Turkish Coffee – A Complete Guide 

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Turkish coffee is a window into the rich Turkish culture and history. It tastes unlike any coffee you have tried and is a unique and special experience.  

I can still remember my first experience of Turkish coffee. The coffee was brought out in a small silver-coated Turkish coffee cup, resembling turban helmets, with a slice of authentic Turkish delight on the side. It wasn’t just the taste that excited me but the whole experience. 

In this guide, we will walk you through everything you need to know about Turkish coffee. 

Turkish Coffee

What is Turkish Coffee?

It might surprise you to know that the term Turkish coffee refers not to the origin of the coffee beans (as in say Kenyan coffee or Ethiopian coffee) but rather the unique brewing method. Turkish coffee can be made with any origin of coffee beans so long as they are medium roasted. As such the question of what Turkish coffee is synonymous with the question of how to brew Turkish coffee. 

How To Make Turkish Coffee

Turkish coffee is always made in a unique-looking coffee brewer called a cezve or ibrik. It is traditionally made of copper or glass and looks like a pitcher or jug with an elongated handle. 

To make Turkish coffee, medium roast coffee is ground into an exceptionally fine powder. Cold filtered water is poured into the cezve, followed by the finely ground coffee beans. At this point, either sugar or spices may be added. 

The cezve is then placed over medium heat, traditionally headed sand. The brew is stirred and moved around in the hot sands to bring the brew to a simmer but not to burn the coffee. When the coffee is about to foam over the coffee is finished and poured into small glasses to be drunk. 

The coffee comes out with a layer of foam that is integral to correctly brewed Turkish coffee. 

The following video from the streets of Istanbul will show how to make Turkish coffee and give you the feel of what the authentic Turkish coffee experience is like.  

The Place Of Coffee In Turkish Culture

Turkish coffee is intertwined with the rich history and culture of Turkey. In fact, the Turkish word for breakfast, kahvalti’ literally means ‘before coffee’! This connection was formally recognized in 2013 when Turkish Coffee was placed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

Turkish coffee is usually drunk with friends for over an hour or so. It is not just about the flavor and texture but about community and conversations. 

Coffee has also played a key role in Turkish society since the 1500s. One of the most strange of these, to Westerners, is the role in proposing marriage. Historically potential brides would be trained carefully in how to correctly brew coffee and part of their assessment as wife material was the quality of the coffee they could brew. In fact, even today when a man asks the parents of his potential bride for her hand in marriage the to-be bride will brew and serve coffee. 

How to make Turkish coffee

Types Of Turkish Coffee 

While Turkish coffee refers broadly to the brewing method, there are still a range of different types of Turkish Coffee. These types refer primarily to the coffee beans and grind used and share the traditional brewing method. 

There are three main types of Turkish coffee worth being aware of:

  • Menengic – Menengic coffee is not technically coffee at all as it is made from the beans of the Pistacia terebinthus tree. As such it contains no caffeine at all and has a particularly fruity flavor than many enjoy. Menengic coffee is very seldom come across outside of Turkey itself and so is something of a local delicacy. 
  • Dibek – Dibek coffee, also known as stone ground coffee, is made with coffee ground with a stone pestle and mortar. The way it is ground is thought to change the flavor making it both more creamy and lighter. As such it is less bitter than other Turkish coffees and a bit less of an adjustment from milky coffees. Dibek also typically uses preheated water rather than cold water.  
  • Mirra – Mirra coffee literally means ‘bitter coffee.’ For Mirra coffee, the beans are twice roasted and ground a little more coarse thus giving it an intense and bitter taste. Because of the intense taste cardamom and other spices are often added to offset the bitterness. This is the most common coffee in the southeast of Turkey. 

How To Drink Turkish Coffee

Turkish coffee is traditionally served black in small espresso cups. Depending on the given cafe or coffee shop it is quite usual to also receive a glass of water to cleanse the palate and a piece of lokum (Turkish Delight) to add a sweet component. 

Turkish coffee is not made to be drunk quickly but instead to be savored and sipped with friends. 

In most cases, Turkish coffee can be ordered at different sweetness levels depending on how much bitterness you like in your coffee. Depending on the given cafe there will be either six or more likely four sweetness levels:

  • sade (plain), 
  • az şekerli (slightly sweet), 
  • orta şekerli (medium sweet) 
  • şekerli (sweet)

Because Turkish coffee doesn’t use a filter of any kind it is very normal that coffee grounds make it into the cup and accumulate on the bottom. Somewhat similar to French Press, when drinking Turkish coffee you don’t drink to the last sip or you will regret it. 

However, the leftover coffee grit does have a rather unique use. In traditional Turkish culture following consumption, the guest turns his coffee cup upside down on the saucer, and the hostess performs a fortune telling based on the shape of the coffee grounds. In fact even today in Turkey this is a common practice and many a Falci (Fortune Teller) can be found to predict your future based on your coffee of all things! 

What is Turkish coffee

History Of Turkish Coffee

The Turkish Coffee pot has a rich history in the life of this ancient nation. Turkish coffee was most likely brought into Istanbul in 1555 by Syrian traders. From there it developed a life of its own and was particularly associated with the intellectual life and exchange of ideas. In fact, it was even known as the ‘milk of chess players and thinkers.’

It was further enshrined in the cultural consciousness through its place in the sultan’s court under the Ottoman Empire. Turkish coffee was served in elaborate ceremonies to the Sultan and his court. To be a barista in those days was both a grand privilege and a weighty calling. I imagine a bad coffee would earn a little more than a bad Google review from the Sultan! 

As such Coffee continues to be associated in Turkish consciousness with their rich history, the exchange of ideas, and the societal structure of authority. 

How it Turkish coffee Made

Turkish Coffee: The Takeaway

Turkish Coffee and the iconic Turkish coffee pot are a unique and sadly overlooked brewing method in today’s world. This brewing method is an experience in and of itself and the coffee it produces, if brewed right, is simply delicious. 

Simply put, if you ever get the chance to try authentic Turkish Coffee, take it with open arms. It is a culturally rich experience with delicious coffee that you cannot but enjoy.