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Turkish coffee

Turkish coffee culture and tradition *
A cup of Turkish coffee, served from a copper cezve, in Turkey.
Country Turkey
Reference 645
Region ** Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 2013
* Name as inscribed by UNESCO
** Region as classified by UNESCO

Turkish coffee (Turkish: Türk kahvesi) is a method of preparing unfiltered coffee.[1][2] Roasted and then finely ground coffee beans are boiled in a pot (cezve), usually with sugar, and served in a cup where the grounds are allowed to settle. At present, it is found in the Middle East, North Africa, the Caucasus, the Balkans, Bali, and Eastern Europe.

Turkish Coffee is an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Turkey confirmed by UNESCO.[3]


  • History 1
  • Name and variants 2
    • Arab world 2.1
    • Bosnia and Herzegovina 2.2
    • Czech Republic 2.3
    • Greece 2.4
  • Customs 3
    • Turkish weddings 3.1
  • Preparation 4
  • Fortune-telling 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7


The earliest evidence of coffee drinking comes from 15th-century Yemen.[4] By the late 15th century and early 16th century, coffee had spread to Cairo and Mecca.[5][6] In the 1640s, the Ottoman chronicler İbrahim Peçevi reported the opening of the first coffeehouse in Constantinople.

Name and variants

Turkish coffee served with chocolate sticks
Turkish coffee and pepper grinders.

The word 'coffee' comes from the Arabic word قهوة qahwah. The importance of coffee in Turkish culture is evident in the words 'breakfast', kahvaltı, whose literal meaning is "before coffee" (kahve 'coffee' + altı 'under/before') and 'brown', kahverengi, whose literal meaning is, "the color of coffee".

The word for "coffeeshop" in Modern Standard Arabic is مقهى (maqha, literally meaning "place of coffee", plural, مقاهي maqahi(n)), but the more common term in colloquial Arabic is simply قهوة (qahwa), meaning "coffee" in much the same way as many Romance languages use café for both.

Arab world

Turkish coffee served in Cairo, Egypt
Turkish coffee copper set containing a cup (fildjan), a coffee pot (cezve) and a sugar bowl as traditionally served in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Turkish coffee served in Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus

In the Arab world, "Turkish" coffee is the most common kind of coffee. It is called Arabic coffee (qahwa ‘arabiyya, قهوة عربية ). Constructions such as "Egyptian coffee," "Syrian coffee," "Lebanese coffee," and "Iraqi coffee" draw a distinction in the flavor, preparation, or presentation of different kinds of Turkish coffee. In Jordan many drive-through coffee shops call it boiled coffee (qahwa ghali, قهوة غلي ) as opposed to the other kind of coffee that is pre-boiled in a big container and continuously heated which is called poured coffee (qahwa sabb, قهوة صب ). It also referred to as Turkish coffee (qahwa turkiyeh, قهوة تركية ).

Bosnia and Herzegovina

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkish coffee is also called "Bosnian coffee" (Bosnian: bosanska kahva), which is made slightly differently from its Turkish counterpart. Another difference from the Turkish preparation is that when the water reaches its boiling point, a small amount is saved aside for later, usually in a coffee cup. Then, the coffee is added to the pot (džezva), and the remaining water in the cup is added to the pot. Everything is put back on the heat source to reach its boiling point again, which only takes a couple of seconds since the coffee is already very hot.[8] Coffee drinking in Bosnia is a traditional daily custom and plays an important role during social gatherings.

Czech Republic

Typical Czech Turkish coffee made of ground coffee beans poured with boiling water.

A beverage called "turecká káva" or "turek" is also very popular in the Czech Republic, even if more sophisticated forms of coffee preparation (such as espresso) have become widespread in the last few decades, decreasing the popularity of turek. Cafés usually do not serve turek any more, in contrast to pubs and kiosks, but turek is still often served in households. The Czech form of Turkish coffee is different from Turkish coffee in Turkey, the Arab world or Balkan countries, since cezve is not used. It is in fact the simplest possible method to make coffee: ground coffee is poured with boiling or almost boiling water. The weight of coffee and the volume of water depend only on the taste of the consumer. In recent years, genuine Turkish coffee made in a cezve (džezva in Czech) has also appeared, but Turkish coffee is still understood, in most cases, as described above.[9][10]


In Greece, Turkish coffee was formerly referred to simply as τούρκικος 'Turkish'. But political tensions with Turkey in the 1960s led to the political euphemism ελληνικός καφές 'Greek coffee',[11] which became even more popular after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974: "... Greek–Turkish relations at all levels became strained, τούρκικος καφές [Turkish coffee] became ελληνικός καφές [Greek coffee] by substitution of one Greek word for another while leaving the Arabic loan-word, for which there is no Greek equivalent, unchanged."[12] The recipe remained unchanged.


