Turkish Coffee (Türk Kahvesi)

World-famous Turkish coffee (Türk kahvesi) is made by pulverizing freshly-roasted medium-roast beans in a mortar and pestle, or grinding them very fine in a cylindrical brass coffee mill (kahve değirmeni).

Here’s how to order Türk kahvesi when you’re in Turkey:

Sade (sah-DEH) – plain, no sugar (fairly bitter)

Az şekerli (AHZ sheh-kehr-lee) – with a little sugar (takes off the bitter edge; less than a teaspoon per cup)

Orta şekerli (ohr-TAH sheh-kehr-lee) – with medium sugar (sweetish; about a teaspoon of sugar for each cup)

Çok şekerli (CHOK sheh-kehr-lee) – with lots of sugar (quite sweet; two teaspoons of sugar or more)

Here’s how to make your own Turkish coffee:

Put the coffee powder (about one teaspoon per demi-tasse cup of coffee) into a cezve (JEZZ-veh), a special pot with a wide bottom, narrower neck, a spout, and a long handle. Add sugar and a Turkish coffee cup (fıncan) of cold water for each cup of coffee you’re making, then heat the brew to frothing three times. (When the froth reaches the cezve‘s narrow neck, it’s a sign to remove the pot from the heat and let the froth recede.)

After the third froth-up, pour a bit of the froth into each cup. Bring the liquid still in the cezve to the froth-point once more, then pour it immediately, muddy grounds and all, into the Turkish coffee cups, which are smaller than demi-tasse cups.

Wait at least a minute for the grounds to settle before you pick up the tiny cup and sip. Enjoy the rich, thick flavor, but stop sipping when you taste the grounds coming through. Leave the “mud” in the bottom of the cup.

(Fortune-tellers turn the cup over on the saucer, lift off the cup, and read your future in the sloppy grounds.)


Hanging out at the kiraathane (coffee house) in Constantinople…

European- and American-style coffees are readily available in Turkey, and it’s now possible to get a good cup of French-style or Starbucks-style brew, as well as Italianate espressoand cappuccino. Instant coffee such as Nescafé is everywhere as well.

Occasionally you may encounter the older, disappointing style of non-Turkish coffee. You may want to add milk and make it sütlü kahve (coffee-with-milk).

On the other hand, you may be better off drinking Turkish tea.

—by Tom Brosnahan


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