how to make turkish coffee

so. you invite someone round for a coffee. it’s tuesday (or wednesday, or thursday but probably not the weekend). the invite is a brief telephone conversation, the kind where you don’t need to say ‘bye’. this happens at least twice a week.

the lunch has been eaten, the dishes washed, the two newspapers read. an argument has probably been had across the dining room about who does the washing up and who gets to snooze on the sofa.

the visitors will walk in the long shadows of a sunny afternoon, past the icecream sellers, school children finishing the afternoon shift, and families going for a walk: just up and down, up and down – not going anywhere, not doing anything, just walking the main street, saying hello to friends, maybe having an icecream, or popcorn, or anything else that is being sold on the streets depending on the season – sunflower and pumpkin seeds still in their husks in paper cones of various sizes; sweetcorn boiled or grilled over hot coals sprinkled with salt, still covered in silky threads; chestnuts in the winter from circular metal stoves covered in rust, in big paper bags that burn your hands through gloves.

or, it will be winter and already dark, and they would have to slip and slide down the steep ungritted streets, on dirty grey snow with the city smelling of mountain fog and exhaust fumes from cheap cars. they would probably be holding onto each other, walking gingerly across icy pavements, taking particular care by the park on the polished stone slabs that someone put in as if this was dubrovnik.

you’ll buzz them in the front door without asking who it is and they’ll come in, in a cloud of a bustle of coats and shoes being taken off, special guest slippers being provided, shaking hands and greetings exchanged, all at the same time.

they’ll sit down in the lounge, the sun coming in through the open windows and billowing white curtains, the polished coffee table gleaming. someone would disappear into the kitchen to get the coffee from the pantry. almost always coffee beans, bought in small quantities already roasted (usually 200g or ‘two tens’ as everyone called it), kept in a blue melamine jar in the kitchen with a white plastic lid, or in a metal tin. water would be put on the stove in a small metal pot with a long handle, with a bit of sugar. this was the time for the coffee grinder to come out.

the beans would go in its top half with a rattle, and the grinding would start. the grinder would usually position him or herself in the kitchen door so they could still talk to the guests, one eye on the boiling water, the other on the conversation. women would usually wedge it on their left hip and turn with the right hand; men would simply hold it with arms slightly raised.

it was harder work than it looked. children would try and then give up after a few turns, the grinder slipping from their hands now smelling faintly of metallic grease and coffee. it probably took good five minutes for the receptacle at the bottom of the grinder to be filled with enough coffee for one visit. which is about the same amount of time as it takes for the water to boil on an electric stove.
the contents of the bottom half of the grinder would be added to the water that’s been taken off the boil and then the pot would be returned to the heat until the now creamy liquid rose to the top. the trick was to catch it just before it overboiled. it would then sit on a small rectangular metal tray which had raised edges decorated with dimples the size of a pinkie indentation, filled with tiny dirt marks that could no longer be washed away. the tray would also contain small cups and saucers, sugar bowl and spoons.

there would be a wait of a few minutes for the finely ground beans to settle on the bottom, then the coffee pourer – usually the grinder - would distribute the creamy top layer between the cups with a spoon, and top it with hot coffee.

there would also be cakes – something left over from the weekend, perhaps, like an apple cake dusted with icing sugar, or small coconut macaroons, or teeth-rottingly sweet urmasice. sometimes, if the brandy came out, there’d also be slices of cheese and ham with bread. this was always subject to a ritual play of polite refusals and even more polite nudging and pleading, with both sides knowing that the cakes and the ham and the bread will eventually get eaten, after three rounds of guests saying no and hosts saying but you must.

for four

4 heaped teaspoons freshly gound coffee
1 level tablespoon sugar, or to taste
4 small cups of water

put the pot of water with sugar to boil. when it does, take it off the heat and stir the coffee in. return to the stove and let it rise to the top. don't overboil it - you're looking for just one 'turn' of the boiling water. take it off the heat and leave to stand before pouring. into very small cups, otherwise you will never sleep again.


  1. And for the advanced coffee lovers, here is another trick: Pour some boiled water into the cup before the stirring coffee in. This will provide some space for coffee to rise and not spill from the dzezva (the pot, as Danka name it in this blog).


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