Turkish coffee

Turkish coffee. I’m sure you’ve heard that word tossed around once or twice. So what makes it different? What makes it special? What makes it, well, Turkish?

Most people will be surprised to learn that the practice of drinking coffee as a heated beverage was developed in the Ottoman Empire. The process of making it goes all the way back to the 16th century, predating every other currently-used method of brewing. The Ottoman’s roasted beans over a fire, ground them and then boiled them water. Coffee was introduced in Constantinople in 1543, during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.


Coffee was an imperative part of palace cuisine in the Ottoman Empire. The position of Chief Coffee Maker, who was chosen for his loyalty and his ability to keep secrets and, obviously, his ability to make coffee, was an important part of the roster of court functionaries.

Coffee drinking eventually trickled its way down to the homes of the public. The people of Constantinople were enamored with the beverage and regularly purchased green coffee beans and roasted them on pans at home. The beans, once roasted, were ground in mortars and brewed in coffeepots. Coffeehouses were opened throughout the city and, before long, Turkish Coffee became an integral part of social culture in Constantinople.


In Turkish, the word for breakfast, kahvalti, means “before coffee”. Such language indicates the cultural significance of coffee in Turkey. Turkish coffee, in comparison to those ‘to go cups’ offered by most cafes around the world, is served in such a manner that you are actually forced to sit down in order to drink it. If you attempt to shoot it like a shot of espresso, your mouth will be in slight discomfort as a) it can be very hot and b) the muck and the grinds at the bottom are by no means meant to be consumed. The simple act of sitting encourages relaxation and conversation and, in that sense, Turkish coffee has become the focal point of street-side socializing in Turkey.

Fortune tellers, noting the popularity of the beverage, have found that the remains of your coffee grounds offer exciting perspectives into your future. Once you have finished the liquid portion of your coffee, you will encounter a thick, almost mud-like substance at the bottom of your cup. You will ask yourself if you drink this, eat it with a spoon, or apply it on your face for use as a skin product. Your answers should be no, never and why not. However, if you want the full, true cultural experience, place the plate that your coffee came with on top of the cup, flip it over, and let it sit for about 5 minutes.

You then turn the cup back over and go find somebody to read your future in the designs created by the sloppy grounds. If you come on our tour we will do this for you at no extra charge!


Turkish coffee, or Turk Kahvesi, normally comes with sugar. However, you can personalize it the way you like by using the following linguistic terminology:

Sade (sah-DEH) – plain, no sugar (this usually means that your coffee will be fairly bitter)

Az şekerli (AHZ sheh-kehr-lee) – a little sugar (less than a teaspoon per cup)

Orta şekerli (ohr-TAH sheh-kehr-lee) – medium sugar (sweetish; about a teaspoon of sugar for each cup)

Bol şekerli (CHOK sheh-kehr-lee) – lots of sugar (very sweet; two teaspoons of sugar or more)

Experienced Turkish coffee drinkers wait about 60 seconds to take a sip after they receive their cup. This allows the grounds to settle a bit first. It usually takes at extremely hot temperatures and often comes with a glass of cold water to freshen the mouth and wash the coffee down. Many establishments that serve Turkish coffee in Istanbul also include a Turkish delight on the side.


There is no special bean involved in the making of Turkish coffee – its distinct name comes from the method of preparation. Turkish coffee is made using cardamon, clove and anise. You will need a good grinder (Turkish mill), fresh roasted coffee, a stirring spoon made of metal and the brewer – a device made of metal that’s called an ibrik.

  1. Bring to a very find grind (finer than espresso) with the Turkish mill

  2. Use demitasse cups (the small cups to serve the coffee) to measure the amount of cold water that you want

  3. Add one teaspoon of coffee per demitasse of water

  4. Add sugar to taste – typical ratio is one teaspoon of suger per two teaspoons of coffee

  5. Stir the sugar, cold water and coffee before brewing (stir until the sugar has disolved)

  6. Brew of medium-low heat – Be careful! Too high a heat will damage the coffee

  7. As soon as it starts to boil remove the ibrik from the heat source – do this quickly before the froth flows over the top

  8. Return the ibrik to the heat source and let the froth build up again – remove as it returns to a second boil

  9. Bring to a third and final boil

  10. Serve – alternate cups and pour a bit in at a time (about 15ml/cup until they are all full)

  11. Drink up! And socialize!


“A cup of coffee will be remembered for 40 years.”


Turkish coffee is an anti-carcinogen and helps in the digestive process. However, because it is unfiltered, studies have linked consumption of Turkish coffee to high cholesterol.


BEYOGLU: Mandabatmaz – a local favorite; “so thick even a water buffalo wouldn’t sink in it”

FENER: Nevi Cafe – Turkish coffee heated on coals, amazing view of the Golden Horn

RUMELI FORTRESS: Sade Kahve – traditional Turkish coffee, view of the Bosphorus

The House Cafe – located throughout the city

THE best Turkish Coffee?

We serve it in Istanbul, on The Other Tour. My mom makes it.