Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Turkish Coffee

Coffee for Turks is not simply a drink, but has its own history, its institutions (coffeehouses), its rituals, its own rules of when and how to drink it, and even a tradition of fortune-telling by reading the coffee grinds deposited at the bottom of a traditional Turkish coffee cup… Most Turks would find it superfluous to call it Turkish coffee: coffee is Turkish coffee. So I thought I'd better give a try to give some idea of how it is made, and how it is used for fortune telling:)

According to an old Turkish proverb, "coffee should be as black as hell, as strong as death, and as sweet as love."

Turkish coffee is coffee prepared by boiling finely powdered roast coffee beans in a pot, possibly with sugar, and serving it into a cup, where the dregs settle. And it’s not the kind of coffee you grab on the way to work. Turkish coffee is drunk slowly and is usually served with a glass of cold water (to freshen the mouth to better taste the coffee before sipping), though sometimes, especially after dinner, with a small glass of mint liqueur. In the Mediterranean and southeastern Turkey, it is also traditionally served with Turkish Delight.

The necessary equipment to prepare Turkish coffee consists of a narrow-topped small boiling pot called an ibrik (basically a tiny ewer), or cezve, a teaspoon and a heating apparatus. The ingredients are finely ground coffee, sometimes cardamon, cold water and (if desired) sugar. It is served in cups (fincan) similar in size to Italian espresso or Japanese sake cups.

A Turkish coffee pot is designed specifically to make Turkish coffee. The long handle is particularly useful to avoid burning hands, and the brim is designed to serve the coffee. The most important element in choosing the coffee pot is its size. You should neither use a too big nor a too small pot. Depending upon how many servings you need, you need to choose the appropriate size. Many Turkish households do have a variety of sizes for different occasions.

Traditionally, the pot is made of copper and has a wooden handle. But today stainless steel ones are used. The size of the pot is chosen to be close to the total volume of the cups to be prepared, since using too large a pot causes most of the precious foam to stick to the inside of it. Also, a certain depth of water is necessary in order for the coffee particles to sink. The teaspoon is used both for stirring and measuring the amount of coffee and sugar.

For heating, an ordinary stove burner is sufficient, but an overly strong heat source is undesirable, as the brewing time needs to be at least five minutes. Traditionally, the pot was placed in the hot sands of the Mediterranean for cooking. When the sand is hot, the coffee pot is placed in the sand. This allows for a more even and gentle heat transfer.

The best Turkish coffee is made from freshly roasted beans ground just before brewing. Beans for Turkish coffee are ground even finer than the grind used in pump-driven espresso makers; therefore, Turkish coffee should be powdery. It is the finest grind of coffee used in any style of coffee making.

For best results, the water must be cold. A well-prepared Turkish coffee has a thick foam at the top (köpük in Turkish), This can be achieved only if cold water and a low heat are used. Starting with warm water or a strong heat does not leave enough time for either the coffee to sink or the foam to form.

The first step in making delicious Turkish coffee is to make the right coffee bean choice. Turkish coffee is made by using beans of Coffee Arabica from a variety of coffee producing countries. Coffee beans are judged based on characteristics such flavor, aftertaste, aroma, taste balance and degree of sweetness. You should try different beans of Coffee Arabica from different countries and choose the one you like best. Ignore any consideration of taste with milk, as adding milk to Turkish coffee, under any circumstance, is a no-no.

Ingredients: (per person)
1 cup water (measured by the actual coffee cup being used)
1 teaspoon of extra finely ground coffee
Sugar (optional) and the amount varies according to how you like your coffee. In Turkey, four degrees of sweetness are used. The Turkish terms and approximate amounts are as follows: sade (plain; no sugar), az şekerli (little sugar; half a levelled teaspoon of sugar), orta şekerli (medium sugar; one levelled teaspoon), and çok şekerli (a lot of sugar; one and a half or two levelled teaspoons).

Directions:
The coffee and the sugar are usually added to water, rather than being put into the pot first.

The coffee and the desired amount of sugar are stirred until all coffee sinks and the sugar is dissolved. Following this, the spoon is removed and the pot is put on the fire. No stirring is done beyond this point, as it would dissolve the foam. Just as the coffee begins boiling, the pot is removed from the fire and the coffee is poured into the cups. Pour some (not all) of the coffee equally between the cups, filling each cup about a quarter to a third of the way. This will make sure that everybody gets a fair share of the foam forming on top of the pot, without which coffee loses much of its taste. Continue heating until coffee boils again (which will be very short now that it has already boiled). Then distribute the rest of the coffee between the cups. You can also allow the brew to boil, remove the pot from the heat source just prior to boiling over, allow it to settle, and then repeat the process two or three times. This results in even stronger and more concentrated coffee.

