Maybe you’ve spotted it on the menu. Maybe you’ve heard it discussed by others. Maybe you ordered it once, expecting a regular cup of coffee, only to instead receive a tiny cup of something that was… a bit different. Either way, so-called Turkish coffee (also often referred to as Arabic coffee) is a big deal, offered in numerous locations around the world, and there are many people who believe that it’s the only proper method for drinking a cup of joe.
But those who are new to the Turkish coffee world might be wondering: is this a new thing, or is this the way coffee used to be made? Above all else, why are all the grounds still in your cup? Well, you’ve got questions, and we’ve got answers.
What is Turkish Coffee, exactly?
Turkish coffee is a style of coffee prepared using a special pot called a cezve, traditionally made out of copper, though there are many varieties. To prepare Turkish coffee—which must be ground to an extremely fine texture, though it can be found pre-ground in any Middle Eastern supermarket—one fills the cezve with cold water, adds a heaping tablespoon of coffee, adds sugar, and then heats the cezve, usually on a stove. The mixture is then boiled on medium heat, for about four minutes, building up the distinctive dark foam that Turkish coffee is known for.
That’s right: the coffee and the water are made together. As they say on Instagram, #NoFilter. The coffee is then poured into small cups and sipped on.
What’s the history?
As you’ve probably assumed, Turkish coffee is not a new thing. In fact, it actually predates the less silty coffee we drink today, so one could almost argue that Turkish coffee is the real coffee—if you’re a fan of it, anyhow.
As NPR explains, this style of coffee preparation is believed to have originated in Yemen. By the 16th century, an Ottoman governor became so thrilled about it that he brought the miracle beverage to Sultan Suleiman, and coffee became a huge hit in ancient Istanbul, Turkey. Hence, “Turkish” coffee. Surprisingly, the following centuries actually led to a lot of violence and controversy regarding the beverage, but that’s a whole other story. Either way, the point is that without Turkish coffee, we wouldn’t have the “regular” filtered coffee we drink today.
Turkey isn’t the only place that does “Turkish” coffee
The name “Turkish coffee” is something a misnomer, though it’s a popular one. The problem is that there are plenty of places around the world that drink coffee in this way, and they don’t appreciate having their preparation style named after Turkey. For example, this method of coffee preparation is popular in both Greece and Serbia, and they certainly don’t call it Turkish coffee: they refer to it as Greek coffee or Serbian coffee, respectively.
Regardless, this mud-like coffee is more popular than its naysayers might believe, with much enthusiasm for it in Israel, Bosnia, and more. Additionally, there is also a popular tradition in many cultures where after a cup is drunk, the cup is overturned, and the remaining grounds can be used to tell someone’s fortune. So don’t judge: whether you like it or not, this style of coffee has quite a worthy history, and is still going strong today.