Every day in Turkey brings a wealth of surprises, many of which can be stressful and confusing. Thankfully, however, thus far, these have most often been countered with more pleasant occurences. That being said, many days in Turkey are like a roller coaster ride. When approaching the bottom, the best thing to do is order up a Türk kahvesi, or Turkish coffee. If there are things to deal with, details to be worked out, it is best to work through them with fuel from a Türk kahvesi. It is also critical when you find yourself in solace, when the weather is gorgeous, the view is clear, and you realize how much you have to be grateful for– also the perfect time to prepare yourself a Türk kahvesi. Other ideal times to enjoy this specialty include: first thing in the morning, following a meal, for an afternoon pick-me-up, just after work, before dinner, as dessert, with colleagues, with friends, with new acquaintances, and any other time that seems appropriate. One must not forget the Turkish proverb that, “A cup of (Turkish) coffee commits one to forty years of friendship (Bir kahvenin kirk yil hatiri vardir).” So be prepared!
The act of drinking hot coffee apparently developed during the Ottoman Empire, and has historically been a very important part of Turkish culture. Reportedly, some of the first coffee houses were opened in Constantinople, or modern day Istanbul, and important discussions in such locales have been occurring ever since. I hung out in one such historic coffee house with some friends in Gaziantep, Tahmis Kahvesi, which opened in 1638, though the original building suffered two fires in the early 1900s. Due to fire damage, there has been extensive renovation, but the proprietor has made an effort to maintain the feel of an old Turkish coffee house, right down to the dishes. I was happy to find groups of Turkish men enjoyng the day here, playing tavla, smoking nargile, and of course, sipping coffee.
The process of preparing a cup of Türk kahvesi is simple, yet definitely an art. Every element contributing to a good cup has been highly crafted, starting with the pot in which the finely ground coffee is prepared, the cezve. I recently purchased my own hand crafted cezve at the Copper Bazaar in Gaziantep, and am working on perfecting the technique.
The amount of foam, or köpük, determines the quality of the cup of coffee. In order to achieve the perfect amount of foam, you must start with cold water (one espresso cup full per portion) and two heaping teaspoons of coffee, as well as the desired amount of sugar. In Turkey, it is important to learn early on how to order your coffee, as in, how sweet you would like it. Sade is plain, with no sugar; az şekerli is just a little bit of sugar; orta or orta şekerli is a medium amount of sugar; and çok şekerli is for those who like it super sweet.
You stir the cold water, coffee, and sugar in one direction using a metal teaspoon, over medium heat, just until the pulverized coffee grinds have sunk below the surface. Once the contents begin to boil and froth, get ready. Remove the pot from the flame before it boils over (be warned: this happens quickly!). Let it sit for a brief while, then return it to the heat, removing it once again just before it boils over. It should now be ready. Pour a little in each cup until it is all distributed, in order to disperse the foam out evenly. The cup with the most foam is the special cup!
Once the small cup of Türk kahvesi has been consumed, there is an entire layer of possibility still to come. A second art form emerges in the telling of the drinker’s fortune. It is all written, there in your coffee grinds, including the possibility of wishes coming true.
Turkish coffee is special in that the grinds remain once the liquid has been consumed. If you are in the prescence of a capable and wise forturne reader, you are in luck! Place your saucer face down on top of your coffee cup and flip both over. In order to speed up the cooling process– because the grinds must be cool before they can be read– one can displace heat by placing metal objects (jewelry) on top of the cup. It will take a while to cool, so set it aside and continue with converation.
Once the cup is cool to the touch, and your wise reader is ready, the process can begin. Before flipping the cup over, bring it around in a circular motion once in front of you, counterclockwise. Then flip the cup and saucer over, towards you, letting the grounds spill upon the saucer. The remains of coffee grinds around the inside of the cup will be carefully analyzed, revealing your fortune. After the future is revealed, make a wish. The mess on the saucer will be inspected, and the pattern of how the grounds drip from the saucer once they are poured off will reveal whether or not the wish you made will come true. iyi şanslar!