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From the days of the Ottoman Empire through the present, coffee has played an important role in Turkish lifestyle and culture. The serving and consumption of coffee has had a profound effect on betrothal and gender customs, political and social interaction, prayer, and hospitality customs throughout the centuries. Although many of the rituals are not prevalent in today's society, coffee has remained an integral part of Turkish culture.

 

Brought to Istanbul in 1555 by two Syrian traders, coffee became known as the "milk of chess players and thinkers". By the mid-17th century, Turkish coffee became part of elaborate ceremonies involving the Ottoman court. Coffee makers (kahveci usta), with the help of over forty assistants, ceremoniously prepared and served coffee for the sultan. Betrothal customs and gender roles also became defined through coffee rituals. In ancient times, women received intensive training in the harem on the proper technique of preparing Turkish coffee. Perspective husbands would judge a woman's merits based on the taste of her coffee.

Today, Turkish coffee houses continue their role in society as a meeting place for both the cultured citizen and the inquisitive traveler. Istanbul offers many new and delightful cafe - restaurants where friends and family meet to discuss topics of the day over a cup of traditional Turkish coffee.

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

Put the coffee powder (about one teaspoon per demitasse cup of coffee) into a special pot with a wide bottom, narrower neck, a spout, and a long handle, called a cezve. Add sugar and a Turkish coffee cup (fincan) 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 off a bit of the froth into each cup. Bring the liquid still in the cezve to the froth-point once again, 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.)

Order Türk kahvesi one of four ways:

Sade - plain, no sugar (fairly bitter)

Az sekerli - with a little sugar (takes off the bitter edge; less than a teaspoon per cup)

Orta sekerli - with medium sugar (sweetish; about a teaspoon of sugar for each cup)

Çok sekerli - with lots of sugar (quite sweet; two teaspoons of sugar or more)

Turkish coffee is served hot from a special coffee pot called "cezve". Tradition states that after the guest has consumed the coffee and the cup is turned upside down on the saucer and allowed to cool, the hostess then performs a fortune reading from the coffee grounds remaining in the cup. Rich in tradition and flavor, Turkish coffee remains a favorite today.

 


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