We learned how to make Turkish coffee in Istanbul

how to make Turkish coffee

On our recent trip to Istanbul, we were keen on learning something new. Given my love for coffee, learning how to make Turkish coffee and getting a Turkish coffee reading topped my bucket list. Turkish coffee traditions are still celebrated in the homeland of the Ottomans, making this an experience to look forward to.

The rise of coffee in Europe and eventually in the rest of the world is often accredited to the Turks, whose coffee addiction was causing quite a stir in the sixteenth century. While coffee consumption has shaped up as a cultural movement across the globe, taking different forms and variations as we experience today, the Ottoman Coffee Culture remains undisturbed, yet popular. In 2013, UNESCO recognized Turkish coffee culture as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Turkey, highlighting its significance in Turkish society and its historical importance.

Walk through the streets of Istanbul and you’ll find little roadside carts and shops making coffee on the sand, selling you little cups of a strong aromatic Turkish Kahva. Coffee in Istanbul is a celebrated culture, with all its nuances intact over the centuries.

In populated cities like this, where life is often hanging around two opposite ends of a spectrum, where one is constantly trying to get to the opposite, less crowded end fuel like çay and kahve (coffee) power up the struggle for the working class.

Fun fact: Turkish coffee is not brewed, it is cooked or boiled instead.

History of Ottoman Coffee

Coffee originated in the Arab world, and the earliest credible evidence of coffee consumption comes from the 15th century in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen. It was initially consumed as a brewed beverage and was valued for its stimulating and energizing properties. Coffee was introduced to Istanbul (then known as Constantinople) in the 16th century by a statesman from Yemen. From there on, the ‘black drink’ found popularity amongst the Ottomans, becoming a favorite. It became an important element of Turkish hospitality, evidence of which can be seen in the Royal Kitchen Exhibit of the Topkapi Palace. Coffeehouses, known as “qahveh khaneh” in Turkish, began to appear in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) during the 1550s. Coffeehouses quickly became popular gathering places where people would socialize, discuss politics, and enjoy coffee and conversation.

how to make Turkish coffee

Sadiq shares the history of Turkish Coffee

The Ottoman coffee culture extended its influence to other parts of the Middle East, the Balkans, and North Africa. In different regions, variations of Turkish coffee developed, each with its unique characteristics and preparation methods.

It was through the Ottomans, after the Siege of Vienna that coffee found its way to Vienna and other parts of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Thus, giving rise to Vienna’s Kaffeehaus Kultur. However, within the Ottoman Empire and the nearby Islamic countries, coffee was often a debatable subject due to its ability to increase energy levels. It was considered to be ‘haram’ much like drugs and alcohol by many rulers and religious figures. Yet, it was largely consumed during the holy month of Ramazan by devotees to stay awake and make it through the severe fasting throughout the day.

In the Ottoman Empire and in other coffee-drinking empires, coffee became the drink of the intellectuals. Also, this largely owed to the rise of coffee houses as the meeting point for people to engage in discussions of science, art, and politics.

Also read about: Vienna’s Kaffeehaus Kultur

How to make Turkish coffee?

Turkish coffee is made from very finely ground coffee beans. The coffee is traditionally prepared in a special pot called a “cezve” or “ibrik,” which is a small, long-handled pot. The coffee grounds, water, and sugar (if desired) are added to the cezve and brewed together without stirring. The coffee is heated slowly over low heat to create a foam on top.

Sadiq, our host for the evening ensured that learning how to make the traditional Ottoman coffee was an enjoyable experience, instead of an intimidating one. By guiding us step-by-step, he sure made Turkish coffee-making look like an easy-peasy job.

Step 0: Preparations

Much like cooking, preparation is the key to perfecting your Turkish coffee. Make sure you have all

Step 1: Pick your coffee beans

Picking the right beans is crucial to getting a good cup of coffee. While Turkey certainly doesn’t produce coffee beans, Turkish coffee making is flexible to a wide variety of coffee beans from across the globe.

how to make Turkish coffee

Taking in the aromas of different coffee beans

Sadiq made us sample 5 types of coffee beans, varying in their place of production, strength, and roast. After smelling and seeing the beans, we had the opportunity to select our beans individually to make Turkish coffee.

I picked a strong blend of Rio Koyu, while Parichay chose the most suitable bean for Turkish coffee, Yemen Mocha.

Step 2: Measure your coffee beans

how to make Turkish coffee

Goal: Get 9g of beans in the beaker

We took some beans in a beaker and measured them on a weighing scale, till we had exactly 9 grams of coffee beans.

Step 3: Grind your coffee manually

how to make Turkish coffee

Grinding the beans in a coffee grinder

We then transferred the beans to a heavy metal grinder and ground the beans continuously for around 5-7 minutes until the grinder became all smooth.

Step 4: Empty your coffee grounds in a Cezve

how to make Turkish coffee

Emptying grounds in a Cezve- a traditional Turkish coffee pot

The fine coffee grounds were emptied into a copper cezve carefully, ensuring every bit of coffee was taken out of the grinder.

