Tips

4 December 2020
A Tradition Worth 40 Years of Remembrance: Turkish Coffee

 

Turkish coffee, which is easily found in every corner in Turkey, was added into UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural World Heritage list in 2013. Having a special place in this culture for many years, Turkish coffee is a tradition that lived through history and will continue to live on.

There are many ways to produce or consume coffee. Each glass or cup of coffee tells another story. Cooked with a method different than traditional brewing techniques, Turkish coffee is a world-famous taste. Its origin is Yemen. In 1517, Yemen joined Ottoman territory. In 1543, the governor of Yemen at the time brought coffee to the Ottoman palace. The coffee was loved and frequently consumed.

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Coffee became popular among the public shortly thereafter; when the world’s first coffeeshop, Kivahan, was opened in Tahtakale, Istanbul. First, coffeeshops became the meeting point for all, causing coffee to be even more loved among the public. In time, new artisan coffeeshops, worker coffeeshops and Janissary coffeeshops opened all around. People socializing around a beverage form the “coffeeshop” culture we see in Turkey even today.

After a while, this coffee culture was reflected in every aspect and practice of the community. They started drinking “mırra” (bitter coffee with cardamon), to share the pain in a funeral home, to cry their hearts out. Then came the “semai” coffeeshops (a form of melody in Turkish music) for evening entertainments during Ramadan. Istanbul locals came together for a coffee, listened to “fasıl” (classical Turkish music) and watched meddah artists (public storytellers).

After entering almost every home, the coffee stormed through the palace. It is said that some Sultans drank about 10-15 cups of coffee a day. Every visitor the Sultan had was offered a coffee with Turkish delights or jams. The tradition of Turkish coffee fortune-telling also started in the palace, in the harem, to be more precise. Guests were offered coffee with various treats. Coffee then became famous in the ceremony of asking for a girl's hand in marriage. Coffee’s impact on Turkish culture is so deep that new words like “kahverengi” (brown - “the color of coffee”) and “kahvaltı” (breakfast - “before coffee”) are derived from the word “coffee” (“kahve”).

Even today, the first thing you are offered by your host during a visit is Turkish coffee. This tradition, which is integrated with special coffeepots and cups, changes over time but continues to be a tool of joy and socialization in homes and coffeeshops. In order to understand how deep-rooted this tradition is, let us remember the old saying about the valuable status of coffee and the value it represents for the guest and the host: “A cup of coffee is worth remembering for 40 years.”