In Turkey, drinking coffee is not just about getting your daily caffeine fix in the middle of a busy day rather it is a custom that has become interwoven with cultural, social and political history of the land and its people. “Turkish coffee” refers really to a method of brewing or preparing coffee by boiling finely roasted coffee beans in the cezve rather than a special blend or type of coffee bean. Ever since coffee was first introduced to the people of Turkey as early as 1555, when two Syrian traders brought it to Istanbul, Turkish love affair with pure and strong coffee began. In fact coffee or Kahve, as is it called in Turkish, has so deeply affected Turkish life that the Turkish term for breakfast kahvalti literally means “before coffee” and the Turkish term for brown is kahverengi means “colour of coffee.”
Turky Coffee Entwined: As the rich and aromatic beverage became a favourite of Turkish people from Sultans to common man on the streets, elaborate rituals associated with drinking coffee came into existence. Kahveciusta or royal coffee makers would prepare coffee just the way the Ottoman Sultans liked with help of more than 40 assistants. The coffee brewing abilities of young girls and women were greatly sought after prizes and prospective brides were selected based on their supposed skills in brewing the perfect pot of coffee, exactly right in flavour and aroma.
While wealthy families constructed special rooms in their homes to drink coffee and socialize in, common people and intellectuals congregated in public coffeehouses that first made their appearance in Istanbul. They sipped coffee and got involved in heated discussions on a wide variety of topics ranging from politics to art. At one point Ottoman Sultans fearing that coffee drinking actually fermented seditious thoughts and rebellion banned coffeehouses and prohibited drinking of coffee. Laws could not suppress the people’s love for this fragrant beverage which promptly became the new symbol of rebellion.
Popular Turkish proverb about coffee says it all – “One cup of coffee remains in memories for more than 40 years.” Sipping coffee and sharing Kipfel is the way to socialize, build bonds of friendship and argue about life in general. Whether one is found gulping down strong hot bitter coffee at one go or examining the coffee dregs to read daily fortune, coffee is one aspect of life in Turkey that harks back to a bygone era and time that people remember with nostalgia. Drinking Turkish coffee is not just about getting a kick of that powerful aroma, but rather a romance and nostalgia laden trip down memory lane, a walk back to a forgotten era when life was far more sedentary and people had more time to indulge in intellectual contemplations