How to Make Turkish Coffee ~ the perfect cup of coffee might not be from Starbucks after all ~ this sensuous Middle Eastern cardamom laced coffee is full-bodied, fragrant, and utterly delicious.
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.
Starbucks has 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, sugar, and cardamom. 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. Let the coffee settle in the pan for about a minute, then pour the rich coffee into two small cups.
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. It’s called Tasseography, and it’s done with tea leaves, too.
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
I actually found my Grandmother’s Sterling silver Lenox Turkish Coffee set ~ I never knew what it was for until now, what fun! I guess there’s more to serious coffee than Starbucks 🙂
How to Make Turkish Coffee
- 6 ounces filtered water
- 4 tsp very finely ground coffee
- pinch freshly ground cardamom
- 2 tsp sugar optional
- Pour the water into a small pot. Bring the water to a boil, then take off the heat and stir in the coffee, cardamom, and sugar, if using. Bring the coffee up to a boil again, take off the heat, and let settle.
- Pour into two small cups. Let the grounds settle, and then enjoy.
notes and variations
- Turkish coffee is not a type of coffee, you can use any variety you like. The key is to grind it extra finely.
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