Thursday, 17 March 2011

Turkish Coffee 'Türk kahvesi'

This is an extract from the report by The Ottoman Chronicler İbrahim Peçevi, about the opening of the first Coffee House in Istanbul:

  • 'Until the year 962 (1554-55), in the High, God Guarded city of Constantinople, as well as in Ottoman lands generally, coffee and coffee houses did not exist.  About that year, a fellow called Hakem (Hakam) from Aleppo and a wag called Şems (Shams) from Damascus, came to the City.  They opened a large shop in the District called Tahtakale, and began to purvey coffee.'
Coffee is reflected in Turkish Culture in the form of the word for breakfast 'kahvaltı' whose literal translation is "before coffee" (kahve - coffee) and (altı - under).  And the word for brown 'kahverengi' whose literal translation is "the colour of coffee" (kahve - coffee) and (renk - colour).

Culturally it also has its part to play in weddings.  It is custom for the prospective groom and his family to visit the prospective bride and her family to ask for her hand in marriage.  During this visit it is custom for the prospective bride to prepare coffee for the guests.  It is custom for the prospective bride to add salt to the prospective grooms coffee instead of sugar to judge his character.  If he drinks the coffee with out any signs of displeasure then he is said to have a good temper and patient.

Turkish coffee is not about the type of coffee used but the way it is prepared.
Any type of coffee bean can be used but it needs to be ground to a very fine powder, a lot finer than in any other coffee.  This is traditionally carried out using a pestle and mortar or a burr mill (which uses two revolving, abrasive surfaces, to grind the product).  Ideally the beans should be roasted and freshly ground, just before being used.
Cold water is measured in the serving cup and then poured into a narrow topped, small boiling pot, called a kanaka or cezve, which is traditionally made of copper with a wooden handle and should be only slightly larger than the amount of coffee being prepared.
To this is added the coffee powder and sugar if desired.
In Turkey there are four degrees of sweetness for a Turkish coffee, 1) sade - plain, no sugar, 2) az şekerli -little sugar, usually half a teaspoon, 3) orta şekerli - medium sugar, usually one level teaspoon, 4) çok şekerli - a lot of sugar, usually one and a half to two teaspoons.
The contents are then stirred until the coffee has sunk and the sugar has dissolved.  The pot is then placed over a moderate heat, until it just comes to the boil.  The pot should then be removed from the heat and then brought back to a boil for a second and third time.  It is then poured into the cup.

The cups traditionally are small and have no handle or are place inside a zarf, like the one in the photo above. It should be served with a glass of water to cleanse the palate and turkish delight.

You don't drink all of the cup as the dregs settle to the bottom.  These can then be read by a fortune teller.  They will get you to turn the cup over on to the saucer, leave it to cool for a short while and then they will read the patterns left by the dregs.

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