The History of Turkish Coffee

We bet most of you already heard the line, “Turkish coffee is not just a drink, it’s an experience.” Turkish coffee is one of the most ancient traditions in Turkey, which is why it is said that this country might just be the first to incorporate coffee into their culture. During the Ottoman Empire, the occurrence of Turkish coffee houses began. Not only that, but traveling caravans of artisans and tradesmen from Istanbul to Mecca are also the ones who are responsible for popularizing Turkish coffee. But for us to be able to fully understand this unfiltered, delicious, and dark coffee, we must dive deeper into its history and role in the Turkish culture.

Origins of Turkish Coffee

Turkish coffee was introduced to Turkey around 1540, and according to history books, it was first introduced by Ozdemir Pasha, the Turkish Governor of Yemen. Pasha discovered a new beverage, which is coffee, and he immediately brought it to the attention of the Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. The Sultan was impressed; that’s why his staff decided to try a new method for preparing coffee. They used mortars to finely ground coffee then they brewed it while using a unique Turkish coffee pot they called the Ibrik. Coffee later became an instant hit in the palace, and it eventually became an essential part of the Turkish culture and history. At first, only the rich and powerful families were able to drink Turkish coffee. But after several years, it was consumed by the masses and eventually the whole Ottoman Empire. Turkish coffee was soon being prepared by coffee professionals. They called the KahveciUsta.

The first coffeehouses in Turkey during the Ottoman Empire was most likely established between 1554-1555. These coffeehouses were located centrally, and they are mostly close to business and trading exchanges, which is why they invited visitors from different social classes. The various market exposure paved the way for all future coffeehouses. Turkish coffeehouses became a place to read, socialize, and support arts. However, it also became a place where political discourse happens, and it was believed that these coffeehouses served as a meeting place where people discussed ways to take down the Sultan. That is why in 1656, the Ottoman Grand Vizier Koprulu eventually issued laws regarding shutting down the coffee houses. This law shocked everyone who frequently visits these coffeehouses. The law went as far as beating and drowning the people who break the rules. But when Sultan Murad IV died in 1640, the prohibition was lifted. And as time passed, coffeehouses began to reflect changing values and growth in the society.

Weddings and Turkish Coffee

An exciting tradition that involves Turkish coffee is the marriage proposal, and in fact, several variations of this exist. The first variation is when a bride traditionally prepares coffee for her potential groom and his parents. It is said that if the coffee that she made for her groom tastes bitter, it is a message that she is unhappy with her future partner.

Another version of this tradition is when the soon-to-be groom and his parents are introduced to the bride’s parents, the bride-to-be should prepare Turkish coffee. She should put sugar in everyone’s cup of coffee except for the groom, where she would put salt instead. The groom should be able to entirely consume the cup of coffee without making any noticeable aversion. If he succeeds, it will symbolize his manliness.

Turkish Coffee and Fortune Telling

Not only can Turkish coffee prove the manliness of your soon-to-be groom, but it can also tell fortunes and predict futures, too. In fact, there is even an academic term for this, and it is called tasseography. Experts say that for the Turkish coffee to tell you a fortune, you must first drink your coffee until its last drop. After that, you should swirl your cup and turn it upside down. Once you flip back your cup, the patterns that the coffee grounds form should create images where your fortune will come from.

However, there are specific rules that you should follow when it comes to telling your fortunes with Turkish coffee, and these are:

  • You should not interpret your own cup.
  • You should not give the same cup to a different reader to double-check its meaning. Keep in mind that these professionals really read and interpret your cup.

Reading the fortune from the Turkish coffee should always start from the cup handle.