The Lore of Turkish Coffee

The Lore of Turkish Coffee

Bill McClure

Turkish coffee has been a part of life in Turkish society since the mid-16th century when the first coffee houses opened in Constantinople. Legend has it that a man named Hakam and another named Sems each opened a large coffee shop there, serving up the first Turkish coffee. Since then, Turkish coffee has become such a part of the culture that the very word for breakfast, kahvalti, means "before coffee".

Turkish coffee is prepared in a narrow topped boiling pot called a kanaka. Put simply, the beans are very finely ground before being placed in the Turkish coffee pot, then boiled to perfection. Any beans can be used to make Turkish coffee, it is not a type of bean or roast, but rather a preparation. Turkish coffee isn't even limited to Turkey, it can be found throughout the Middle East, Northern Africa and the Balkans.

Traditionally, the coffee beans are ground in a mortar as most coffee mills can't grind the coffee fine enough. Only a Turkish hand grinder or a mortar and pestle can do the trick. Ideally, the beans are freshly roasted just before they are ground for maximum flavor. The water for Turkish coffee isn't really boiled in the traditional sense. Instead, it is placed over low heat and the long cooking process brings out the flavor of the coffee.

Once it begins to boil, the coffee is at its ideal temperature and ready to drink. In Turkish coffee the sugar is added to the coffee before it is placed in the water. There are four levels of sweetness: sade, az sekerli, orta sekerli and cok serkerli - a range from no sugar at all to a lot of sugar. While the coffee cooks, it isn't stirred, so as not to disturb the characteristic foam that develops.

This is the art of Turkish coffee - to get the thickest foam possible. That's one reason why Turkish coffee is such an art. As the coffee is poured from the pot, it is done so slowly and meticulously, so the foam continues to pour out at a steady rate. Since it's nearly impossible to get the same amount of foam in every cup, the cup that has the most foam is the most highly prized.

Turkish coffee is traditionally served with Turkish delight and chocolate sticks. For added enjoyment, some people like to use the leftover grounds for tasseography, where your fortune is told. But we'll save that for the future. Turkish coffee is a real delight, rich in flavor and tradition. Any coffee can be Turkish coffee because it's the process of making it that makes Turkish coffee the delicious tradition it is.

Turkish coffee has been a part of life in Turkish society since the mid-16th century when the first coffee houses opened in Constantinople. 

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