We live in the era of fake news, and in the world of coffee there’s certainly a lot of misinformation about Turkish coffee. But we’re here to set the record straight about the syrupy, sludgy cup of coffee.
Turkish Coffee is a Brew Method
Turkish coffee is a way of preparing coffee, not a coffee origin. The Republic of Turkey produces tea along its Black Sea coast, but the climate isn’t suitable for coffee. During the Ottoman Empire, Turks controlled Yemen and its coffee trade, holding a virtual monopoly on the coffee trade. But the Dutch managed to smuggle a few seeds out and coffee soon spread around the world. For the last hundred years or so most of Turkey’s coffee imports have come from Brazil.
To make a proper cup of Turkish coffee you need a copper coffee pot, or cezve, and a grinder that can grind very finely. Although a large espresso demitasse will do in a pinch, it helps to have a Turkish coffee cup, which are often designed to help the grounds stay at the bottom of the cup as you drink your coffee. An assortment of Turkish coffee gear, imported by Specialty Turkish Coffee, is available from our sponsor Prima Coffee.
Turkish Coffee Doesn’t Include Spices
Other than the possible addition of sugar, Turkish coffee is just coffee. It’s common in parts of the Middle East and Africa to brew coffee with different spices, such as cardamom, but most coffee aficionados in Turkey drink their coffee sade, or pure. (There is a delightful tradition involving brides-to-be serving their fiancées salty coffee as a practical joke— but don’t worry, that doesn’t happen in coffee shops.) If you want your Turkish coffee sweetened, be sure to order it orta (slightly sweet) or şekerli (very sweet), as the sugar can’t be added afterwards without stirring up the sludgy grounds at the bottom of the cup.
Turkish Coffee Isn’t Dark Roasted
Another common misconception is that Turkish coffee is very dark. Traditionally, Turkish coffee uses a light to medium roast. The classic Turkish coffee recipe calls to bring the coffee close to boiling (in some recipes up to three times!) As such, using a dark roasted coffee for Turkish coffee would taste extremely astringent and bitter. Although Türk kahvesi at a traditional coffee house is usually going to be a commodity grade Brazilian coffee, we’ve had delicious cups of Turkish coffee with specialty grade Ethiopian coffee. A high quality natural process in particular can make an exceptional cup.