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A Recipe: The Perfect Cup of Turkish Coffee

Idiot-proof, step-by-step instructions written by (and for) someone who care barely boil water

I'm not much of a cook, so this may be the only recipe by me you'll see on this blog!

A hammered silver Turkish coffee service

Turkish coffee is a part of the Turkish cultural experience.  Similar to social coffee-drinking customs around the world, Turkish coffee is usually enjoyed while visiting with friends or after a pleasant meal.  It is a thick, rich, flavourful drink served in small cups with matching saucers, similar to (but smaller than) demitasse cups.

"Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love."

Turkish coffee - Assembling equipment and ingredients

Here's what you'll need to prepare the perfect cup of Turkish coffee:

ibrik or cezve, the small pot used for making Turkish coffee

The ibrik or cezve, a small pot used for making Turkish coffee

Turkish coffee is prepared in a small metal pot called a cezve (pronounced jez-VEH).  The pot has a wide base, a narrow neck and a pouring spout.

The size of the pot depends on the amount of coffee being prepared.  Experts suggest using a size that allows the water to reach the narrowest part of the neck. Too small a pot results in a foamy overflow, making you question whether someone added a squirt of dish detergent to the mixture. Too large a pot results in minimal foam production.  (If you're not sure about which pot to use, pick one that's a bit too big - much less clean-up!)

Perfect presentation is vital.  Even though each cup is filled to the top, it is considered bad form to serve a cup when coffee has spilled over the rim and/or onto the saucer. (HINT:  You didn't hear it from me, but no one can tell if you use a damp cloth to wipe up spills on the outside of the cup and/or saucer before serving. ;-))

If you're really committed to fine Turkish coffee, it may be wise to invest in a Turkish coffee mill so you can grind the beans fresh each day.  The fresher the grind, the better the taste.  Otherwise, you can ask your coffee house to grind the beans to a fine powder, or use a mortar and pestle to do it yourself at home.  Of, if you're in a Turkish shop, you can buy handy little packets of pre-ground, vacuum-packed Turkish coffee.

In other words, bottled water.  Use your Turkish coffee cup, filled to the brim, as a measuring cup.

½ teaspoon of crushed cardamom seed, OR ¼ teaspoon of ground cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves.  (The spices, one a time, add a deliciously exotic taste to the coffee.  The result is not quite as tasty when they are all added together.)

A small piece of Turkish Delight is often served on the saucer with each cup of Turkish coffee.

A small glass of water is usually served with Turkish coffee, allowing the drinker to cleanse his/her palate. (With a bit of practice, you can learn to discretely swish the water around your mouth to remove the coffee sludge that inevitably settles on your teeth.)

Once you've got everything assembled, here's what you need to do to make the perfect cup of coffee:

Turkish coffee - How to, Step-by-step

  1. Put water and sugar (if used) in the cezve / ibrik (or small saucepan) and bring to a boil.
  2. Remove from heat and add coffee and spices (if used).  You may stir the mixture at this point, but it is not necessary.  From this point onwards, NO STIRRING allowed as this collapses the foam.
  3. Return to LOW heat and allow the mixture to come to a boil.  The slower you heat the mixture, the better the coffee will taste.  Don't get distracted during this step or the brew will boil over and make a mess of your cooking surface!  (I'll write a series of articles on cleaning coffee grunge from gas stove tops and electric stove tops at a future date.)
  4. Remove from heat when the mixture starts to foam.
  5. Using a small metal spoon, transfer the foam into the Turkish coffee cup(s).
  6. Return the mixture to LOW heat and allow to foam again.
  7. Repeat steps 4 and 5.  (Real "foam-lovers" may even do this a third time!)
A small cup of Turkish coffee
  1. Once the foam has been transferred to the cup(s), slowly pour the remaining mixture into the cup, coffee grounds and all.  To preserve the froth already in the cup, pour the coffee mixture near the side of the cup, rather than in the middle.  Remember, good foam is crucial to a great cup of Turkish coffee!
  2. If you're preparing multiple servings, start by filling each cup only half way, and swirl the coffee sludge around periodically so each cup gets a similar mixture. Once each cup is partially filled, share the remaining mixture between them.  This will help you distribute the coffee grounds more evenly.
  3. Let the mixture settle for a minute or two before drinking.  It is customary to sip the coffee, stopping when you reach the mud-like grounds at the bottom of the cup.

Rumour has it that the coffee sediment left in the bottom of your cup can be read to predict your fortune.  But that story is best left for another article...

Afiyet olsun!

Are you a lover of Turkish coffee?  Why? (Or why not?) I'd love to hear your opinion. Feel free to send me an e-mail to connect. And, if you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it on social media!

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