A cup of Turkish coffee, served from a copper cezve
|Country of origin||Ottoman Empire|
Turkish coffee refers to a method of brewing very finely ground coffee. Any coffee bean may be used; arabica varieties are considered best, but robusta or a blend is also used. The beans must be ground to a very fine powder, which is left in the coffee when served. The coffee may be ground at home in a manual grinder made for the very fine grind (home electric grinders are not suitable), ground to order by coffee merchants in most parts of the world, or bought ready-ground from many shops.
Turkish coffee is made by bringing the powdered coffee with water and usually sugar to the boil in a special pot called cezve in Turkey, and often called ibrik elsewhere. As soon as the mixture begins to froth, and before it boils over, it is taken off the heat; it may be briefly reheated twice more to increase the desired froth. Sometimes about one-third of the coffee is distributed to individual cups; the remaining amount is returned to the fire and distributed to the cups as soon as it comes to the boil. The coffee is traditionally served in a special type of small porcelain cup called a kahve finjanı.
Sugar is added to Turkish coffee while brewing, so the amount of sugar must be specified when preparing the coffee. It may be served unsweetened (Turkish: sade kahve), with little or moderate sugar (Turkish: orta şekerli), or sweet (Turkish: tatlı). Coffee is often served with something small and sweet to eat, such as Turkish delight. It is sometimes flavoured with cardamom, mastic, salep, or ambergris. A lot of the powdered coffee grounds are transferred from the "cezve" to the cup; in the cup, some settle on the bottom but much remains in suspension and is drunk with the coffee.
First appearing in the Ottoman Empire, under the strictest interpretations of the Quran the strong coffee was considered a drug and its consumption was forbidden. Due to the immense popularity of the beverage, the sultan eventually lifted this prohibition.
Turkish coffee culture had reached Britain and France by the mid to late 17th century. The first coffee house in Britain was opened by a Turkish Jew in the mid 17th century. In the 1680s, the Turkish ambassador to France reportedly threw lavish parties for the city's elite where African slaves served coffee to guests in porcelain finjans on gold or silver saucers.
Superstition says the grounds left after drinking Turkish coffee can be used for fortune-telling. The cup is commonly turned over into the saucer to cool, and it is believed by some that the patterns of the coffee grounds can be used for a method of fortune telling known as tasseography.
As well as being 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-to-be 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.
Names and variants
Turkish coffee is usually called either "Turkish coffee" in the local language, or named as the coffee of the country or region, e.g. "Greek coffee", "Arab[ic] coffee", etc.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkish coffee is also called "Bosnian coffee" (Bosnian: bosanska kahva), which is made slightly differently from its Turkish counterpart. A deviation 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. Coffee drinking in Bosnia is a traditional daily custom and plays an important role during social gatherings.
Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania
A beverage called "turecká káva" or "turek" is very popular in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, although other forms of coffee preparation such as espresso have become more popular in the last few decades, decreasing the popularity of turek. Turek is usually no longer served in cafés, but it is prepared in pubs and kiosks, and in homes. The Czech and Slovak form of Turkish coffee is different from Turkish coffee in Turkey, the Arab world or Balkan countries, since a cezve is not used; instead the desired amount of ground coffee is poured into boiling or almost boiling water. In recent years, Turkish coffee is also made in a cezve (džezva in Czech), but "Turkish coffee" usually means the method described above. Coffee is prepared in the same way in Lithuania.
In Greece, Turkish coffee was formerly referred to simply as 'Turkish' (τούρκικος). But political tensions with Turkey in the 1960s (Istanbul pogrom) led to the political euphemism 'Greek coffee' (ελληνικός καφές), which became even more popular after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974: "... Greek–Turkish relations at all levels became strained, "Turkish coffee" became "Greek coffee" by substitution of one Greek word for another while leaving the Arabic loan-word, for which there is no Greek equivalent, unchanged." There were even advertising campaigns promoting the name "Greek coffee" in the 1990s, which acknowledged the usage of "Turkish": "Thousands of Greeks follow the habit of calling their beloved coffee 'Turkish'."
In Armenia, the coffee is also called “Armenian Coffee” or simply “Sourj”. In Armenia the beverage has become a cultural phenomena—families will open their house to visitors that want to enjoy the very special drink. Armenians will sometimes serve baklava alongside the coffee.
According to The Reuben Percy Anecdotes compiled by journalist Thomas Byerley an Armenian opened a coffee shop in Europe in 1674, at a time when coffee was first becoming fashionable in the West. Though Percy described these first European coffee houses as "imperfect" establishments where liquor and cigerettes were still consumed, he notes that it was an "error of the Armenian" that led to the establishment of a coffeehouse in Paris called Le Procope which introduced what Percy calls "ices".
In Iran, Turkish coffee is very popular and known as "qahve Turk".
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Some supermarkets sell coffee that is pre-ground, marketed as Turkish coffee, and usually robusta.
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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; ...
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- Joanna Kakissis, "Don't Call It 'Turkish' Coffee, Unless, Of Course, It Is", The Salt, National Public Radio 27 April 2013: '"It wasn't always this way," says Albert Arouh, a Greek food scholar who writes under a pen name, Epicurus. "When I was a kid in the 1960s, everyone in Greece called it Turkish coffee." Arouh says he began noticing a name change after 1974, when the Greek military junta pushed for a coup in Cyprus that provoked Turkey to invade the island.' "The invasion sparked a lot of nationalism and anti-Turkish feelings," he says. "Some people tried to erase the Turks entirely from the coffee's history, and re-baptized it Greek coffee. Some even took to calling it Byzantine coffee, even though it was introduced to this part of the world in the sixteenth century, long after the Byzantine Empire's demise." By the 1980s, Arouh noticed it was no longer politically correct to order a "Turkish coffee" in Greek cafes. By the early 1990s, Greek coffee companies like Bravo (now owned by DE Master Blenders 1753 of the Netherlands) were producing commercials of sea, sun and nostalgic village scenes and declaring "in the most beautiful country in the world, we drink Greek coffee."'
- Leonidas Karakatsanis, Turkish-Greek Relations: Rapprochement, Civil Society and the Politics of Friendship, Routledge, 2014, ISBN 0415730457, p. 111 and footnote 26: "The eradication of symbolic relations with the 'Turk' was another sign of this reactivation: the success of an initiative to abolish the word 'Turkish' in one of the most widely consumed drinks in Greece, i.e. 'Turkish coffee', is indicative. In the aftermath of the Turkish intervention in Cyprus, the Greek coffee company Bravo introduced a widespread advertising campaign titled 'We Call It Greek' (Emeis ton leme Elliniko), which succeeded in shifting the relatively neutral 'name' of a product, used in the vernacular for more than a century, into a reactivated symbol of identity. 'Turkish coffee' became 'Greek coffee' and the use of one name or the other became a source of dispute separating 'traitors' from 'patriots'."
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