What is Turkish Coffee?

What is Turkish Coffee? 


Turkish coffee, or Türk kahvesi, as it is called in Turkish,  is a classic timeless method of preparing unfiltered coffee. Coffee is roasted and then finely ground coffee is boiled in a special Coffee pot called a cezve. Usually flavoured with sugar  and served in a cup where the grounds are allowed to settle, Turkish coffee is found all over the world, but particularly in the Middle East, North Africa, the Caucasus, the Balkans, Bali, and Eastern Europe. Indeed, Turkish Coffee was awarded as an official Cultural Heritage of Turkey confirmed by UNESCO.

Turkish coffee is an ancient coffee drinking pastime. The earliest evidence of coffee drinking comes from 15th-century Yemen. By the late 15th century, coffee had spread to Cairo and Mecca. Then, in the 1640s, the Ottoman chronicler İbrahim Peçevi reported the opening of the first coffeehouse in Constantinople and it was then that Turkish coffee began to grow across Europe and Africa from its roots in the Middle East. Indeed, the word 'coffee' comes from the Arabic word قهوة qahwah. Such is the importance of coffee in Turkish culture that the Turkish word for 'breakfast', kahvaltı, literally means "before coffee" (kahve 'coffee' + altı 'under/before') and the other Turkish word 'brown', kahverengi, means "the colour of coffee".

As well as an everyday beverage, Turkish coffee is also a part of the traditional Turkish wedding custom. As a prologue to marriage, the bridegroom's parents must visit the young girl's family to ask the hand of the bride-to-be and the blessings of her parents upon the upcoming marriage. During this meeting, the bride must prepare and serve Turkish coffee to the guests to a very high standard and it is a very important part of proceedings.

Coffee is a vital part of life and the heart of it is in the coffee shop, which is called in Arabic مقهى (maqha, literally meaning "place of coffee"), but the more common term in colloquial Arabic is simply قهوة (qahwa), meaning "coffee". In the Arab world, "Turkish" coffee is the most common kind of coffee. Often, it is called Arabic coffee (qahwa ‘arabiyya, قهوة عربية ).

It must be noted that there are many different types of coffee and every country has different tastes and custom when it comes to coffee, such as "Egyptian coffee," "Syrian coffee," "Lebanese coffee," and "Iraqi coffee", which draw a distinction in the flavour, preparation, or presentation of different kinds of Turkish coffee.

For example, in Jordan many drive-through coffee shops call it ‘boiled coffee’ (qahwa ghali, قهوة غلي ) and another form of coffee served locally is continuously heated and ccalled ‘poured coffee’ (qahwa sabb, قهوة صب ). It also referred to as Turkish coffee (qahwa turkiyeh, قهوة تركية ).

In Europe, there are also many variations. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkish coffee is also called "Bosnian coffee" (Bosnian: bosanska kahva), which differs from the Turkish preparation because when the water reaches its boiling point, a small amount is saved aside for later, usually in a coffee cup. The coffee is then added to the pot (džezva) and the remaining water in the cup is added to the pot. Everything is put back on the heat source to reach its boiling point again, which only takes a couple of seconds since the coffee is already very hot.  In the Czech Republic, they prepare a coffee called "turecká káva" or "turek", which  is also very popular.

Some say that Turkish Coffee can even tell the future and it’s a popular pastime to read the future in the coffee grounds left after drinking Turkish coffee. The cup is commonly turned over into the saucer to cool and then the patterns of the coffee grounds can be used for a method of fortune telling known as tasseography (Turkish: kahve falı, Greek: καφεμαντεία, kafemanteia, German: Kaffesatzlesen, Serbian: gledanje u šolju), or tasseomancy.

To find out more about how to prepare, brew and serve Turkish Coffee, please visit our ‘how to brew Turkish Coffee’ page.