There are only two necessities to my day when it comes to food: coffee in the morning, and wine at night. Everything else is negotiable, I consider myself pretty flexible about what I eat, but for some reason it’s the liquid portion of my diet that has me in a vice grip. The older I get, the stronger this need becomes, and the stronger I
need like my coffee!
My youngest daughter is spending her summer in the Middle East on a fellowship from college. I haven’t mentioned it before because, to be honest, it’s had me on edge having her so far away and in such an unstable part of the world. She is young, inexperienced, and alone, as her fellowship allowed her to experience the culture outside the confines of a formal program, like a University. So she has rented an apartment, is eating street food, mingling with the locals, and having a generally life-altering experience. I, on the other hand, am having a wee bit of trouble sleeping at night knowing that, with the 10 hour time difference, she is just starting her day on the other side of the globe as my head hits the pillow. It’s no wonder my nightly wine and my morning coffee are so important to me these days. She’s due back a week from Wednesday.
One of the many wonderful things she’s discovered this summer is Turkish coffee. Did you know that coffee is an Arabic invention? It dates all the way back to the 13th century when the beans were discovered in Ethiopia. Turkish coffee is a method, not a type of bean. It is basically very very finely ground coffee, stirred right into the water, boiled briefly, and then served in very small cups, only 2-3 oz at a time. Sometimes it’s spiced with cardamom, which is the way I like it. In the Middle East it’s considered impolite to decline an offer of coffee, so my non-coffee drinking daughter quickly took to it.
You don’t have to have any special equipment, you can use a small saucepan, but I found this inexpensive Turkish Ibrik, or long handled copper pot, at Cost Plus World Market. You can buy them lots of places online, too. Any strong coffee bean will work, but it has to be very finely ground. The coffee grinder at Cost Plus actually had a Turkish Coffee setting, which is even finer than Espresso, or, as the card that came with my Ibrik says, ‘fine as dust’. This is important because the very fine grind allows the coffee to partially dissolve in the water, making a very potent taste. So grind your beans on the finest setting possible. Many but not all Starbucks have grinders equipped with a Turkish setting, so they can grind it for you. If you get excited by this kind of coffee you can buy beautiful brass Turkish coffee grinders, which cost about $50-$100.
I’m sharing a very basic version of the coffee, there are many variations and subtleties, but this is a good way to get introduced to the unique experience of this drink. The technique goes like this—for 2 (3 ounce) cups of coffee take 6 ounces of water and put it in the pot. Bring the water up to a boil, then take it off the heat and stir in the coffee, about 4 teaspoons. Put the pot back on the heat and let it boil again. When foam rises up in the pan, take it off the heat and let the foam settle. Do this two more times, and then stir in the cardamom, maybe about 1/4 teaspoon. Let the coffee settle in the pan for about a minute, then pour the rich coffee into two small cups, leaving most of the dissolved grounds behind. Here is a good step by step guide to the process, if you want one.
Arabic coffee is a very luxurious experience, it’s fragrant and rich. It is distinguished by a fine sludge left in the cup after drinking. The popular custom, which goes back to ancient times, is to have your fortune told by the patterns left behind in your cup.
I’m pretty sure mines says that my daughter will get home safe and sound next week, a profoundly changed and broader person. I think it also says that I’ll soon be sleeping a whole lot better.
Do you think you’ll try this? If you already drink it, I’d love to hear your tips and techniques!
Have a great Monday!