Over one hundred million cups of Turkish coffee are painstakingly prepared every day in countries as far apart as Canada and Zimbabwe, Qatar, and Australia.
The thick brew brings joy to the poor, the incredibly rich, and everyone in-between and can be served sweet, semi-sweet, or straight. One constant, however, are those small cups, perfect in size and shape.
The two best Turkish coffee cups are handmade in Kutahya, western Turkey, by Güral Porselen and Kutahya Porselen. Kutahya Porselen has some genuinely exquisite (and funky!) designs and shades out Gural for innovation. On the other hand, Gural’s work is more classic.
The coffee itself is referred to as Turkish coffee, Greek coffee, Middle-Eastern Coffee, and other names, but if you’re in Turkey or elsewhere in the Middle East, it’s simply referred to as ‘coffee.’
What Cups Are Used For Turkish Coffee?
The demitasse cup with a handle is the most common and in-vogue Turkish coffee cup type, but others are also widely used. The Ottomans developed 2 versions of coffee cups:
- Handle-less Turkish coffee cups are the traditional Turkish coffee cups from way back in time. The scalding cup was held extremely carefully, and one can only imagine the collective sigh of relief when saucers were first used, followed by cups with handles.
- Filigree (or jeweled) holders made from metal are convenient and very stylish with a porcelain cup put into them. Glass cups are also used with these holders, though less often. Made to protect the drinker’s fingers from burning, artisans make them with nickel-plated (or tinned) copper, silver, or even gold. You can also find these cups with the name “Ottoman”.
How history progressed, coffee cups development progressed into porcelain cups with handles, and two leading companies became responsible for development and production: Kütahya and Güral Porselen.
Turkish coffee cups or ‘fincan’ are essential for serving Turkish coffee. Fincans are designed to allow the drinker to enjoy strong coffee in moderate amounts and keep the coffee hot for longer.
The fincan also allows the hot water to remain in contact with the coffee for much longer since the coffee grounds are in the cup itself. Unlike espresso, the water passes through the coffee for around 25 seconds and drops alone into the cup, leaving the grounds behind in the machine.
Turkish coffee reaches a higher temperature than espresso due to its preparation method of almost, but never quite, reaching boiling point.
Espresso, while delicious, is usually consumed relatively quickly, whereas Turkish coffee is an accompaniment to many long – and sometimes heated – discussions and must remain hot for as long as possible.
What Are The Origins Of Turkish Coffee Cups?
Turkish coffee cups can be traced back to the early 19th Century. France introduced them to its people as ‘half-cup, or demitasse, and the art of drinking coffee after dinner was refined.
Metal cylinders with a handle combined with clay cups were the most favorable. An Ottoman-influenced cup was a filigreed metal frame with either a glass or a ceramic cup inside, much kinder to the drinker’s fingers.
Around 1850 the cups were revolutionized, and porcelain and bone china became the materials of choice for the cups, and a new era of Turkish coffee cups production began.
What Size Is A Turkish Coffee Cup?
These ‘half cups’ were around half the size of a standard teacup of the time and could hold 2-3 fl. oz. / 60-80 ml of liquid. Fincans today have a height of 2-2.5 in. / 5-6 cm. They are usually produced together with a saucer which can also hold a tasty (small) treat like Turkish Delight.
Some manufacturers produce fincans of 2.5-3 fl. oz / 80-100 ml. as espresso / Turkish coffee cups, but these are not suitable for the correct serving of Turkish coffee – Less is more.
What Do Colors On Turkish Coffee Cups Symbolise?
Just looking at these exquisite coffee cups, it immediately becomes apparent that the colors on the fincans with a single prominent color have a special meaning, and I looked into this with a vendor in the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul bringing your main colors and their meaning:
1. Pink and Baby Blue
Coffee came to Daar-l Saadet (present-day Istanbul) in the 16th Century. The colors used by the Ottomans for this introduction were pink and baby blue, colors we still associate with births and beginnings, purity and innocence.
2. Coral or Turkish Red
The next prominent color on Turkish cups was coral or Turkish red, which was only allowed in three places:
- The Kasimpasa and Piyale Pasa Mosques
- The Harem chamber of Sultan Murad ll in Topkapi Palace, and
- The Clove Garden of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul
As we grow older, we become bolder, and red is considered the color of strength and power and symbolizes the flesh’s cravings.
3. Navy Blue
The era of Suleiman The Magnificent is symbolized by navy blue, the colors still worn by politicians and rulers worldwide.
4. Bottle green color
A bottle green color symbolizes the peak period of the Ottoman Empire and the Caliphate.
As the Ottoman era grinds to a sorrowful halt, the prominent color is yellow, a symbol of sadness and sorrow in Turkey.
What Equipment Do You Need For Making Great Turkish Coffee?
Owning beautiful Turkish Coffee cups without making good use of them is considered wasteful by many Turks and downright sacrilege by others. Making great Turkish coffee requires certain other items of equipment.
1. Turkish Coffee Grinder
Excellent cups of Turkish coffee are produced by fresh coffee beans, good technique, and the correct utensils. Grind the beans just before brewing to obtain the finest aroma and freshest flavor. The traditional cylindrical coffee grinder produces the correct powder-like grind for this wonderful coffee-making method.
