George Robinson loves coffee and is often asked to space for a coffee machine near the kitchen tops or seated areas of the kitchens that he designs.
Turkish coffee though, is a cultural activity, offered to visitors as a symbol of hospitality and an invitation for discussion. Markets throughout the Mediterranean, the Middle East and North Africa sell a rainbow of different coffee cups, saucers, spoons and specially-shaped coffee pots, as well as endless different sweet accompaniments.
Strong and full-bodied, Turkish coffee is made using finely ground coffee – often Arabica beans from Brazil or Columbia and has a thick, deep taste. Served in small coffee cups, with or without saucers, Turkish coffee is thought to have become popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, during the rule of the Ottoman Turks over much of Southern Europe, West Asia, parts of Africa and the Caucasus.
Turkish coffee is made by adding spoonfuls of ground coffee – usually one per person and then ‘one for the pot’ -to luckwarm water in a small, Arabic coffee saucepan. Once you’ve stirred the coffee in to the water, and added a little sugar to ease the bitterness of the coffee, gently bring it to the boil once, twice or three times. It is thought that boiling up the mixture multiple times helps to release the coffee’s flavour and makes it more ‘creamy’.
Sugar can be added to the coffee before boiling and one is often asked, in a cafe or restaurant whether one wants the coffee without sugar or sweetened. Ground cardamom is often added to Turkish coffee for extra flavour.
Be careful not to drink the thick coffee dredges at the bottom of the cup! However many times the coffee has been boiled, a soft sludge will always be left at the bottom of each cup. In many MiddleEastern societies, a coffee cup was often turned upside down on to its saucer and the patterns made on the saucer would be interpreted by fortune tellers.
Nowadays Turkish coffee is often served with sweet, dry aniseed biscuits (‘kaak’) shortbread biscuits or dates and accompanied by a glass of water. This can be useful if you swallow some of the ground coffee at the bottom of the cup!