Turkish coffee

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Turkish coffee culture and tradition *
Türk Kahvesi - Bakir Cezve.jpg
A cup of Turkish coffee, served from a copper cezve, in Turkey.
Country Turkey
Reference 645
Region ** Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 2013
* Name as inscribed by UNESCO
** Region as classified by UNESCO

Turkish coffee (Turkish: Türk kahvesi) is a method of preparing unfiltered[1][2] coffee. Roasted and then finely ground coffee beans are boiled in a pot (cezve), usually with sugar, and served in a cup where the grounds are allowed to settle. At present, it is found in the Middle East, North Africa, the Caucasus, the Balkans, Bali, and Eastern Europe.

Turkish Coffee is an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Turkey confirmed by UNESCO.[3]


The earliest evidence of coffee drinking comes from 15th-century Yemen.[4] By the late 15th century and early 16th century, coffee had spread to Cairo and Mecca.[5][6] In the 1640s, the Ottoman chronicler İbrahim Pecevi reported the opening of the first coffeehouse in Constantinople.

In more recent times, the traditional drinking of Turkish coffee has been diminished by the growing availability of other hot beverages such as tea (grown locally and bought without hard currency), instant coffee, and other modern styles of coffee.

Name and variants[edit]

Turkish coffee and pepper grinders.

The word 'coffee' comes from the Arabic word قهوة qahwah. The importance of coffee in Turkish culture is evident in the words 'breakfast', kahvaltı, whose literal meaning is "before coffee" (kahve 'coffee' + altı 'under/before') and 'brown', kahverengi, whose literal meaning is, "the color of coffee".

Turkish coffee in the Middle East was called simply 'coffee' until instant coffee was introduced in the 1980s. Today, younger generations make a distinction by referring to 'Türk kahvesi' (Turkish coffee).

The word for "coffeeshop" in Modern Standard Arabic is مقهى (maqha, literally meaning "place of coffee", plural, مقاهي maqahi(n)), but the more common term in colloquial Arabic is simply قهوة (qahwa), meaning "coffee" in much the same way as many Romance Languages use café for both.

In many languages, the term "Turkish" coffee has been replaced by the local variant name as a political euphemism—as in "Greek coffee" (ελληνικός καφές ellinikós kafés), and "Cypriot coffee" (κυπριακός καφές kypriakós kafés)—or it is dropped altogether. The words for "coffee" and "coffeeshop" remained unchanged in Greek as in the other Balkan languages, using the Ottoman Turkish forms kahve and kahvehane: Bulgarian кафе, кафене; Macedonian кафе, Serbian кафа, кафана; Croatian kava, kavana; Bosnian kafa, kafana; Slovenian kava, kavarna; Romanian cafea, cafenea; Greek καφές, καφενές (although now more commonly the Hellenized καφενείο); Albanian kafe, kafene.


In Albania, coffee is culturally important, but has long been thought of as kafe turke – Turkish coffee.

Arab world[edit]

Turkish coffee served in Cairo, Egypt

In the Arab world, "Turkish" coffee is the most common kind of coffee. It is called Arabic coffee (qahwa ‘arabiyya, قهوة عربية ). Constructions such as "Egyptian coffee," "Syrian coffee," "Lebanese coffee," and "Iraqi coffee" draw a distinction in the flavor, preparation, or presentation of different kinds of Turkish coffee. In Jordan many drive-through coffee shops call it boiled coffee (qahwa ghali, قهوة غلي ) as opposed to the other kind of coffee that is pre-boiled in a big container and continuously heated which is called poured coffee (qahwa sabb, قهوة صب ). It also referred to as Turkish coffee (qahwa turkiyeh, قهوة تركية ).

For instance, an Egyptian using the term قهوة عربية qahwa 'arabiyya as distinct from قهوة مصرية qahwa masriyya would be distinguishing the Levantine from the Egyptian style of Turkish coffee. Some[who?] argue that what is known as Turkish coffee is actually very close to coffee that has been made for ages in Yemen, parts of Oman and South Western Saudi Arabia. In any case, there is a very distinguished Arabic coffee that is very common in Saudi Arabia and it is very different from what is known as Turkish coffee in terms of taste, smell and color.


In Armenia, Turkish coffee and coffee in general is called սուրճ (surč̣). It is either served regular (sovorakan), sweet (k’aġc’r) or without sugar (daṙë).


In Azerbaijan, Turkish coffee is called "Türk qəhvəsi". Turkish cafes in downtown Baku usually serve Turkish coffee.

