Turkish coffee is a concentrated, rich, and somewhat bitter drink made of unfiltered coffee. It’s also one of the oldest methods of preparing coffee, dating back to 1555.
Unlike a traditional cup of joe, Turkish coffee is made with super-fine grounds brewed in water versus drip-style where water is poured over coffee beans and filtered. Because of this variation, Turkish Coffee is incredibly concentrated and perfect if you like your coffee or espresso strong. (Like we do.)
We went to Ciragan Palace Kempinski, a luxury hotel in Turkey which occupies a former Ottoman palace, to learn how to brew traditional Turkish Coffee. Burak, the Gazebo Lounge Barista, says while coffee was discovered during the 11th century in Ethiopia, its brewing history dates back to 1555.
Unlike a traditional cup of joe, Turkish coffee is made with super-fine grounds brewed in water versus drip-style where water is poured over coffee beans and filtered.
“The magical bean was introduced in Istanbul by the Ottoman Governor of Yemen during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. As opposed to boiling the leaves of the beans via the Ethiopian method, coffee beans were roasted over a fire, ground and cooked with water on charcoal fire ashes. This new coffee drink inspired the addition of Chief Coffee Makers, or kahvecibaşı, to the Sultan’s court of functionaries and the trendy beverage was soon available all through the city.”
From Istanbul, coffee then spread to Italy, through Venetian traders and then to the rest of Europe. In 2013, Turkish coffee became inscribed into UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List. “The drink is often seen as a symbol of hospitality and typically always served during important social gatherings,” Burak says.
All you need to re-create traditional Turkish Coffee is a spoon, Turkish Coffee cups, and a cezve — a wide-bottomed cup typically made of copper. Burak shares his trusted recipe below:
How to Make Turkish Coffee
- Cold, filtered water
- Ground Turkish coffee
- Sugar (optional) – to be added while cooking
- Use a coffee cup to measure drinking water and put it in the cezve.
- Add one teaspoon coffee per cup (6 g) and sugar if needed.
- Heat slowly, stirring well, until the coffee starts to foam.
- Gently pour a little of the foam into each cup.
- Bring the coffee to another boil, and gently fill each cup.
How to Serve Turkish Coffee
Serve hot with the natural foam that develops from boiling on top. Turkish Coffee is always served with a glass of water to prepare the palate to fully appreciate the richness of the coffee.
Turkish coffee is usually served with a piece of Turkish delight, a tradition developed during the Ottoman era. At Ciragan Palace Kempinski, there is a private Baklava room with more than 15 delicacies that pair perfectly with a cup of Turkish Coffee.
Tasseography, or Turkish Coffee fortune telling, is also a popular practice associated with the drink. “After finishing the coffee, there is a thick layer of grounds at the bottom and the shapes left by the coffee grounds represent the past and future of the drinker.” Burka instructs, “When one is finished drinking, close the cup with the saucer, swirl it, make a wish, and turn it over. Once the cup has cooled, the shapes it leaves on the side of the cup can be read, usually at a Falcı (fortune teller).”