Turkish weddings

As well as an everyday beverage, Turkish coffee is also a part of the traditional Turkish wedding custom. As a prologue to marriage, the bridegroom's parents (in the lack of his father, his mother and an elderly member of his family) must visit the young girl's family to ask the hand of the bride-to-be and the blessings of her parents upon the upcoming marriage. During this meeting, the bride must prepare and serve Turkish coffee to the guests. For the groom's coffee, the bride-to-be sometimes uses salt instead of sugar to gauge his character. If the bridegroom drinks his coffee without any sign of displeasure, the bride-to-be assumes that the groom is good-tempered and patient. As the groom already comes as the demanding party to the girl's house, in fact it is the boy who is passing an exam and etiquette requires him to receive with all smiles this particular present from the girl, although in some parts of the country this may be considered as a lack of desire on the part of the girl for marriage with that candidate.[13]


The Turkish method of coffee preparation, shown in steps

Turkish coffee is a method of preparation, not a kind of coffee. Therefore, there is no special type of bean. Beans for Turkish coffee are ground or pounded to the finest possible powder; finer than for any other way of preparation. The grinding is done either by pounding in a mortar (the original method) or using a burr mill. Most domestic coffee mills are unable to grind finely enough; traditional Turkish hand grinders are an exception.

As with any other sort of coffee, the best Turkish coffee is made from freshly roasted beans ground just before brewing. Turkish-ground coffee can be bought and stored as any other type, although it loses flavour with time.

While there are variations in detail, preparation of Turkish coffee consists of immersing the coffee grounds in water or milk which is usually hot, but not boiling, for long enough to dissolve the flavoursome compounds. While prolonged boiling of coffee gives it an unpleasant "cooked" or "burnt" taste, very brief boiling does not and shows without guesswork that it has reached the appropriate temperature.

The amount of cold water necessary can be measured in the number of demitasse cups desired (approximately 3 ounces or 90 ml) with between one and two heaped teaspoons of coffee being used per cup. The coffee and sugar are usually added to the water rather than being put into the pot first.

In Turkey, four degrees of sweetness are used. The Turkish terms and approximate amounts are as follows:

  • sade (plain; no sugar)
  • az şekerli (little sugar; half a level teaspoon of sugar)
  • orta şekerli (medium sugar; one level teaspoon)
  • çok şekerli (a lot of sugar; one and a half or two level teaspoons).

In the Arab World "sāda" (سادة plain; no sugar, meaning "black" in Arabic) or "murra" (مرة bitter; no sugar) is common.

The coffee and the desired amount of sugar are stirred until all coffee sinks and the sugar is dissolved. Following this, the spoon is removed and the pot is put on moderate heat; if too high, the coffee comes to the boil too quickly, without time to extract the flavour. No stirring is done beyond this point, as it would dissolve the foam.

Just as the coffee comes to the boil, the pot is removed from the heat. It is usually kept off the heat for a short time, then brought to boil a second and a third time, then the coffee is poured into the cups.

Getting the thickest possible layer of foam is considered the peak of the coffee maker's art. One way to maximise this is to pour slowly and try to lift the pot higher and higher as the pouring continues. Regardless of these techniques, getting the same amount of foam into all cups is hard to achieve, and the cup with the most foam is considered the best of the lot.

Utensils to prepare Turkish coffee (handmade from Crete)

A well-prepared Turkish coffee has a thick foam at the top (köpük in Turkish), is homogeneous, and does not contain noticeable particles in the foam or the liquid. It is possible to wait an additional twenty seconds past boiling to extract a little more flavour, but the foam is completely lost. To overcome this, foam can be removed and put into cups earlier and the rest can be left to boil. In this case special attention must be paid to transfer only the foam and not the suspended particles.

