Have you ever tried Turkish coffee (Türk Kahvesi)? For many, it’s an acquired taste. Because, unlike filter coffees and the instant varieties, Türk Kahvesi is not filtered.
As a result of that, a thick, muddy residue will rest on the bottom of the Turkish coffee cup. Deeply unpleasant for those that are not in the know as they drink back their coffee.
For those that are in the know, Türk Kahvesi is sipped slowly, decanting the grounds. And those grounds do not go to waste. For Turkish coffee grounds are said to hold mystical properties…
This drink is revered in Turkey; served both in the home and in Turkish coffee houses around the country, it is much loved and appreciated by young and old alike.
We have never heard a Turkish person say they don’t like Türk Kahvesi. It is part of the fabric of Turkish society. No accident then that it was recognised by UNESCO in 2013 and added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
Turkish Coffee – The (Apparent) Beginning
We say ‘apparent’ because there are differing theories as to the origins of Türk Kahvesi. One of the most common is that Turkish coffee came from Yemen. It was introduced to Istanbul in the early 1500s by the Governor of Yemen Özdemir Pasha during the reign of Süleyman The Magnificent.
From here, the popularity of Türk Kahvesi grew and coffee houses started to open. This was a significant development in Ottoman society as ‘socialising’ was disapproved of. In coffee houses, people from all backgrounds could come together, share ideas, talk politics over a cup of Türk Kahvesi.
People sharing ideas. This was a cause for concern for the powers that be. So much so that Turkish coffee houses were eventually prohibited for 7 years in the 1630s. Sultan Murad knew what was good for the economy, however, and Turkish coffee houses made a reappearance in 1640.
Turkish Coffee Today
Today, Türk Kahvesi is a symbol of hospitality and friendship and it holds a prominent place in Turkish culture.
“The memory of a cup of Turkish coffee lasts for 40 years.” – Turkish saying
It’s about sitting with a friend over a long chat. Türk Kahvesi is not about grabbing a plastic cup of coffee on the go and sipping as you dash to work. It’s about forming bonds and sharing the latest news and latest gossip.
Often, in restaurants, when you ask for your bill, you will be offered a Türk Kahvesi (or çay) on the house as part of the restaurant’s hospitality.
Accept the offer of Türk Kahvesi and you will be asked if you would like sade (plain), orta (medium) or şekerli (sweet). This is down to the amount of sugar you would like in your drink. We usually go for ‘orta.’
Just For Display
In the UK, our grandparents always had a display cabinet in the ‘best room’ with the fine bone china tea set that was purely for display. The ‘everyday’ tea cups were used for their actual purpose.
In Turkey, many households will have the same set up for Turkish coffee. Expensive, elaborately decorated Turkish coffee cups, sometimes in silver cup holder; tray and matching cezve. Not forgetting the completion of the set – a pot for the accompanying lokum (Turkish Delight).
They’ll sit in their glass display but there’ll be a perfectly respectable ‘everyday’ Turkish coffee set that is used for the house and for when guests visit.
How To Make Turkish Coffee At Home
Before you can make your own Turkish coffee, you need to get yourself some Turkish coffee cups (the same size as an espresso cup) and a cezve; the tiny, long-handled pot used to boil the coffee.
These days, you can buy practical stainless steel coffee pots but we’re all for a bit of tradition. You can buy cezve in different sizes (you can usually find them on Amazon if you’re not in Turkey) but our Turkish coffee pot is perfect for 2 cups.
As well as the three normal rings, gas hobs in Turkey come with one small ring and a little bracket to bridge the gap over the flame so that the cezve can sit on top of it. Obviously, this isn’t necessary for electric and halogen hobs.
So, let’s find out how to use our cezve to make a Turkish coffee…
When you make Turkish coffee, it is different because all of your ingredients, including the sugar, are added before you bring it to the boil. That’s why, when you are offered Türk Kahvesi, they will ask you how you would like it: sade, orta or şekerli. This recipe makes 2 cups.