Turkish coffee copper set containing a cup (fildjan), a coffee pot (cezve) and a sugar bowl as traditionally served in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina[edit]

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkish coffee is also called "Bosnian coffee" (Bosnian: bosanska kahva), which is made slightly differently from its Turkish counterpart. Another difference from the Turkish preparation is that when the water reaches its boiling point, a small amount is saved aside for later, usually in a coffee cup. Then, the coffee is added to the pot (džezva), and the remaining water in the cup is added to the pot. Everything is put back on the heat source to reach its boiling point again, which only takes a couple of seconds since the coffee is already very hot.[8] Coffee drinking in Bosnia is a traditional daily custom and plays an important role during social gatherings.


In Bulgarian it is called Турско Кафе, which means "Turkish coffee". Interestingly enough, the Turkish style was very popular throughout the 20th century, but mostly in home brewing. While Bulgarian cafe culture is largely oriented toward espresso and cappuccino, Turkish coffee has been an essential part of the Bulgarian social fabric, especially in friendly gatherings and in reading fortunes.


In Croatia, it is called turska kava, i.e., "Turkish coffee" or crna kava, i.e., "black coffee", since it is served without milk. It is known as simply kava, except when used in cafes, so as to avoid confusion with other coffee drinks. The coffee is prepared in a dzezva where water is boiled then removed from the stove. Sugar is added and stirred to produce sweet water. The coffee is added and stirred, then returned to the stove. The coffee is ready when the surface starts to separate. The top layer is scooped and placed in the cup first, followed by the coffee. The coffee is drunk throughout the day, particularly before breakfast.


Turkish coffee served in Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus

In the Republic of Cyprus, local coffee has been called Cypriot coffee (κυπριακός καφές kypriakós kafés) since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. In the predominately Turkish Cypriot Northern Cyprus, it is still referred to as Turkish coffee. The special coffee pot used in the process is called briki. Cypriot coffee is served unsweetened, medium sweet (1 teaspoon of sugar), or very sweet (2 teaspoons). Traditionally, Cypriot men are seen drinking coffee at village coffee shops while playing tavli or other boardgames. As in the Arab world, western coffee is usually referred to as "Nescafé".

Czech Republic[edit]

A beverage called "turecká káva" or "turek" is also very popular in the Czech Republic, even if more sofisticated forms of coffee preparation (such as espresso) has become widespread in the last decades and thus decreasing the popularity of turek. Cafés usually do not serve turek anymore, in contrast to pubs and kiosks, and turek is still often served in households. Czech form of Turkish coffee is different from Turkish coffe in Turkey, Arab world or Balkan countries, since cezve is not used. It is in fact the simpliest possible method to make coffee: ground coffee is poured with boiling or almost boiling water. Weight of coffee and volume of water used are only dependent on the taste of the consumer. In the last year, genuine Turkish coffe made with cezve (džezva in Czech) is also appearing, but Turkish coffee is still understood, in most cases, as described above.[9][10]


In Greece, Turkish coffee was formerly referred to simply as τούρκικος 'Turkish'. But political tensions with Turkey in the 1960s led to the political euphemism ελληνικός καφές 'Greek coffee',[11] which became even more popular after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974: "... Greek–Turkish relations at all levels became strained, τούρκικος καφές [Turkish coffee] became ελληνικός καφές [Greek coffee] by substitution of one Greek word for another while leaving the Arabic loan-word, for which there is no Greek equivalent, unchanged."[12] The recipe remained unchanged.


Iran is a huge importer of Turkish coffee. Despite the wide popularity of Nestlé's Instant Coffee brand, Nescafé, into the country, Qahvaye Turk (قهوه ترک) also has a large market. It is usually served semi-sweet and in a single shot.


In Israel, Turkish coffee is very popular. it is called "Cafe shakhor" (קפה שחור) i.e., "black coffee", since it is usually served without milk, or "Cafe Turki" (קפה טורקי).

Republic of Macedonia[edit]

Republic of Macedonia has a well-developed coffee culture, and Turkish coffee (known locally as турско кафе, ['Turkish coffee'] or simply црно кафе ['black coffee']) is by far the most popular coffee beverage. With over 5,000 establishments, the traditional coffeehouse and bar—the kafeana—is one of the most common places to go out and have a drink. However, because of the negative stereotypes surrounding the kafeana, many younger people prefer to frequent the more Italian-styled cafés which are also seen as being classier.

From the days of the Ottoman Empire through to the present, coffee has played an important role in lifestyle and culture. The serving and consumption of coffee has had a profound effect on betrothal and gender customs, political and social interaction, prayer, and hospitality customs. Although many of the rituals are not prevalent in today's society, coffee has remained an integral part of local culture.

Other coffee beverages such as lattes, cafe mochas and cappuccinos are becoming increasingly popular with the opening of more upmarket cafés and affordability of home Espresso machines. Professionals and businesspeople have contributed to the popularity instant coffee (especially frappé).


