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Turkish Coffee: A Slow-Brewed Break from the Daily Grind
Dark Turkish coffee complements many dishes. We’ll explain why the brew is so notoriously strong and how to enjoy its earthy complexity.
Amid the rumble of motorbikes and the loud haggling of street-market shoppers, Istanbul’s coffee shops offer an unlikely reprieve. Far from the in-and-out caffeine-refueling stations of the West, Turkish coffee shops prep their brews slowly, following more or less the same process practiced by Ottomans in the 16th century. What they end up with is a smoother, stronger version of the drink typically found in the West, often served in tiny mugs and meant to be savored.
The traditional Turkish coffee-brewing method, which spread almost overnight across a world used to simple tea, begins with finely ground beans. Although Turkish coffee doesn’t require a particular bean, a special hand mill or a mortar and pestle are preferable for producing a sufficiently fine grind. On a burner or over an open flame, water and sugar mix with the grounds in a pot known as a cezve. Sugar is used to cut the drink’s intense earthiness and strength, but traditionalists drink theirs black and scoff at sweetener. After several minutes of heating—during which the brewer must pay close attention to ensure the coffee doesn’t boil—up rises a veil of tawny foam similar to the crema on a shot of espresso. Many brewers then remove the pot from the heat and repeat the process two or three more times before pouring the drink into small cups. Although most devotees find the coffee itself a suitable prize for all that work, the beverage’s flavor may not be its only benefit. In fact, many natives believe that the shape the grounds make when turned over on a saucer reveal the drinker’s fortune.