A Potent Cuppa Of Turkish Coffee With A Side Of History

Explore this world-famous beverage, which is on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list, its history and how to correctly brew it
Turkish coffee and Turkish delight.
Turkish coffee and Turkish delight. Shutterstock

For Turkish coffee, it is said that “A coffee has a memory of forty years”. A short walk in the bylanes of Istanbul reveals much about the city’s loving affair with this beverage. The aroma from quaint cafes draws in visitors from far and wide. “Kahve, lütfen” are the magic words, and a fresh pour arrives on your table. Coffee is one of the more leisurely activities here; you can sit down with a cup and read away into the sunset with no prying eyes to dissuade you from a quiet evening. This coffee culture also allows you to immerse yourself in something more intangible here - a tradition that has survived and thrived right from the time of the Ottoman Empire when Turkish coffee found its origin.

Turkish Coffee
Turkish Coffee

Turkish coffee loved for its aroma and stylistic presentation also combines special cooking techniques in a unique culture. Hence, it was included on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2013 due to its unique taste and traditional value. To mark the occasion of International Coffee Day on October 1st, here is a deep dive into the aromatic world of Turkish Coffee.

How Coffee Came To Türkiye

Arabia was the first home of coffee drinkers and coffee houses, which then made pit stops in Egypt and Persia before settling in the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century Istanbul opened its doors to the first coffeehouse in the empire. These spaces thrived in an age of outstanding educational, social, and political activity, allowing for socialising opportunities, even if they were restricted to just men. As the enjoyment of Turkish coffee came into vogue in the region and beyond, merchants began trading coffee beans across borders. The culture of coffeehouses was also adopted by the West and soon came to proliferate around the world, making coffee an integral part of our daily lives. 

Turkish Sand Coffee
Turkish Sand Coffee

A Centuries-Old Cooking Technique

A distinct feature of Turkish Coffee is the fineness of the grind the beans are grounded, and the resulting powder is added to a pot of boiling water. The powder sinks to the bottom, leaving the top layer unfiltered and potent. Also called Turkish Sand Coffee, the process involves adding coffee grinds and water to a wide-bottomed pot called "cezve," which is put over a pan filled with sand that has been heated over an open flame. The sands heats the water and allows for a potent yet unfiltered brew which is then consumed without removing the coffee grinds.

It is a common practice in the country to use the thick coffee ground left on the bottom of one's cup to peer into the future. Turkish coffee is served in tiny cups, accompanied by a glass of water and a piece of Turkish delight. The former is meant to refresh the palate, while the latter adds a layer of sweetness. This process has remained consistent for years, making Turkish coffee a symbol of culture and culinary traditions. 

Coffee is a means for socialising in Türkiye
Coffee is a means for socialising in Türkiye

Coffee And Culture

Coffee is not just a beverage in Türkiye. It is a means for socialising and a base for their famed hospitality. Coffee is always served after a meal intimate gatherings around coffee are a staple in the country. When a prospective groom visits the bride's house to ask for her hand in marriage, the bride-to-be makes Turkish coffee for her suitor and his family. A common belief says that if the woman does not wish to marry the man, salt replaces sugar in this steaming brew. 

Related Stories

No stories found.
Outlook Traveller