It is said that coffee was brought to Turkey from Yemen during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, mastered and then gifted to the world from his grand palace[http://www.turkishcoffeeworld.com/History-of-Coffee-s/60.htm]
Under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, coffee was given a new form of preparation, it’s art refined and the position of kahvecibaşı – the chief coffee maker was added to the palace staff register, creating a new fashionable drinking ritual for meetings with the Sultan.
Not wanting to be left behind the sophisticated, mansion owners of Turkey added the new chic beverage to their own households. Soon after Coffee houses or cafes started to creep up around the vibrant bustling streets of Istanbul before the heady aroma of the roast, ground beans made it’s way to Europe via the shores of the Bosporus.
The process of Turkish coffee making has seen little change over the centuries and stayed routed within the culture. So much so that in 2013 UNESCO placed Turkish Coffee onto the ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’ list. Stating that the ‘’The tradition itself is a symbol of hospitality, friendship, refinement’’ [http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/RL/00645].
Should you have visited Turkey or eaten in Turkish restaurants abroad you’ll be familiar with the aromatic notes as the pungent drink is prepared before you. As a foreigner you may wish to prepare Turkish coffee to relive a well enjoyed holiday, extend an invitation of friendship or for another reason – maybe you’re the potential bride of a Turkish family who have requested ‘to visit for a cup of a coffee’ in which not only will they test your coffee making skills but you may test your potential suitors character by how he takes the coffee you serve him.
Coffee in Turkey is much more than the drink itself, it’s the time spent together, the appreciation of friendship, of discussion and debate and as a wise adage says ‘’ The heart desires neither coffee nor the coffee house, the heart desires conversation. Coffee is the excuse.’’
‘’Gönül, ne kahve ister ne kahvehane, gönül sohbet ister, kahve bahane.’’
Prepared with ground, roasted beans either on a stove top, hot sands or simmering open fire, the process is one which requires constant attention and patience.
Selecting and purchasing good coffee is paramount to acquiring that rich luxurious taste, the coffee should either be bought as beans and ground using a traditional coffee grinder (Kahve değirmeni), or as good quality, freshly ground coffee which comes in a very fine powder form.
The pot or Cezve (jezveh) can be copper, aluminum, stainless steel or God forbid should you wish to be forever in the wrath of a Turkish Mother-in-Law, of the electric kettle variety. Traditional metal cevzes can be found decorated ornately, plain and practical, with wooden and metal handles but hardly ever for the left handed preparer. Sized in order of servings the pot, which is widest at the bottom, should be selected to hold enough water for the number of servings and sufficient space to enable a good frothy topping during the brewing process.
Cold water is measured by the coffee cup, allowing one full cup of water and 1 heaped teaspoon of coffee powder per person, and requires the sugar if used to be added at this early stage. There a number of ‘levels’ of sugar; the ‘Sade’ – without sugar, the ‘az şekerli’ – around a quarter to half teaspoon to take of the edge, the ‘orta’ – a teaspoon or less of sugar to give that ‘middle taste’ and the ‘sekerli’ – the coffee for the sweet tooth. It is advisable to only ever add sugar to the coffee and not to make the mistake in the early days of courtship to serve your Turkish Father-in-Law a salty cup, although this will give the family something to talk about at the wedding, you will likely forever be known as salty coffee girl - Trust me!.
Stir and using the lowest heat possible, place the cezve onto the heat source and bring the coffee to a slow boil. The best tasting coffee will come from the most patient of preparers and those with a good ‘good things come to those who wait attitude’.
As it starts to boil a delicate froth will start to form and slowly rise to the top of the coffee pot. Fun for any beginner is determining the exact point in when to take the cezve from the stove, too quickly and the delicious foam may be inadequate, too late and the coffee pot will erupt like a volcano and the precious lava lost.
The coffee froth is spooned from the pot into the individual cups as equally as possible with the best, most luxurious looking usually going to the guest or eldest member. The pot is returned to the heat source for another slow boil and when ready poured into the cups.
Served with a small glasses of water and often small pieces of Lokum – sweet cubes of Turkish delight the coffee is never rushed and always enjoyed in the company of friends or new acquaintances - but not acquaintances for long, as it is said here that the memory of 1 cup of coffee last 40 years or sharing one Turkish coffee commits you to 40 years of friendship.
‘’Bir fincan kahvenin kırk yıl hatırı vardır.’’