Turkish coffee: facts, fictions and regional differences

Turkish coffee: facts, fictions and regional differences

Our virtual gastronomic journey across Turkey continues. The day before yesterday we peeped into the world of Turkish sweets, and kebabs were discussed yesterday. What do we have for today? Today we will speak about Turkish coffee.

Surely the coffee drinking tradition didn’t start in Turkey and the coffee trees do not grow there either. Nevertheless, this divine drink occupies a very significant part in the life of this country, and it was Turkey that once became the cultural bridge across which the tradition expanded to Europe and conquered it.

A brief introduction to the world of Turkish coffee

Turkish coffee (“türk kavesi” in the local language) is now considered one of the main symbols of Turkey, along with the Hagia Sophia and the popular “Fatima Eye” amulet. According to a popular Turkish saying – “Bir fincan kahvenin kırk yıl hatırı vardır” – “A cup of (good) coffee would be remembered for forty years.”

Turkish coffee

Proper Turkish coffee should be prepared in cezve (from Arabic ج جوة) or coffee pot. The electric cezves, designed to monitor the coffee making process and to switch off when necessary, have now gained popularity.

Using this new equipment we, however, deprive ourselves of the magic of the process that makes use of the energy of four natural elements: fire, air, water, and metal. A true oriental coffee can only be made on a true fire. When prepared properly, the Turkish coffee would have a foam of small bubbles.

Many tourist oriented coffee shops in Turkey make coffee in Italian-type coffee machines or simply by pouring boiling water from a kettle. This can be considered as anything but the true Turkish coffee.

Real Turkish coffee requires very fine grinding, which in western countries is called pulverized or powdered. In fact, it is not even as fine as that in eastern regions of Turkey with a large Arab population, the type used to make mirra – a traditional bitter Arab coffee.

Based on the amount of sugar used, we can distinguish four types of Turkish coffee:

  • “Sade” or “şekersiz” – pure coffee without sugar. This is the choice for true connoisseurs wishing to enjoy the pure taste of this magical drink.
  • “Az şekerli” – slightly sweet, with half a spoon (special small coffee spoon) of sugar.
  • “Orta” – medium sweet, with one spoon of sugar.
  • “Şekerli” – this is a regular sweet coffee with two spoons of sugar.

The process of making any type of coffee consists of the following stages:

  1. Emission of substances responsible for the acidity typical of Arabica.
  2. Dissolution in water of the compounds that give the drink sweet, chocolate, fruity, or berry flavours.
  3. Intensification of the bitterness by enriching the drink with tannins, caffeine, and products of the chlorogenic acid breakdown.

The finer the grind, the faster the first two stages are completed. In order to stretch them, Turkish coffee is made on a low fire. Those who love a strong bitter drink remove the foam after it boils for the first time and wait for the second.

Turkish coffee

Some the well-known and not widely known facts about Turkish coffee

  • In most cases, Turkish coffee is served with a small glass of cold water. In the Erzurum province, however, the water is replaced with apple juice.
  • As you may have already realized, coffee is not just a drink in Turkey but a part of the national tradition. In most regions of the country, for instance, it is used as an element of the wedding ceremony.
  • When making Italian espresso the sediment is considered undesirable, while Turkish coffee just has to have it. Why? To use it to tell fortunes! Fortune telling on coffee is very popular in Turkey, especially in the eastern part of the country. Real masters can be encountered in many places there!
  • Residents of the eastern, predominantly Kurdish regions insist that the Turkish coffee is actually Kurdish. This would not be entirely true. The so-called “Kurdish coffee” is a different variety of oriental coffee called “Dibek Kahvesi”. It is prepared according to an original recipe too.
  • When Turkish coffee is made on the sand, it is usually called “Mısır Kahvesi” not “Türk kahvesi.” The sand bath gives the possibility to play with the temperature and direction of heating (by submerging cezve deeper into the sand or by lifting it on to the top).
  • The most popular brand of Turkish coffee, known far outside the country, is “Mehmet Efendi.” Other well-known brands are “Hisar kahve” and “Kocatepe.” They are equally good, but have slightly different tastes. “Chibo Türk kavesi” sold in Migros supermarkets is not bad too. Locally roasted coffee is also available in any city of Turkey.
  • The best Turkish coffee I’ve had was in the cafe “Sur Ici Antik Kahve Evi,” in the old part of Diyarbakir. I would also recommend “Tahmis Kahvesi” in Gaziantep, which according to legend has been made since 1635.
  • The standard price for a cup of coffee would be around 5-10 liras, depending on the status of the place. The cheapest but good coffee that I’ve tried was in a municipal cafe in Keyceyz, worth only 2 liras, while the most expensive one, in Göreme (Cappadocia), cost 20 liras for a cup.

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