By Leo Sainati
With its thick texture, dark color, and artful presentation, Turkish coffee is an instantly recognizable staple of cuisines across the Middle East and North Africa as well as throughout the world.
I had my first sip of Turkish Coffee sitting at an outdoor cafe in the Jordanian capital city of Amman, and it’s been a part of my morning routine ever since. Before I left Jordan, I made sure to write down the recipe and bought a small cezve and finjan to take home with me.
Perhaps the oldest method for preparing coffee, Turkish coffee’s origins can be traced back to the early 16th century in the Ottoman Empire during the rule of Sultan Suleiman. Despite its name, Turkish coffee originated in the mountains of Yemen and was brought back to Turkey in 1521 by Ozdemir Pasha, the Ottoman ruler of Yemen, as a way to gain favor with the Sultan. An instant success, Turkish coffee quickly spread throughout the Ottoman Empire, particularly among the intellectuals, artists, and social elite; coffee became the centerpiece for discussions on politics, art, history, and the like.
What is Turkish Coffee?:
What makes Turkish coffee distinct from, say, espresso or pour over? First, Turkish coffee is ground into an extremely fine, powder-like substance. As one of the few widespread coffee methods that does not use any form of filtration or percolation, Turkish coffee needs to be ground at the finest setting to help it dissolve into the water. The coffee is often roasted with cardamom to add a unique flavor, and is known for its distinctive foam layer that rises to the top when poured in a cup. Turkish coffee is never served with milk or cream, but can have sugar added if desired.
How to Prepare:
Turkish coffee is prepared in a copper receptacle called an Ibrik, or cezve in Turkish, and is mixed with hot water and occasionally sugar. The particulars of Turkish coffee preparation often differ by tradition, but a common method is to add hot, but not boiling water to the ibrik and spoon in a teaspoon of ground Turkish coffee per cup. After adding heat to the ibrik and stirring the mixture with a spoon, wait for the foam to rise and immediately remove from the heat, stirring until foam has receded. Repeat this step twice more and pour immediately, waiting for the foam to rise to the top.
Turkish coffee is typically served in a finjan, a small ceramic coffee cup, that often has intricate decorations and designs. The coffee can also be served with or without sugar, although this decision needs to be made ahead of time as the sugar is added during the brewing process. Complements to Turkish coffee vary worldwide, but many regard the traditional pairings to be something sweet, such as Turkish Delight, and water.
Customs and Practices:
Turkish coffee, like many styles of coffee, is woven intricately into the cultural fabric of many societies. The practice of making and serving Turkish coffee is steeped in tradition and many customs have arisen through its consumption. Turkish coffee grounds have been used to tell fortunes, by turning the cup over, allowing the grounds to cool and form patterns. Another practice involves a potential bride signalling to the groom her intent to marry by adding lots of sugar to his coffee cup. Turkish coffee can also be prepared over hot sand, ashes, or charcoal depending on regional customs.
Student at Northwestern University
Barista at Coffee Lab & Roasters - Evanston
Writing Intern for Ignitus Digital - Evanston