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How to Make and Serve Turkish Coffee

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When people hear I grew up in Turkey, they often ask about Turkish coffee. It's either because they love it and want to learn how to make it or are concerned that enjoying a thick, espresso-like drink will make it difficult to sleep if they mistakenly take a sip before bedtime.

Either way, it's always a fun conversation starter.

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Photo by Aysegul Sanford

Turkey is known as the heart of the world where ancient traditions of diverse people blend with the modern, and learning to correctly prepare coffee in the Turkish style will bring a bit of this classic custom into your own home.

But before I tell you about how to make Turkish coffee, I think it's important to start by explaining the tradition behind it: In my opinion, learning to make Turkish coffee starts from understanding its terminology and customs.

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In Turkey, when you are visiting someone's home, the first question isn’t if you want to drink Turkish coffee, but rather how you would like it be prepared. More specifically, your host is asking for your sweetness preference. To answer the question, you may say “sade” to indicate no sugar, “az seker” for very little sugar, “orta” for 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar, or “sekerli” for 3 to 4 teaspoons of sugar. Once your request is made, the person preparing the coffee has the responsibility to remember and make each cup accordingly.

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Turkish coffee is always served with water: A sip of water will allow the person to clear his or her palate before drinking coffee, making for the best enjoyment. Additionally, most people serve the coffee with a small, sweet treat like Turkish delights, chocolate, or candy.

When serving coffee, it's important to start with the eldest guest in the room as a sign of respect, and it's considered discourteous not to do so. Last but not least, since Turkish coffee is much denser than filtered coffee, it's not customary to drink more than one cup.

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Turkish Coffee

90310a42 c359 4207 83df 71f62f648224  aysegul sanford Aysegul Sanford

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Makes 2 turkish coffee cups
  • 3 cups (Turkish coffee cup-sized cups) of cold filtered water
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground Turkish coffee
  • Sugar, as desired

To make Turkish coffee, you'll need filtered water, a cezve (a special wide-bottomed pot, usually made of copper), Turkish coffee cups (which are usually small in size and sold together with the cezve), sugar, and Turkish coffee.

Turkish coffee is much more finely ground than regular coffee. Even though you can grind it yourself from beans, nowadays you can find ground Turkish coffee in most Middle Eastern or Mediterranean supermarkets.

Photo by Aysegul Sanford

Always use cold, filtered water. To measure the amount of water for each cup, use the coffee cup you are going to serve it in as the measuring vessel. My rule of thumb is to use a volume of water 1 1/2 times the volume of the coffee cup. (Once again, the “cup” measurement refers to the coffee cup that you are going to serve the coffee in, rather than a standard measuring cup.)

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For each person you're serving, use 1 heaping tablespoon of ground coffee (as long as you're using Turkish coffee cups 1 heaping tablespoon Turkish coffee should be fine).

If you're preparing the coffee with sugar, add it in at the very beginning, stirring it into the ground coffee and the water until combined. If one or more of the guests prefers no sugar, however, prepare and pour that cup first. After returning the coffee pot to the heat, then begin the sugar additions to suit the remaining guests.

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Slowly bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. This will take 3 to 4 minutes, so keep a close eye on it.

As the coffee warms, dark foam will build. It is customary and important to serve Turkish coffee with foam on top. When the mixture is close to a boil, use a teaspoon to transfer some of the foam into each Turkish coffee cup. Return the coffee pot to the stovetop. As coffee comes to a boil, pour half of the coffee into the cups, over the foam.

Return the coffee pot to the stovetop and boil the remaining coffee for an additional 10 to 15 seconds, then divide it into the cups to fill them to the rims.

Photo by Aysegul Sanford

Serve the coffee with a glass of water and a Turkish delight, chocolate, or candy.

What are your coffee traditions? Tell us about them in the comments!

Tags: turkish coffee