More than a drink: Turkish Coffee
photo by Charkrem

I’m one of those people who likes to drink coffee as a first thing in the morning. Coffee is a like a wake up call, a morning pleasure, a working inspiration, a break from busy times, a reason to share and an indispensable taste for me…  But among my addiction for all kinds of coffee, there’s one special kind which is not only a drink but also a ritual. It’s not the kind of coffee that can be grabbed on the way to work but deserves a special time to enjoy it. It’s called “Turkish Coffee” and I’m in love with it!

Coffee as a name comes from the Arabic word “qahwa” and the term “coffee” is also derived from the Turkish word “kahve.” It means ‘a drink made from the berries of plants’. There’s a legendary story of an Ethiopian shepherd’s sheep which stayed awake all night after eating coffee berries. Shepherd’s name was Kaldi who also tried the berries himself and discovered the same effects alertness. In Turkey, they say ‘coffee comes from Yemen’ which actually refers to coffee’s first use in Sufi ceremonies in Yemen. Sufis stayed up all night for praying by the help of coffee. The first coffee house (kahvehane) was opened in Cairo in 1521. In a short time coffee gained a reputation as the miracle drink among Islamic communities in Cairo, Damascus and Aleppo which were a part of Ottoman Empire. Finally in 1555, it came to Istanbul and was introduced to Western world by Turks later in the 17th century. Since then, coffee has played an important part in the lifestyle of the Turkish people.

There is a Turkish proverb that says “A cup of coffee commits one to forty years of friendship”. In the Turkish culture where coffee is served at the start of any visit, there’s grace and splendor as well as friendship and happiness. It’s mostly drunk after meals and very popular among Turkish housewives as “morning coffee” which is served after breakfast/before lunch time. As a part of the tradition, Turkish women learn to make Turkish coffee at an early age. Especially in the old times when a woman was asked for marriage, potential husband was served coffee and allowed to judge whether the woman was a good match for marriage based upon her ability to make coffee. Some prospective brides used to add salt instead of sugar in order to avoid an unwanted marriage. And if they wanted to end the marriage talks, they used to spill coffee over the guests. Even today, in modern Turkey, some people still keep traditions alive.

“Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love”- Turkish Proverb

There’s a certain way of preparing Turkish coffee. Other than having Turkish coffee beans, you need small coffee pot (copper is recommended) called “cezve” and Turkish coffee cups (thin porcelain cups like espresso cups) called “fincan”. If the beans are not ground, you will also need a Turkish coffee grinder (kahve degirmeni).  Here are instructions to make Turkish coffee:

   1. Pour in cold water in the coffee pot (One cup of cold water for each cup you would like to serve plus an extra half cup for the pot).
   2. Add a teaspoon full of the ground Turkish coffee per cup in the water. According to the requested taste (sweet, medium or without sugar), you can add sugar.
   3. Heat the pot as slowly as you can. For better taste it’s important to keep the heat slower. Also make sure to prevent overflowing when the water boils.
   4. When the water boils, pour some of the coffee equally between the cups, filling each cup about a quarter to a third of the way. This way you will be able to serve your coffee with a fair share of the foam forming on top of the pot. The foam on Turkish coffee is very important and it is made as the brew sits on the stove without being stirred.
   5. Continue heating until coffee boils again and pour the rest of the coffee between the cups. 

If you are not making your own Turkish coffee but being served, let the host/waiter know in advance how much sugar you want in it. It can either be served as sade (without sugar), az sekerli (a little sugar), orta (medium sugar) or sekerli (sweet).

After drinking lovely Turkish coffee, there’s another tradition waiting for the ones who like fortune reading. This tradition of reading someone’s future from the coffee grounds is called “fal” and very popular in Turkey. They say  “Don’t believe fortune telling but don’t be left without it”. To make the long story short, there are so many reasons for drinking Turkish coffee and it certainly is more than a drink!

And I don’t know about you, but I prefer mine as sweet as love.

Meet the author


Independent Filmmaker and freelance writer/video journalist with 16 years of experience in media.

She has produced and hosted several programmes for Turkish televisions and currently hosting a food&travel show on TRT (Turkish National Radio& TV) Avaz television. She has also produced two off-off Broadway shows (I, Anatolia & 1001 New York Nights) in NYC and one (Wall) as a part of 15th International Theatre Festival in Istanbul.

On IMDB she has credits for a Lifetime TV movie Student Seduction (Asst. to Exec. Producer) and an independent documentary film The Magical Call of Oryantal (Producer&Director).