Step 5: Add Hot water to the Cezve

75 degrees Celsius is the optimal temperature of water to make Turkish coffee. We added exactly 100ml of hot water to the cezve. (The proportion of coffee to water is 1:10 for Turkish coffee, however, the extra 10ml was meant to be burned/ evaporated before the Turkish coffee was ready).

how to make Turkish coffee

Add hot water (75 degrees)

If you want to add sugar to your coffee, this is the point where you mix sugar as per your liking (1-2 spoon) to the mix.  

Step 6: Stir the coffee in the center

Without touching your spoon to the sides, stir the coffee and water in the center of the cezve (4-5 stirs) before placing it on heat.

Step 7: Place the Cezve on the Sand pot/ Gas

how to make Turkish coffee

Immerse your cezve in the sand, so that it heats the coffee evenly

Now take the cezve and place it on a flame or a sand pot (whatever is available) and let the coffee boil.

Step 8: Let the coffee boil perfectly

how to make Turkish coffee

Let the coffee boil

Don’t disturb the cezve. You’ll notice bubbles forming over the coffee. In about 2-3 minutes, the boiling coffee will start rising to the top.

Step 9: Pour the coffee into a coffee cup

Take the cezve off the heat just before the coffee boils out of the pot and pour it into the cup till the very end.

how to make Turkish coffee

Pour the coffee in a cup as soon as it comes to a boil

You can also remove just a little coffee in the cup and put the cezve back on the heat source for a second boil, for added flavor.

Step 10: Enjoy your coffee with confectionaries and conversations

Based on your choice of beans and the accuracy of preparation, your coffee will have bubbles on top.

how to make Turkish coffee

Şerefe! (toast in Turkish)

Enjoy your Turkish coffee with some spices or sweets like Turkish Delight (Lokum), one sip at a time. Quality conversations are key to enjoying your coffee! Remember, Turkish coffee is a ritual, not a process.

Turkish Coffee Traditions

Within Turkey, there are two very important traditions associated with Turkish Coffee. In Turkish Weddings, the groom’s family visits the bride’s home to ask for her hand in marriage. On this occasion, the bride makes and serves Turkish coffee to the groom and his family, trying to impress them with her coffee-making skills. Often, the bride is likely to add salt instead of sugar in the groom’s coffee to test his nature. The groom is expected to calmly drink the coffee while praising it without letting people know what’s in it.

Another popular tradition is the art of Turkish Coffee Reading. The guests are asked to turn their cups, while their fortune is predicted based on the formations observed of the leftover coffee grounds in the cup.

Turkish coffee is more than a beverage, it is a ritual, a culture, and a way of commemorating special relations. A famous Turkish coffee goes on to say, “A cup of coffee has a memory of 40 years”. This is often interpreted as even the smallest of favors must be remembered and reciprocated. It is a means of sharing grief and joy with your friends and special ones.

Turkish Coffee Reading: Tasseography

One of the key reasons that had us excited for this experience was tasseography or the art of Turkish coffee reading, where the remnant coffee grounds in your cup give an insight into your future.

how to make Turkish coffee

Tasseography time!

After finishing the last sip of our Turkish coffee, we followed Sadiq’s instructions inverted the saucer, and placed it in the mouth of our cup. Holding the cup and saucer with both our hands, we moved our hands in a clockwise direction (5-6 circles), only to invert the cup and place the saucer back on the table (with the inverted cup). Sadiq asked us to place a sweet or something precious like our rings on the top of the cup for some extra luck.

One by one, our cups were taken and turned around to see the formations by the grounds to make observations (spotting a clear side, shaped made by coffee grounds such as fish, trees, etc.) and Sadiq then interpreted these observations to tell us what the future beholds as per our Turkish coffee reading.

how to make Turkish coffee

Sadiq decoding the meaning of the formations left by our coffee grounds!

It is interesting to note that even though Islam forbids fortune-telling, Turkish Coffee readings have long been a Turkish coffee tradition in the region, perhaps dating back to the Ottoman period. To believe, or not is purely a matter of choice. Your Turkish Coffee reading, like every other similar science, is likely to differ based on the person reading your grounds and your own energy. Sadiq had assured us that he would avoid any deep, painful, or disturbing revelations, and we were honestly, happy and content with this decision.

The only condition for the Turkish Coffee reading was that the person whose future was being interpreted must not see the formations within their own cup. So, I got to see Parichay’s cup and he got to see mine, while we didn’t really see the formations in our own respective cups.

I must say, it was a rather interesting and intriguing experience as we moved towards the Turkish Coffee reading session, which was the final segment of this 2 hours long experience. It was the perfect, hopeful note to part ways and move on with our trip. Apart from the overwhelming predictions for the future, we learned how to make Turkish coffee on the sand and were also handed our own Turkish coffee-making kits to take back home.

The Turkish Coffee that we made was so good, that I did end up buying a Turkish coffee grinder to accompany the Cezve and cup to take back home!

Have you read about my solo trip to Istanbul in 2016?

Book Your Experience

Book Your Experience Here: Highlights In Istanbul Turkish Coffee Making on Sand & Fortune Telling Workshop

Cost: $49

Location:  Galata Aparthotel, Istanbul

Duration:  2hrs/ 120 minutes

Disclaimer: This experience was hosted for us by Highlights in Istanbul. However, all opinions expressed in this blog are purely our own.


Paramparā aka Cinemawaali is Bombay girl living in Vienna. Studying sustainability & telling stories about all things travel, culture & entertainment.

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