When in Turkey, there’s no escaping Turkish coffee (Türk kahvesi) and to the first time, novice sampler, it can be an unpleasant experience – especially if no one bothers to warn you about the grains at the bottom of the cup! (We once forgot to inform a friend about this and he poured the whole thing down his throat. This was a few years ago and he still reminds us of it every time he comes out to visit.)
The Turks are very proud of their coffee, Barry loves it…and I’ve spent the majority of our time here politely declining offers and asking if there’s çay instead. But things are changing. Thankfully, my taste buds are changing and Türk kahvesi is actually beginning to taste quite pleasant. It all began when Barry bought himself a cezve and taught himself how to make Turkish coffee. The cezve makes two cups, so I was roped into working my way through the extra cup if there was no one else present to appreciate Barry’s efforts. ‘Awful’ slowly became ‘palatable.’
And then last September, we took ourselves off to Izmir and a friend told us to make sure we tried fincanda pişen Türk kahvesi (coffee heated in the cup over coals) while we were there. That was probably the best Turkish coffee I’ve ever sampled – granted, it was only a couple of sips – and next time we go to Izmir, I’ll be ordering my own cup of it, all to myself. That’s progress!
And, while the Izmirli sip their Turkish coffee the Izmir way, so the people of Van enjoy their Turkish coffee the Van way. Recently, we had a full day in the eastern city of Van while we were killing time before going to the airport to board our flight to Antalya in time to catch a bus back to Fethiye. We wandered around (it’s a pleasant city), ate some lunch, it started to rain, we looked for somewhere to sit and drink…and we looked…and we searched. “Do the people of Van not ever sit down to drink? There must be a tea garden, or a cafe, or something!” And the rain got harder. And tetchiness was creeping into our voices…
We turned down a wide pedestrianised street, tall buildings lining either side, and did what we should have done right at the beginning. We looked up! Ahhh, so that’s where the people of Van go to sit and drink. The third and fourth floors of all the buildings had open windows and the clack-clack-clack of okey and tavla (backgammon) counters could be heard clearly from the street below. Games salons galore, all with wireless – and we really needed the internet.
We climbed the steps and entered one of the salons. Van city centre obviously doesn’t see too many foreign tourists judging by the welcome we got (our royalty-type status is for another post). I ordered a Fanta. “Nooooo,” said our waiter. “Please, you must try a Van Turkish coffee. It’s made with milk.” Oh, go on then. Refusing offers is getting tiresome, anyway, and milk sounds interesting.
So, Van Turkish coffee is boiled in the same way but milk is also added as it boils. And the result? Well, as a relative newcomer to the world of Turkish-coffee-appreciation, this is a great starter for the novices and it suited my taste buds. A little sugar combined with the milk took away the intensity of the coffee flavour – I loved it. Which is lucky, because, as with our Doğubeyazıt Köftesi experience, the waiter came over to collect our cups and was clearly expecting much praise. We happily obliged…