There are few things better than sitting down with your favorite mug of joe while sipping hot chocolate or steaming tea. But there are also very few coffees around the world quite like Turkish coffee (also called “göbekçi” [pronounced goh-beh-chahy].)
This flavorful beverage has been enjoyed by people across Europe since the 15th century when Arab traders brought the beans back home after discovering them growing naturally in Yemen. Today, you can find göbeks served in cafes all over Turkey — from bustling bazaars to quiet seaside resorts — where they’re commonly accompanied by traditional snacks such as fresh pomegranates and walnuts.
In addition to being delicious, Turkish coffee provides several health benefits, including high levels of antioxidants. Read on to learn how to prepare yourself for one of the most famous drinks in the world.
What Is It?
Although it may resemble something similar, Turkish coffee isn’t actually related to either espresso or drip coffee. It’s simply an unfiltered version of Turkish coffee (also known as “diyet kahvesi,” or “coffee without milk” in Turkish) and consists of water, ground beans, and sugar.
The two most common varieties are black Turkish coffee and green Turkish coffee, which vary in color depending on how long the grounds are brewed. Both versions are consumed by pouring water over the grounds and adding sugar once it has finished steeping.
Turkish coffee is traditionally prepared in a special coffee pot known as a “cezve” or “ibrik,” which is usually copper with a long handle. This allows customers to see the coffee when it begins to brew, giving them an opportunity to stir it frequently and enjoy the aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans all day long.
Once finished brewing, the coffee grounds are left in the serving, making Turkish coffee very strong. It is not served with milk or creamer but can be brewed with sugar to preference. The coffee is typically served in miniature cups or espresso-sized cups called “finance.”
Variables of Turkish Coffee
People often confuse Turkish coffee with Arabic coffee (or Mocha), which originated centuries ago in Yemen. Both consist primarily of roast Ethiopian coffee beans, although Arabian coffee incorporates spices such as cardamom and cloves, plus sugar or honey depending upon personal preference.
Unlike true Turkish coffee, however, Arabian coffee doesn’t come packaged individually inside the tin foil. Instead, Arabs wrap their pods together with string or waxed thread, which prevents the oils within the beans from separating. After removing the strings or wax, drinkers usually break off a portion of the pod and put it directly into their cup of choice, much like we do with our own loose-ground beverages.
Another common type of coffee confused with Turkish coffee is Bosnian coffee. They are very similar in that neither is filtered. The main difference between Turkish and Bosnian coffee is that Turkish coffee is usually prepared with sugar added to the water when brewing. Bosnian coffee, on the other hand, sugar is added when serving.
Where Did It Come From?
Most historians agree that the origins of Turkish coffee date back to Ethiopia, Africa, sometime prior to 1450 A.D., when the K’imbri tribe discovered the plant Coffea arabica. When Arab merchants began trading the beans abroad, they named the crop Yemen after the area where it grew. Eventually, the word Yemen came to represent not just one specific locale but the entire African continent, and it referred exclusively to the coffee plants themselves. By the 16th century, the Dutch had begun importing the beans via Moroccan ports, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, many people choose to purchase their coffee beans online. If you plan to buy from a wholesale distributor, be sure to check out the company’s credentials and reputation. Look for a business that sells fair trade products, meaning the farmers selling the beans receive a fair price for their crops. Also, pay attention to whether the beans have been certified organic, as this designation ensures growers aren’t exposed to dangerous pesticides used to protect imported produce against bugs and disease. Lastly, be aware of any fees associated with buying your coffee online, especially shipping charges, because these vary widely from vendor to vendor.
You don’t need to travel far to sample the best Turkish coffee, but unfortunately, getting to certain areas requires crossing borders. On the next page, learn how to avoid the hassle when enjoying your favorite drink.
During World War II, the British government restricted imports of coffee due to shortages caused by bombing raids. As part of Operation Bootstrap, American troops stationed in Egypt received shipments of instant coffee granules, which proved useful when no real coffee was available. Soldiers added boiling water, letting the grounds settle beneath the foam before consuming. Instant coffee eventually replaced the real stuff in Britain, but the United States never stopped appreciating good old-fashioned Turkish coffee.
How Do I Drink It?
If you’re looking for a weekend special, you might want to visit your local Turkish coffee shop. These establishments are found worldwide and are especially prevalent in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. You can usually tell you are in a Turkish coffee shop by the lack of seats most will have very few and feature tables that are usually covered with some type of tablecloth made from rugs.
You can also find bakeries or cafes serving traditional brews at festivals featuring this type of cuisine.
Where Can I Buy It?
The easiest way to get your hands on some of this coffee is through online vendors. You can also find it at some health food stores, specialty stores, and markets that specialize in imported goods.
Turkish coffee is a great way to enjoy the taste of the exotic when you are away from home. Whether you want to experience this drink on your own, in the company of friends or family, or take it on a road trip and enjoy the scenery, Turkish coffee will make your day. It is also a treat that can be enjoyed anywhere and at anytime in any kind of weather. We are always thankful for those who have shared their favorite recipe with us and have given us an opportunity to share our own favorites.