In Romania Turkish coffee is called 'cafea turcească', 'cafea neagră', 'cafea (cu) caimac' or 'cafea la ibric'. The pot is called 'ibric', and in Dobrogea it is made in a copper kettle filled with sand—this kind of coffee is called 'cafea la nisip'. Actually, the kettle is warmed in a hot sand receptacle, which can be copper or simply iron.


Main article: Serbian cuisine

In Serbia it may be called simply "турска кафа", i.e., Turkish coffee, simply "кафа", i.e., coffee or "обична кафа" i.e., ordinary coffee". Especially strong coffee, without sugar and milk, served with Turkish delight is often referred to as "Tурска кафа", i.e., Turkish coffee. It is a very popular drink in Serbia. It is usually made with "џезва" (džezva, from the Turkish cezve) or similar small brewing pot. In Serbia, when the water reaches its boiling point, a small amount is saved for later, usually in a coffee cup. Next, the coffee is added to the pot ("џезва") and everything is put back on the heat source to reach its boiling point again which takes a couple of seconds only since the coffee is already very hot, and then the remaining water in the cup is added to the pot. This way produces more bitter tasting coffee as grounds do not have time to settle on bottom of pot. Alternative method of bringing coffee to boil up to three additional times produces less bitter flavor.


In Slovenia it is called turška kava, 'Turkish coffee'. It is known simply as kava, except in cafes, in order to avoid confusion with other types of coffee drinks. Especially strong coffee (without sugar and milk) is often referred to as črna kava 'black coffee'.


In Ukraine, Turkish coffee is called "Turets’ka kava", which means "Turkish coffee". Lviv is well known for its coffee culture, and authentic Leopolitan coffee is prepared in the Turkish manner using a Cezve, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom.


Turkish weddings[edit]

As well as an everyday beverage, Turkish coffee is also a part of the traditional Turkish wedding custom. As a prologue to marriage, the bridegroom's parents (in the lack of his father, his mother and an elderly member of his family) must visit the young girl's family to ask the hand of the bride-to-be and the blessings of her parents upon the upcoming marriage. During this meeting, the bride must prepare and serve Turkish coffee to the guests. For the groom's coffee, the bride-to-be sometimes uses salt instead of sugar to gauge his character. If the bridegroom drinks his coffee without any sign of displeasure, the bride-to-be assumes that the groom is good-tempered and patient. As the groom already comes as the demanding party to the girl's house, in fact it is the boy who is passing an exam and etiquette requires him to receive with all smiles this particular present from the girl, although in some parts of the country this may be considered as a lack of desire on the part of the girl for marriage with that candidate.[13]


Turkish coffee is normally prepared using a narrow-topped small boiling pot called an kanaka, cezve, džezva, xhezve, jazzve or μπρίκι (bríki) (basically a tiny ewer), a teaspoon and a heating apparatus. The ingredients are very finely ground coffee, sometimes cardamom, cold water and (if desired) sugar. It is served in a demitasse (fincan, fildžan,filxhan or φλιτζάνι (flidzáni)). Some modern cups have handles; traditional cups did not, and coffee was drunk either by handling the cup with the fingertips or, more often, by placing the cup in a zarf, a metal container with a handle.

Traditionally, the pot is made of copper and has a wooden handle, although other metals such as aluminium with a non-stick coating are also used. The size of the pot is chosen to be close to the total volume of the cups to be prepared, since using too large a pot causes much of the foam to stick to the inside of it. The teaspoon is used both for stirring and measuring the amount of coffee and sugar. The teaspoons in some other countries are much larger than the teaspoons in countries where Turkish coffee is common: The dipping parts of the teaspoons in these countries are about 1 cm (0.4 inches) long and 0.5 cm (0.2 inches) wide.

A moderately low heat is used so that the coffee does not come to the boil too quickly—the beans need to be in hot water for long enough to extract the flavour. In a modern setting normal gas or electric heating is satisfactory. Traditional heating sources include the embers of a fire, or a tray about 10 cm (4 in) deep filled with sand. The tray is placed on the burner. When the sand is hot, the coffee pot is placed in the sand.[citation needed] This allows a more even and gentle heat transfer than direct heat.


The Turkish method of coffee preparation, shown in steps[clarification needed]

Turkish coffee is a method of preparation, not a kind of coffee. Therefore, there is no special type of bean. 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.

As with any other sort of coffee, the best Turkish coffee is made from freshly roasted beans ground just before brewing. Turkish-ground coffee can be bought and stored as any other type, although it loses flavour with time.

While there are variations in detail, preparation of Turkish coffee consists of immersing the coffee grounds in water which is usually 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 shows without guesswork that it has reached the appropriate temperature.

The amount of cold water necessary can be measured in the number of demitasse cups desired (approximately 3 ounces or 90 ml) with between one and two heaped teaspoons of coffee being used per cup. The coffee and sugar are usually added to the water rather than being put into the pot first.

