Coffee Around the World: How Turkish People Drink Coffee

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Quinn Dombrowski)

There’s a Turkish proverb that coffee lovers adore to quote, especially if you’re the type that likes to take your coffee black: “Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death and sweet as love.”

If you’ve ever had coffee prepared the Turkish way, you understand why that proverb came to be.

How Turkish Coffee Is Made

To make Turkish coffee, ground beans are boiled in a cezve, a small brass pot also known as an ibrik, usually with sugar. Ordering in Turkey, you have to specify how much sugar you want, since you can get it with no sugar (sade), with a little sugar (az şekerli), semi-sweet (orta şekerli) or sweet (şekerli).

How Turkish Coffee Is Served

Turkish coffee is served in small cups, similar to an espresso size, but it’s not meant to be consumed quickly like an espresso. Sip a little, talk a little and repeat. Turkish coffee is meant to be a social affair.

Because of the special preparation and brewing technique, Turkish coffee culture and tradition actually have UNESCO World Heritage status, so it’s no surprise that even those of us who haven’t traveled to Turkey have probably heard reference to it, or even tried it. In fact, as another Turkish proverb goes, “The memory of a good cup of Turkish coffee lasts 40 years.”

(Image credit: Quinn Dombrowski)

Most of us when we refer to the thick, black drink, we use the term “Turkish coffee,” but that can change depending on where you are in the world. As Joanna Kakissis writes for NPR, “ordering Turkish coffee today doesn’t go over well in some Balkan or eastern Mediterranean countries that were once part of the Ottoman Empire — even if their preparation of the coffee is remarkably similar.”

Turkish Coffee Culture

But Turkish coffee isn’t just about drinking it. Fortune telling is also a key component of Turkish coffee culture, reading the signs and symbols in coffee grounds after the coffee has been consumed. Because the coffee is made by boiling grounds, this allows them to settle in the cup during drinking, and once they are finished, whoever has been drinking the coffee places the saucer over the cup, shakes the cup a bit, and then turns it upside down, leaving the coffee grounds to be read. There are a variety of signs, and like with any fortune telling custom, you may get different predictions from different fortune tellers.

Making Turkish Coffee at Home

Want to make Turkish coffee at home? You’ll need the long-handled cezve pot, small coffee cups and very finely ground coffee. Then it’s a matter of boiling the coffee with water, and when the concoction foams up, removing it from the heat and allowing the foam to settle. The process is repeated several times.

→ If you’re looking to make some yourself, Coffee Geek has a guide with images to help you out.