Turkish Coffee Recipe
How To Make Turkish Coffee
- cezve pot
- Turkish coffee cups
- 2 heaped tsp ground Turkish coffee
- sugar optional - see instructions below
- 2¼ cups of water
- Add your Turkish coffee to the cezve pot.
- Now add your sugar, if using. For sade - no sugar. For orta - 1 tsp sugar. For şekerli - 2 tsp sugar.
- Add water to the cezve, filling it to about 1 inch from the top.
- Stir your solution a little, but not too much.
- Place the cezve on the smallest ring of your hob and heat on the lowest setting. Watch over it, carefully.
- When the froth forms and begins to rise and roll over, remove the cezve from the heat. This takes around 7 minutes.
- Skim the foam from the top with a teaspoon and share between your two Turkish coffee cups.
- Place the cezve back on the heat until your Turkish coffee boils again. This takes 10-15 seconds.
- Remove the cezve from the heat and top up your cups.
- If you have guests, serve with glass of water and lokum (Turkish Delight) on the side.
- Calories per cup will be less if you don't use sugar...
- And more if you serve with Turkish Delight.
If you have friends over and you are making Turkish coffee for them, you can accompany it with a glass of water and lokum. Even more impressive if you have a matching tray.
If it’s just the two of us, the accompaniments are not necessary. Making Turkish coffee in our house is Barry’s department and our cups and cezve are very well used.
In many Turkish households, these days, a more convenient electric coffee maker is used. However, all is not lost. Rather than let these traditional methods of preparing Turkish coffee disappear, the Cezve/Ibrik World Championships were created.
These take place annually where young people from around the world compete to make the best coffee. It keeps traditions in place and also keeps coffee, in its original, unfiltered form, on the map.
The Turkish Coffee Experience
Wherever you are in Turkey, ask any person what type of Turkish coffee you should buy and they will immediately recommend their favourite ‘kurukahveci.’ This is the person who roasts and grinds the beans. All towns and cities have their little kiosks tucked away where people will queue to buy their bag of Türk Kahvesi.
Our favourite one in Fethiye sits just on the edge of the fish market – you can eat lokum from the box on the counter while you wait for your bag to filled from the grinder. And what better aroma than that of freshly ground coffee beans?
Turkey’s most famous kurukahveci is Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi. You can buy packs of Turkish coffee from this company in supermarkets around the country and online, too, but, if you’re in Istanbul, be sure to join the queue to buy some fresh Turkish coffee from their little kiosk and historic headquarters.
There are still the kurukahveci out there in Turkey who proclaim to sell the traditional and famous ‘dibek’ Turkish coffee. Dibek translates as mortar or stone and this is how Türk Kahvesi used to be ground before the machines were invented.
We first came across dibek kahvesi when we were completely lost, wandering around Kemeraltı in Izmir. We were looking for Kızlarağası Hanı, and, at that particular moment in time, were failing miserably in finding it.
But we did keep passing small coffee stalls advertising their dibek kahvesi. There was always a display of a smooth metal pole with flat circular stone going up the pole and then back down to land on top another stone. This was all just for demonstration purposes but we soon worked out that these stalls were selling stone-ground Turkish coffee.
If you ever come across dibek Turkish coffee, do buy some. Specialist coffee houses who advertise the fact that they serve dibek coffee are usually great places to go and drink. The stone ground coffee produces a thicker, richer coffee (see top photo in this article).
Drinking Turkish Coffee Around The Country
Turkish coffee has never been a fashion – like we said, it’s part of the fabric of society – but within that fabric, certain trends and regional traditions weave themselves through the threads.
Közde Fincanda Türk Kahvesi
When you’re in Izmir, an absolute must is the ‘közde fincanda pişen Türk Kahvesi.’