In Turkey, four degrees of sweetness are used. The Turkish terms and approximate amounts are as follows: sade (plain; no sugar), az şekerli (little sugar; half a level teaspoon of sugar), orta şekerli (medium sugar; one level teaspoon), and çok şekerli (a lot of sugar; one and a half or two level teaspoons). In the Arab World "sāda" (سادة plain; no sugar, meaning "black" in Arabic) or "murra" ( مرة bitter; no sugar) is common.

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 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.

Utensils to prepare Turkish coffee (handmade from Crete)

A well-prepared Turkish coffee has a thick foam at the top (köpük in Turkish), is homogeneous, and does not contain noticeable particles in the foam or the liquid. It is possible to wait an additional twenty seconds past boiling to extract a little more flavour, but the foam is completely lost. To overcome this, foam can be removed and put into cups earlier and the rest can be left to boil. In this case special attention must be paid to transfer only the foam and not the suspended particles.

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.

In the Balkans, dominant practice is to fill the džezva with only cold water, and heat it until it boils. As the water boils coffee is added, stirred, and removed from the fire before the foam boils over. After the foam settles the pot is placed back onto the heat source so the water would boil again, releasing more caffeine and flavour. Sometimes the last step is skipped, to preserve the foam. This type of preparation is known as Bosnian coffee or Serbian coffee.

The Armenian mode of preparation is distinct in that all of the ingredients — water, the coffee grounds, and sugar (if desired) — are all combined in the pot before being heated. After the initial mixing the coffee is then heated but not stirred again until the coffee has finished brewing. The preparation process does not usually include boiling. The coffee is usually only allowed to rise once or twice, but never thrice as is typical in the Lebanese mode of preparation.

In Bulgaria, the best practice of making a Turkish Coffee is boiling, or rather heating the water to just before a boil, adding the coffee grounds and waiting for the first rise. Once the foam rises, just before its peak, it is removed from the heat and poured on top of the sugar in the cups. The coffee is never to be stirred in the pot (or in the cups) and never allowed to rise over. The coffee is sipped and once finished, the cup is always turned over in its saucer until the grounds slowly pour out. These grounds are always glanced over for quick fortune read or a more elaborate one depending on circumstance and ability to read the images. The grounds pattern in the saucer is also taken in consideration.


Turkish coffee served with chocolate sticks

Turkish coffee is taken at extremely hot temperatures and is usually served with a glass of cold water to freshen the mouth and sweep away the leftover taste of things eaten or drunk previously, in order to better taste the coffee. It is traditionally served with Turkish delight. In the Mediterranean and southeastern Turkey, pistachio grains (kakuli/menengiç) 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 be used for fortune-telling.[14] The cup is commonly turned over into the saucer to cool, and then the patterns of the coffee grounds can be used for a method of fortune telling known as tasseography (Turkish: kahve falı, Greek: καφεμαντεία, kafemanteia, German: Kaffesatzlesen), or tasseomancy.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/read/articles/getting-your-buzz-with-turkish-coffee
  2. ^ http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20140707-the-complicated-culture-of-bosnian-coffee
  3. ^ Turkish coffee culture and tradition. Inscribed in 2013 (8.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Country(ies): Turkey
  4. ^ Bonnie K. Bealer, Bennett Alan Weinberg, The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug, Routledge 2001. ISBN 0-415-92722-6, p. 3
  5. ^ Bealer and Weinberg, p.11
  6. ^ Alain Huetz de Lemps, "Colonial Beverages and the Consumption of Sugar" in Massimo Montanari, Jean Louis Flandrin, ed. Food: A Culinary History, p. 387
  7. ^ Quoted in Cemal Kafadar, "A History of Coffee", Economic History Congress XIII (Buenos Aires, 2002) full text
  8. ^ Cohen, Brad (2014-07-16). "The complicated culture of Bosnian coffee". BBC - Travel: Food & Drink. Retrieved 2014-07-24. 
  9. ^ LAZAROVÁ Daniela, Czech baristas compete in the art of coffee-making, Radio Prague, May 12, 2011.
  10. ^ Piccolo neexistuje, Turek.
  11. ^ George Mikes, Eureka!: Rummaging in Greece, 1965, p. 29: "Their chauvinism may sometimes take you a little aback. Now that they are quarrelling with the Turks over Cyprus, Turkish coffee has been renamed Greek coffee;..."
  12. ^ Robert Browning, Medieval and Modern Greek, 1983. ISBN 0-521-29978-0. p. 16
  13. ^ http://turkoloji.cu.edu.tr/HALKBILIM/nerin_kose_kula_dugun_gelenekleri.pdf
  14. ^ Nissenbaum, Dion (20 July 2007). "Coffee grounds brewed trouble for Israeli fortuneteller". McClatchyDC. Retrieved 27 November 2014.