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Turkish coffee culture

Tea is the everyday beverage… coffee is for guests and an after dinner digestive. 

Imported from the Yemen during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent, the first coffee house was opened in Istanbul in 1554. Since alcohol was off-limits to most practicing Muslims, coffee-houses provided a great alternative to gather, socialise and share ideas.

Within a few decades there were hundreds of coffee houses in Istanbul alone… and the caffeinated men were out all night!

Pope Clement 7th when asked to forbid the drink is said to have remarked:

“But why! this Satan’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the Infidels have exclusive use of it.”

By the beginning of 17th century coffee was also the rage in Europe. A few years later Sultan Murat 4th considering coffee a drug, issued an edict  forbidding both coffee and tobacco on pain of imprisonment and death!  He was known to walk round Istanbul by night in disguise gleefully punishing the offenders. However Murat died at 28… and coffee remained popular!


Turkish coffee is made over the stove in a small pot called a ‘cezve’ and drunk from a ‘fincan’. It is is a national drink for Turks, Armenians, Georgians and Greeks… plus the whole of the Arabian peninsular… (visiting Greece one should not ask for a “Turkish Coffee”).

What you need:

      Raw coffee beans

      Terracotta roasting pot

      Brass grinder



      Small coffee cup

The beans are roasted  in the terracotta pot with a minute amount of butter stirring with a wooden spoon… the slower and longer the roast the the stronger the taste and the lesser the caffeine content… the room is filled with the aroma of roasting beans.

Grind the beans

Measure water per cup into the Cezve and add a heaped Turkish teaspoon of coffee for each cup.

Over a low flame heat the Cezve,  without allowing the contents to boil. When near boiling a small amount of the froth is poured into each cup, replaced over the flame until the coffee rises again and shared out between the cups.

Some like it sweet? As sugar is added prior to making the coffee, for those who like a medium amount of sugar or very sweet the coffee is made separately.


visiting Greece one should not ask for a “Turkish Coffee”…

Telling one’s fortune by reading the Coffee Cup is know as tasseomancy (cup divination)…a very popular pastime especially among women!

Having finished your coffee, there is always someone who can be persuaded to give you a reading. Hold the cup in your left hand and swirl the grinds round three times in a clockwise direction, then cover the cup with its saucer and invert. The fortune-teller waits till there is no heat left on the base of the cup, then examines it turning it round clockwise.  Liquid and  grinds have run down the inside of the cup to form shapes, patterns, clusters, dots, lines and even elongated figures. According to interpretation  these will represent events, situations, emotions, relationships, career, wealth etc…

A personal interpretation of the cup is mixed with cultural symbolism.

The teller reads the future with a timeline of threes… a large cluster on the rim of the cup opposite the handle means that you will receive a financial windfall which will… in three days… three months… three years … even three hours?

The base of the cup figuration explains family life…The lines up the sides of the cup designates movement and journeys… long or short,  eventful or simple, now or later… according to the configuration.

It may be just a bit of fun but is generally taken seriously.

Drawing depicting a Turkish coffee house during the Ottoman’s times

Cup of Turkish coffee with a perfect froth

Choosing a Bride and Coffee!

Up till the arrival of the mobile most girls’ futures relied on an arranged marriage. This could be to a close relative or depend upon a go-between who matched a boy with a suitable family.

The two families in agreement for a ‘viewing’ a date is arranged  for a visit!

The prospective groom and his extended family arrive in their best carrying presents. They are seated in the front room while the bride-to-be hovers out of sight in the kitchen sussing out her intended. After small talk the parents ask how the visitors would like their coffee… with or without sugar etc. If the young girl does not like the look of the intended she will put salt in the coffee she offers him. This gives a him private message so that  without loosing face he can tell his parents that he does not really fancy her.  Otherwise she will make all  the coffees as frothy as possible, and wonder how much golden jewellery the boys family will give her… ten thick bracelets and a gold chain?

Other uses for coffee grounds:

…..burn to frighten away wasps, mosquitoes, rodents, foxes.

… in refrigerator to mask odours.

… the grounds on a small wound, it heals faster.

… .place it on a hurting tooth, the ache stops immediately. 

…. place in flower pot, it acts as a fertiliser.

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