The place of Turkish coffee in Turkey’s culture has continued for 500 years without losing importance. Turkish coffee, drunk as an intermediary for socializing and conversations, is also an important part of Turkish daily life as a way of fortune-telling. According to tales it was the Ottomans who spread coffee beans, which were first found in Ethiopia or Yemen, to the rest of the world.
Turkish coffee is a type of coffee which has its own way of preparation and service. At the same time, it is the oldest method of coffee preparation known throughout history that is still in use today. It isn’t possible to find the taste and smell of this unique delicacy, the only coffee served with its grounds, anywhere else. This special experience found its place in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2013.
THE HISTORY OF COFFEE
There are a few stories that are thought to possibly be true about how coffee was found. The first of these is that coffee comes from the Ethiopian city of Kaffa and was consumed as food. The second is a much more colorful story. A shepherd in Yemen named Kaldi noticed that his goats were frolicking and followed them to find out that they had been eating the red berries of a tree. At first he thought that the goats had been poisoned but after seeing that the goats were still healthy and energetic, the next day he decided to try it himself. The shepherd felt more alert and decided to report this to the monastery. The monks looked into the situation and after they noticed that the plant kept them energetic during the long evening prayers, coffee consumption spread throughout the region. There are several stories about how coffee came to Anatolia. There are various accounts of Syrian merchants or the mayor of Yemen bringing coffee beans to the Ottomans. No matter how it happened, the practice of drinking coffee happened after this point and coffee beans entered Europe via Anatolia.
According to history books, the first coffee house opened in Istanbul in the middle 16th century. People would come together at these coffee houses to chat and play backgammon accompanied by coffee. However, when coffee houses were first opened in Ottoman times, the Shaykh al-Islam of the time banned it because people were discussing politics and they went there more than they went to the mosque. It is stated that officials saw this as a threat and brought punishments that went as far as death. The effects of this ban, which ended after people rebelled, were not so great when you consider that despite the hundreds of years that have passed, you can still find Ottoman coffee house culture in every city, town and village you go to in Turkey.
TURKISH COFFEE CULTURE
In the old days, Turkish coffee was drunk in the morning. In fact, the word for breakfast in Turkish, kahvaltı, means before coffee. Over time, people began drinking Turkish coffee for pleasure after meals. The contributions of this habit, which allows for the continuation of the conversation at the table, to digestion has been scientifically accepted. In addition to this, serving tea or coffee during visits with friends or for business, is an important part of Turkish hospitality. Turkish coffee, which people drink for pleasure to accompany good conversation, also has an important place in traditions. An example is the custom of kız isteme (literal translation: asking for the girl)… The family of the groom comes to the house of the prospective bride and asks permission for the marriage from the girl’s family. The girl, to display her skills, serves everyone the best Turkish coffee that she can make. The prospective bride puts salt in the groom’s coffee to gauge his character according to his reaction. Even though this ceremony does not shape decisions in our day, it still continues as a tradition.
The habit of fortune-telling in Turkey, which is as widespread as drinking coffee and has made it to our day from the Ottoman palaces, is indispensable especially for the social and private lives of women. Meeting up at cafes, women have their fortunes told to quench their curiosity regarding the future, find answers to their questions before making decisions, and shed light on things that happened in the past. Fortunetelling using coffee isn’t just a fun activity done between friends, it has given birth to a new sector called the fortune cafe. These cafes that are centered around fortune-telling have begun spreading, especially in the big cities. Turning the delicious coffee that you drank into fortunetelling is very easy. All you have to do is place the plate on the brim of the cup, and turn it over. Once the cup cools down, the symbols created by the dried coffee grounds are read to tell a person’s fortune.
MAKING TURKISH COFFEE
Making Turkish coffee with ample foam, a fragrant smell and a strong taste is easy if you pay attention. It can be understood from the taste of the coffee if any of the steps are skipped or rushed. You can buy the coffee beans that have been ground into a fine powder from a store, or grind it yourself. For one serving of Turkish coffee:
• Place two teaspoons (5 grams) of Turkish coffee in the cezve (special coffee pot). • Add sugar according to personal preference.
• Add one cup of water to the cezve (the same cup used to drink the coffee).
• Stir over low heat until the sugar melts.
• Once the coffee begins to foam, remove from heat and spoon foam into coffee cup, return to boil.
• Repeat 2-3 times before pouring coffee from cezve to cup.
• Coffee is ready to drink after waiting a minute so the grounds settle at the bottom.
• Serve with a glass of cold water on the side.