Turkish coffee is
coffee prepared by boiling finely powdered roast coffee beans in a pot (cezve),
possibly with sugar, and serving it into a cup, where the dregs settle.
The name describes the method of preparation, not the raw material;
there is no special Turkish variety of the coffee bean.
Left: A cup of Turkish coffee.
It is common throughout the Middle East,
North Africa, Caucasus, and the Balkans, and in their expatriate communities and
restaurants in the rest of the world. Coffeehouse culture was highly developed in the former Ottoman world, and this
is the dominant style of preparation.
Beans for Turkish coffee are ground
or pounded to the finest possible powder, finer than for any other way of
preparation. The grinding is done either by pounding in a mortar (the original
method) or using a burr mill. Most domestic coffee mills are unable to grind
finely enough; traditional Turkish hand grinders are an exception.
Left: A cezve (a
pot for making
While there are variations in detail, preparation of Turkish coffee, like all
types of coffee, essentially consists of immersing the coffee grounds in water
which is most of the time hot but not boiling for long enough to dissolve the
flavoursome compounds. While prolonged boiling of coffee gives it an unpleasant
"cooked" or "burnt" taste, very brief boiling does not, and bringing it to the
boil shows without guesswork that it has reached the appropriate temperature.
The amount of cold water necessary can be measured using the cups. The coffee
and the sugar are usually added to water, rather than being put into the pot
first, although this is not essential—an article in Scientific American for
November 1977 found that there were advantages to putting the coffee in first,
then covering it with sugar and adding water without stirring. For each cup,
between one and two heaped teaspoons of coffee are used.
The coffee and the desired amount of sugar are stirred until all
coffee sinks and the sugar is dissolved. Following this, the spoon is removed
and the pot is put on moderate heat; if too high, the coffee comes to the boil
too quickly, without time to extract the flavour. No stirring is done beyond
this point, as it would dissolve the foam. Just as the coffee comes to the boil
the pot is removed from the heat. It is usually kept off the heat for a short
time, then brought to the boil a second and a third time, then the coffee is
poured into the cups.
Getting the thickest possible layer of foam is considered the
peak of the coffee maker's art. One way to maximise this is to pour slowly and
try to lift the pot higher and higher as the pouring continues. Regardless of
these techniques, getting the same amount of foam into all cups is hard to
achieve, and the cup with the most foam is considered the best of the lot.
There are other schools of preparing Turkish coffee that vary from the above.
Lebanese coffee starts with hot water alone, to which sugar is added and
dissolved. The product is in essence a sugar syrup with a higher boiling point
than water. The coffee, and cardamom if wanted, are added, and the mixture is
stirred. It is then brought to a boil two or three times; the double (or triple)
boiling is an essential part of the process, both ceremonially and—as
connoisseurs claim—for the palate. It has the effect of subjecting the coffee
grounds to hot (but not boiling) water for longer, extracting more flavour
without imparting the "cooked" taste of over-boiled coffee.
Turkish coffee is taken at extremely hot temperatures and is
usually served with a glass of cold water to freshen the mouth to better taste
the coffee. It is traditionally served with Turkish delight. In the
Mediterranean and southeastern Turkey, pistachio grains may be
added into the coffee. All of the coffee in the pot is poured into cups, but not
all of it is drunk. The thick layer of sludgy grounds at the bottom of the cup
is left behind.
The grounds left after drinking Turkish coffee can also be
used for fortune-telling. The cup is commonly turned over into the saucer to
cool, and then the patterns of the coffee grounds can be used for a kind of
fortune telling called tasseography or tasseomancy.
Left: Turkish coffee served with