All the coffee in the pot is poured into cups, but not all of it is drunk. The thick layer of sludgy grounds at the bottom of the cup is left behind. After drinking the coffee, the cup is covered with the upside-down saucer and swirled three times in a clock-wise direction. Then it is allowed a few minutes for the coffee to settle and to cool, and then the patterns of the coffee grounds can be used for a kind of fortune telling called tasseography (Turkish: kahve falı), or tasseomancy. The drinker of the coffee cannot read his or her own cup.


Tasseography:
Many interpretations for symbols exist, but one common thread is the color of the symbols. Since most cups used are white or ivory and the grinds are dark, good contrast exists for the symbols. White is considered as a "good" symbol foretelling of generally positive things for the drinker, while the grinds are considered to form "bad" symbols.

Symbols can be many things including people, animals, and inanimate objects. Usually, the fortune teller will group nearby symbols together for a prediction.
Before proceeding with the reading there are a few simple rules to remember.

Positions of symbols seen in the cup:
The handle represents you (the 'querant').

Symbols positioned near the handle means something is about to happen near your home.

Symbols pointing to the handle - from the left or right - means something is approaching you (a letter, visitor etc).

Symbols pointing away from the handle - from left or right - means departure (someone or something will leave).

Symbols in a vertical, top to bottom or visa versa, position indicates a time span. Those near the top (the rim) are the future; mid-way represents the present; and bottom the past. But the actual circular very bottom is unlucky. Traditionally the querant is asked to crush the bottom symbol seen after it has been interpreted.

Symbols should never be interpreted in isolation. The overall picture combining all the symbols in relation to each other, with due consideration to the size, clarity and position of each symbol in the cup will give a much more rewarding reading.

Should you find it difficult to see anything in your coffee cup in the beginning don't worry. The images will not be like a photograph; in fact they may appear incomplete, blurry and downright unintelligible. Relax! Let your mind and imagination scan the cup once or twice, turn the cup, tip it toward you or away looking at the coffee grains as you do so. Soon you will make out one image then another and before you know it they'll be leaping out at you in their dozens:)

Here are some Symbols and their meanings:

Angel: Good news and happiness approaching.
Ant: Determination in an activity will bear fruit.
Baby or Cot: Minor worries will occupy you.
Ball: Someone known to you involved with sport or short periods of luck and misfortune.
Beans: Financial difficulties.
Bear: Facing handle - Think carefully about new decisions. Looking away from handle - You will go on an important journey.
Bee: You will make new friends and hear good news. Near handle - old Friends gathering. Going away from the handle - Old friends are seeking you. Swarm of bees - You will make an impact in a large gathering.
Beetle: A difficult task will test your mettle.
Bell: Surprising news. Near top of cup - Career advancement. Near bottom of cup - Upset, disappointment. Two bells - Heartfelt joy.
Candle: Another person will help you succeed. Knowledge and learning.
Cat: A quarrel will disrupt your life but only for a short time.
Chain: A legal union, a marriage or business partnership.
Chair: An unforeseen guest.
Circle: Success coming around. Circle with a dot near - A new addition to the family (baby). Circle with lines nearby - Your efforts are being hindered.
Claw: Enemy.
Devil or horns: Beware of influential people around you. Danger approaches.
Dog: Good, reliable friends. Faithful partner. Near bottom of cup - Friends needing help.
Eagle: Great improvements in your life.
Ear: Surprising news will reach you.
Egg: Wealth and success.
Eye: Envy, jealousy.
Face: Concern for you by a loved one.
Fish: Life will become richer, happier and more attractive to you.
Flag: Danger-in-wait.
Fruit: Prosperity in your endeavors.
Gate: Opportunities for success.
Hand: Friendship and family.
Heart: Love, faith and trust.
Horse: Strength, independence.
Key: Doors opening for you.
Knife: Enemies plotting. Danger ahead.
Letter: Good financial news coming.
Lines: Straight - Trouble free progress. Wavy - difficult progress - Slanting means failure.
Man: Near handle and distinct - visitor with dark hair. Blurred image - A fair haired visitor. Arm outstretched - he brings a gift.
Moon: Full - Love. Crescent - religious calling.
Owl: Disreputable person. Scandal.
Pear: Financial security.
Ring: Marriage. Broken ring - marriage in trouble.
Scissors: Arguments in the home.
Spider: Unexpected money on its way.
Sun: Power. Success.
Sword: Enemies will fall.
Tree: Changes for the better on their way.
Triangle: A change coming. Pointing up - change is good. Pointing down - bad.
Wheel: Fortunes will change.

2 comments:

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

I love Turkish coffee! I have an ibrik and I was just looking at it this morning thinking to myself I should have some this afternoon after lunch! Reading this post confirms that I MUST! Normally I have espresso made with my bialetti, but today I felt I wanted something different for my afternoon pick me up. I don't think I have ever had mint liquer but it sounds great! Thanks for sharing the symbols for fortune telling.

Diana Caspi said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Let me know if the fortune telling works:)

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