Unless you have a conical or flat burr grinder already, it’s worthwhile investing a small amount into a simple, hand-held, manual grinder. A blade grinder is an oxymoron, as blades cannot grind, and you need the grind to be super fine, much like castor sugar or talcum powder.
2. Cezve – Coffee Pot
Sometimes called an Ibrik, this long-handled metallic coffee pot is essential to making the Turkish method of coffee. Usually made from copper or brass, the cezve is also found in stainless steel and even aluminum.
Foam on top of Turkish coffee is vital to the taste and texture required, and a porcelain cup is ideal for this. Finding the correct Turkish coffee pot is another priority. The water level should not reach past the middle of the pot, as the coffee needs space to rise sufficiently.
The Cezve is a small metallic pot with a base wider than the top. There is a spout on its left for pouring the coffee without spilling, and while ‘lefty’ pots do exist, they are fairly rare. In order to fill fincans of different sizes, Turkish households often have a complete set of four or more pots.
How To Make Great Turkish Coffee?
Below you will find 7 important steps of how to make great Turkish coffee:
- Grind a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans to a super fine grind. Should you not yet be a dyed-in-the-wool Turkish Coffee drinker, you can always get good pre-ground coffee online or at a specialty store in your state or city. Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi is a well-known brand, available online, but nothing beats freshly-ground coffee for aroma and taste.
- Add one cup (demitasse size) of pure water (not heated) and one and one half heaped teaspoons of ground Turkish Coffee to the cezve. Add sugar now if required. Measurements are to taste and not set in stone.
- Place the cezve on a low flame or stovetop, but don’t stir the contents until all sinks from sight, or better still, don’t stir at all. Low heat plus cold water results in longer brewing, which extracts more flavors from the ground coffee.
- After heating, the coffee will react by creating a ring of foam at the edges of the pot. When this occurs, lower the heat to its minimum level. The level will rise slowly and then accelerate quickly, referred to as the ‘First Rise.’ Legend suggests that if you can get the coffee to rise seven times, you achieve perfection.
- Foam retention is vital, and boiling the coffee will kill it, so lift the cezve off the heat each time the coffee rises quickly, approaching a boil. Be warned, however, that if you return it to the heat source too soon, it will boil over for sure.
- Each time you lift the cezve off the heat, pour some foam into each cup before returning to the flame and building foam again. Repeat once or twice but note that the foam will thin each time, making a boil more and more likely.
- Wait a few minutes for the grinds to settle in the bottom of the cup and the coffee to cool, and then kick back and sip the golden nectar.
Never stir the coffee once it reaches the cup (no spoons are provided), and avoid drinking the ‘mud’ at the bottom.
Tip – NEVER allow the coffee to boil
How Is Turkish Coffee Taken?
- “Sade” – Plain. (No sugar.)
- “Az sekerli” – Lightly sugared. (Half a teaspoon.)
- “Orta sekerli” – Medium-sweet. (One teaspoon of sugar.)
- “Sekerli” -Sweet. (Two teaspoons of sugar.)
No self-respecting coffee vendor would serve you a coffee on its own. Usually, it comes with a glass of water and a Turkish delight called lokum, a cube of candy covered with powdery sugar.
You should drink the water before the coffee. This cleanses the palate and flushes the kidneys, and by drinking water in advance, you help the digestion process. Coffee lovers often read the newspaper while enjoying their brew or just ‘fiscos’ (gossip) with a few neighbors.
Turkish Drinking Coffee Tradition
The traditional fiscos takes place at a table laden with Turkish Delights snacks and the ubiquitous Turkish Coffee. There is often a ‘Seer’ present, who will read the grounds at the bottom of the cup and thus predict the cup owner’s future.
You would invert the cup on the plate, and the ‘Seer’ places their hand on the cup’s base once the cup has cooled, thus signifying that the moment has arrived. After the fortune-teller reads the cup, they pour the coffee on the plate back into the cup and read the plate.
Another sweet Turkish coffee tradition is one concerning marriage proposals. When a marriage is arranged, or more commonly in the larger cities now, a boy and a girl fall in love, the boy’s family visits the girl’s family. The girl prepares Turkish coffee and serves it to the oldest guests first and the youngest last.
The coffee cups will be also be judged, and the host family will always use their very best fincans for this occasion, but more important is the style and grace of the girl pouring the coffee.
The groom’s family form a rough impression of the girls cooking skills while drinking the coffee, and some even claim that by looking at the foam, they can tell if it has been correctly made or not.
If the girl likes the boy, she might play a trick on him and salts his coffee. This is a fun tradition to alert the boy to the fact that she likes him, and if he drinks it without complaining, she knows he is keen and a ‘keeper.’
Turkish Coffee Cups- Cleaning Suggestions
When cleaning the Turkish coffee cups, note that the secondary aim of cleaning (after literally cleaning them) is to ensure no damage to the design on the cup, saucer, or cup holder.
- Wash in warm, never hot water, and use detergents sparingly.
- Allow to air-dry.
- Wash by hand, never trusting your fincan to a dishwasher
Turkish coffee cups can be plain or intricately patterned and add a beautiful dimension to the not-so-simple act of enjoying a delicious coffee with someone special. Spend time choosing your Turkish Coffee set and then enjoy the ceremony.