There are other schools of preparing Turkish coffee that vary from the above. Lebanese coffee starts with hot water alone, to which sugar is added and dissolved. The product is in essence a sugar syrup with a higher boiling point than water. The coffee, and cardamom if wanted, are added, and the mixture is stirred. It is then brought to a boil two or three times; the double (or triple) boiling is an essential part of the process, both ceremonially and—as connoisseurs claim—for the palate. It has the effect of subjecting the coffee grounds to hot (but not boiling) water for longer, extracting more flavour without imparting the "cooked" taste of over-boiled coffee.

In the Balkans, dominant practice is to fill the džezva with only cold water, and heat it until it boils. As the water boils coffee is added, stirred, and removed from the fire before the foam boils over. After the foam settles the pot is placed back onto the heat source so the water would boil again, releasing more caffeine and flavour. Sometimes the last step is skipped, to preserve the foam. This type of preparation is known as Bosnian coffee or Serbian coffee.

The Armenian mode of preparation is distinct in that all of the ingredients — water, the coffee grounds, and sugar (if desired) — are all combined in the pot before being heated. After the initial mixing the coffee is then heated but not stirred again until the coffee has finished brewing. The preparation process does not usually include boiling. The coffee is usually only allowed to rise once or twice, but never thrice as is typical in the Lebanese mode of preparation.

In Bulgaria, the best practice of making a Turkish Coffee is boiling, or rather heating the water to just before a boil, adding the coffee grounds and waiting for the first rise. Once the foam rises, just before its peak, it is removed from the heat and poured on top of the sugar in the cups. The coffee is never to be stirred in the pot (or in the cups) and never allowed to rise over. The coffee is sipped and once finished, the cup is always turned over in its saucer until the grounds slowly pour out. These grounds are always glanced over for quick fortune read or a more elaborate one depending on circumstance and ability to read the images. The grounds pattern in the saucer is also taken in consideration.


The grounds left after drinking Turkish coffee can be used for fortune-telling.[14] The cup is commonly turned over into the saucer to cool, and then the patterns of the coffee grounds can be used for a method of fortune telling known as tasseography (Turkish: kahve falı, Greek: καφεμαντεία, kafemanteia, German: Kaffesatzlesen), or tasseomancy.

See also


  1. ^ "Getting Your Buzz with Turkish Coffee". Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  2. ^ Brad Cohen. "BBC - Travel - The complicated culture of Bosnian coffee". Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  3. ^ UNESCO - Intangible Heritage Section. "UNESCO Culture Sector - Intangible Heritage - 2003 Convention :". Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  4. ^ Bonnie K. Bealer, Bennett Alan Weinberg, The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug, Routledge 2001. ISBN 0-415-92722-6, p. 3
  5. ^ Bealer and Weinberg, p.11
  6. ^ Alain Huetz de Lemps, "Colonial Beverages and the Consumption of Sugar" in Massimo Montanari, Jean Louis Flandrin, ed. Food: A Culinary History, p. 387
  7. ^ Quoted in Cemal Kafadar, "A History of Coffee", Economic History Congress XIII (Buenos Aires, 2002) full text
  8. ^ Cohen, Brad (2014-07-16). "The complicated culture of Bosnian coffee". BBC - Travel: Food & Drink. Retrieved 2014-07-24. 
  9. ^ LAZAROVÁ Daniela, Czech baristas compete in the art of coffee-making, Radio Prague, May 12, 2011.
  10. ^ Piccolo neexistuje, Turek.
  11. ^ George Mikes, Eureka!: Rummaging in Greece, 1965, p. 29: "Their chauvinism may sometimes take you a little aback. Now that they are quarrelling with the Turks over Cyprus, Turkish coffee has been renamed Greek coffee;..."
  12. ^ Robert Browning, Medieval and Modern Greek, 1983. ISBN 0-521-29978-0. p. 16
  13. ^
  14. ^ Nissenbaum, Dion (20 July 2007). "Coffee grounds brewed trouble for Israeli fortuneteller". McClatchyDC. Retrieved 27 November 2014. 
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