle called a “cezve” in Turkish, but modern times bring convenience, and there are now even tiny kettle-like machines that make the task even faster.
You can make the coffee as sweet as you like or add additional flavours such as gum mastic. Speaking of convenience, there are instant Turkish coffees available that require only the addition of hot water to make a cup. These are also available in a variety of flavours, but as is the case with many instant items, nothing beats the original.
Therefore, here is a basic recipe for you to try:
1 cup (approximately 200 millilitres) water
1-2 teaspoons coffee, ground
Optional: up to 3 teaspoons sugar
In a small saucepan, combine the coffee and water – and sugar, if desired – and bring to a low boil. Once it reaches a boil, a layer of foam will form and, if carefully poured, will remain on top – a sign of a perfectly brewed cup of coffee.
To obtain an even foamier cup of coffee, some prefer to remove the initial layer of foam from the first boil and carefully spoon it into the cup, then bring the coffee to a second boil, producing additional foam that is carefully poured in.