How to Make (and Read) Turkish Coffee

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Unlike Americans, who view coffee more as a necessity than as a drink, Turks take a moment to linger over the dark stuff. Drinking a Turkish coffee is a process – you look for omens in the grounds and you definitely don’t order a cup to go. 

Turkish coffee can be made from any type of bean provided the preparation is correct. Fresh roasted beans should be ground as fine as possible with a powerful electric burr grinder. The powdery result is then boiled in some, but not too much, water in a thin wide-bottomed copper pot called an ibrik, which narrows toward the top to help the formation of a top layer of foam. During boiling, the brew is continuously stirred with a wooden spoon. True Turkish coffee should be closer to oil than water in consistency and extremely dark. Typically, at least a tablespoon of ground beans is needed to make a demitasse-size cup of the stuff. Serving it in small cups matters. This sort of coffee is for sipping during a conversation, not guzzling during a commute.

So important is the coffee-making process that well-to-do Turkish grooms-to-be visit their fiancées’ parents’ homes to observe their betrothed’s coffee-making skills. If the bride passes muster – patiently waiting for the boil, making sure the foam is thick and creamy – and the groom drinks without pulling a face, the union is considered auspicious. The only other way to make an educated guess about the couple’s shared future is by observing the grounds, which local fortune tellers read like tea leaves.

Here’s how you can try a bit of amateur divination at home:

1) After slowly polishing off your Turkish coffee, place the saucer over the top of the cup. Pick up the combo, make three clockwise circles at chest-level and then flip it over. Wait for the cup to cool – Turks put a coin on top to speed the process – and lift the saucer.

2) Look for a sunset shape, parallel wavy lines, the silhouette of a bird, or a ring. The sunset means your hopes will be realized. The wavy lines signify travel by sea. The bird brings good news, and the ring is a sign of a looming love affair. (If you’re reading the fortune of a friend or significant other, it’s best to pretend to see a good omen.)

3) Take a picture of your grounds and send it to Aunty Binnaz, who will offer her own take. You can use her to “fact check” your predictions until you’re up to speed.

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