On The Grounds Of Coffee

We have become slaves to caffeine, but do you know where that dark, robust beverage we sip comes from?

If I were to ask someone today what Mocha is, I would likely hear a description of the chocolaty, milky espresso drink that is offered in almost every coffee shop. A lesser known fact is that Mocha is the name of the port in Yemen that was once the largest supplier of the world’s coffee for 150 years. Coffee, also known as the “Wine of Araby”, was first mentioned in 15th century documents as the drink that Sufis in Yemen consumed to stay awake at night for their devotions. With the trade routes, inevitably, it spread throughout Arab Peninsula. Of course with the arrival of coffee came the drama: controversy and conflicts about its place in Islam, and bans that infuriated drinkers. Soon, the Europeans would find out about its side effect as well: Coffee brought people together, ignited the conversation and kept their conscious clear to discuss important matters from politics to religion into the wee hours of the night.

Today, coffee has been so extensively integrated into our lives that we expect to see a coffee house on every corner. The first coffeehouse was opened in Istanbul in the 1550s. Since then, along with the coffeehouse culture, coffee brewing process has also evolved: From simple steeping in a pot to the French press, to percolators and vacuum brewers, and finally fancy espresso machines worth thousands of dollars. We diluted and hid coffee’s dark taste behind cream, milk and syrups. We gave it fancy names. We created the “instant” coffee to quickly satisfy the caffeine monster in us and bought travel mugs so we can have our coffee even when we are on the go..

But for some, coffee drinking is still something that shouldn’t be rushed. They still want to enjoy the strong taste on tip of their tongue. They go for a small size that packs 800 different flavors in one sip. They take the time to make and drink at a comfortable pace. Drinkers of Turkish coffee definitely fall under this category. Turkish coffee is not a type of coffee bean, but a method of preparation. Generally Arabica beans are used and freshly ground right before the coffee making. It is made in a small pot, called “cezve”, over the stove top, and served unfiltered in delicate demitasse cups. The trick to have foamy and good tasting coffee is to stir the coffee just enough without losing the coffee grounds floating on top and not to over-boil it. Taking the time to make and serve proper Turkish coffee is much appreciated by guests. As they say in Turkey, “A cup of coffee holds a place in the memory for forty years”.Turkish coffee cannot be mentioned without the fun tradition of fortune telling. If you are lucky, someone might be able to read your fortune in it. After the watery part is consumed, the coffee cup is turned upside down on its saucer and the grounds start to move down slowly on the walls of the cup, leaving behind many shapes and patterns to be imaginatively interpreted by the fortune teller. From that small cup, you might learn what the entire future holds for you. I bet those first merchants who shipped coffee to the rest of the world from Mocha would have liked to see the consequences of their trade in a small cup and what Mocha would actually mean centuries later.


Coffee: A Dark History by Anthony Wild

Passion for Coffee

Wikipedia: Turkish Coffee

Long Nights in Coffeehouses: The Effects of Place on Ottoman Storytellers by Defne Cizakca



Filed under Food

2 responses to “On The Grounds Of Coffee

  1. Very interesting read Ilke. I’ll admit, I have just recently begun to truly appreciate coffee. Not that long ago, I was exposed to high quality beans that were ground straight from the burlap sack off the boat and brewed up fresh. It was the first time I didn’t need a spoon of sugar or a splash of cream. It was just that good.

  2. Ilke, I want to learn more about Turkish coffee. Will you help me? Thx.

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