‘Fincanda pişen Türk kahvesi’ means Turkish coffee heated in the cup. When you go to one of these coffee places, electric Türk Kahvesi pots, and even the traditional Turkish coffee pot, the cezve, is nowhere to be seen.
The coffee is prepared in the cup, as you would with the cezve in our Turkish coffee recipe above, and then the cup is placed directly into hot coals. Once the coffee is heated, it is served as above.
And if you’re thinking that cup must be really hot – yes, it is. Sitting in a coffee house with a Türk Kahvesi is an experience not to be rushed. Chat, sip your water, nibble on your lokum, sip your coffee…when it’s safe to touch.
Kumda Türk Kahvesi – Turkish Coffee In Sand
Yes, Turkish coffee in sand. If anything, this is where the trend comes in. Even if it’s a traditional method, we’d never seen sand used to heat Türk Kahvesi until a few years ago. And now, it’s seen everywhere.
Go to the Fethiye Tuesday market in summer and you’ll see the little Ottoman-style stand doing the Türk Kahvesi in sand. Much as we love the market and Türk Kahvesi in sand, it’s not really the optimum atmosphere. The setting needs to feel right.
On one of our road trips, after reacquainting with the ruins of ancient Ephesus, we stayed overnight in Selçuk and decided to take a trip up to the village of Şirince. Şirince is famous for its local fruity wines but we were there at a time when tourism in Turkey was at a real low.
Coffee houses had replaced some of the wine stores and all of them were specialising in Türk Kahvesi heated in sand. Locals and domestic tourists sat around sipping coffee and watching their drinks being prepared in the hot sand. We decided to join the party.
Some places will place the cup directly in the sand but, on this occasion, our Türk Kahvesi was prepared in the cezve as in our recipe above. We didn’t touch the sand but we were dubious as to whether it could be hot enough to boil our coffee.
We didn’t need to worry. Within minutes, our coffee was poured and served to us along with a small plate of sweet powdery lokum. Pretty hillside village setting, watching your coffee being prepared in the sand. It was always going to taste the part, wasn’t it?
Türk Kahvesi With Milk
Wherever you go to drink Türk Kahvesi, it is served black…except when we were travelling around East Turkey and we were in the city of Van.
We’d just got back from a trip to the island of Akdamar in Lake Van and had some time to kill before our flight to Antalya. Finding somewhere to sit for a çay or a coffee, however, was proving difficult. Until we looked up!
We realised that Van was a city of games salons – the clacking sound of tavla (backgammon) counters emanating into the streets below via the open windows.
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. 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 had become tiresome, anyway, and the milk sounded interesting.
So, Van Turkish coffee is boiled in the same way but milk is also added as it boils. And the result? Well, we’d say this is a great starter for the novices and it really suited my taste buds. A little sugar combined with the milk took away the intensity of the coffee flavour – I loved it.
Which was lucky, because, as with our Doğubeyazıt Köftesi experience, the waiter came over to collect our cups and his expectant face was clearly expecting much praise. We happily obliged.
Soğuk Türk Kahvesi – Cold (Iced) Turkish Coffee
Another way to enjoy Turkish coffee, especially nice in the hot summer months, is to try a Soğuk Türk Kahvesi; cold or Iced Turkish Coffee, which you can find in coffee chains like Kahve Dünyası.
At the beginning of this article, we said the grounds that are left behind in the cup after drinking your coffee hold mystical properties. Often, when you see groups of friends drinking Turkish coffee, you will notice upturned cups, resting on the saucer.
After a few minutes, the cup will be picked up by another person and they will use read pattern in the grounds around the edge of the cup to tell the drinker’s fortune.
This is not a rare activity. It’s part of the Turkish coffee experience. And if everyone in the group happens to be ‘mystically challenged,’ that’s not a problem. This is the 21st Century. There’s an app to do it for you!
We had lived in Turkey for many years before my tastebuds adapted themselves to the love of Turkish coffee. It is now, however, a fixture in the routine of our life here.