Sunday, February 3, 2013

Black as Hell, Strong as Death, Sweet as Love

     "Coffee was first brought to Istanbul in 1555 by two Syrian traders," according to "It became known as the milk of chess players and thinkers," and quickly infiltrated many aspects of Turkish culture, including political & social interaction, weddings, prayer, hospitality traditions, etc.
     Elaborate ceremonies were born. Serving coffee for the Sultan once required the help of over forty assistants in the ancient Ottoman times.
      Women in Turkey used to receive intensive training in the art of preparing Turkish coffee properly, in the hopes of attracting a husband, because a woman's merits were once measured by her ability to brew, and still ought to be as far as I'm concerned. I make a damn good cup of coffee.
To this day, when a young man asks a woman's parents permission to marry, a formal coffee is still had between both families in traditional Turkish households.

     Other than that, coffee was simply a means of socializing. As they say in Turkey:
One neither desires coffee, nor a coffee house.
One desires to talk with others,
Coffee is but an excuse.
Men used to meet in coffee houses to discuss politics, and play chess or backgammon. Such coffee houses often featured entertainment in the form of "shadow theater"-- satirical political/social criticism performed by puppets. I really hope that's still a thing.

     To make Turkish Coffee, Arabica beans are finely ground to a powder, sometimes with cardamon seeds. (Others sometimes boil the seeds whole in the brewing coffee, which then float to the top when served.) The coffee itself is prepared in a cezve, a sort of ladle-like bulbous pot with a handle, often ornately decorated to match the cups, which even come with lids! So damn cute. If prepared properly, the coffee froths a bit as it brews, forming a thick layer of foam.
     This coffee, let me tell you, is killer strong, thicker than American coffee for sure, because the fine coffee powder turns into a paste, and the sludge leaves behind streaks in the cup as you sip. Once finished, the cup is turned upside down in the saucer, and the hostess reads then reads the guests fortunes, like reading tea leaves.
     Coffee is served with Turkish delights, or sorbet of licorice, poppy, or tamarind. 
     Coffee has become such a significant influence on Turkish culture that their word for the color brown: kahverengi literally translates: "the color of coffee, and breakfast: kahvalti simply means "before coffee."Cute right?


  1. Heyas,

    Found your blog through the link you left on Coffee Forum. Interesting thus far; I'll have to add you to my read list. :)

    Have you read Tom Standage's "A History of the World In Six Glasses?" I think you might find some of it enlightening.


    1. Ladies and Gentlemen, Behold: My very first comment!!!
      I checked out "A History of the World in Six Glasses" on Amazon (the intro anyway cos that's all it let me read). Thank you so much! I ordered it and plan to post about it as soon as I finish reading. You just might have single-handedly inspired a whole new book-reviewing aspect of my coffee blog. I really appreciate the comment, let me know if you have any more suggestions, and thank you so much!

  2. Behold! The second comment!

    No problem, you keep writing and I'll keep reading. :)

    One of the things I found pretty intriguing in AHOTWI6G was where it talked about the role of coffee - and probably more importantly, coffeehouses - in politics, economics, and revolution. Some of which I was already at least vaguely aware of thanks to Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle (which I would recommend reading if you're a fiction reader, but have to warn you that it's... well... baroque. And thick. And dense. Kinda like a good dark bread,really...), but it was pretty interesting nonetheless.

    Anyway, hope you enjoy the book. :)

  3. Finished the book! I'm working on a super duper awesome post about it, and I was wondering if I could refer to your name in the post since it was your recommendation? Do you mind? I mean it's almost like being famous =]
    Book was AWESOME by the way. I'm definitely a fan of fiction s I'll absolutely check out Baroque Cycle when I get a chance. Anyway, keep the suggestions/recommendation coming.

  4. Sure thing (on all counts). ^_^ Glad you liked it!