Turkish coffee: Celeste Wong's global guides
Our expert barista takes a deep dive into Turkish coffee with ibrik champion Niki Di Landa, including traditional rituals, how to order it and the perfect recipe for at-home brewing
Want to learn more about Turkish coffee? Expert barista Celeste Wong chats to Turkish coffee ibrik champion, Niki Di Landa, about why Turkey's coffee is special, how to order it and how to make it at home.
What is traditional Turkish coffee?
Turkish coffee (Türk kahvesi) is most commonly called ibrik or cezve, with its roots coming from the Ottoman empire. It tastes stronger than ‘regular’ coffee because of the way it is brewed – usually finely ground coffee in a copper pot, with fast heat transfer and continual extraction. Sugar or spices like cinnamon were added when coffee quality was poor, to cover the bitterness. There is also Turkish sand coffee, where an ibrik pot is buried in heated sand. The deeper the pot goes into the sand, the hotter the temperature gets.
Turkish coffee goes beyond Turkey and is actually its own style and serve, popular in many countries such as Greece, Poland, Slovakia and the Balkan regions. It is very different to a filtered or drip coffee. The body and thicker mouth feel is closer to an espresso, due to the crema, aroma and flavour that arise from this particular brew method.
How do you drink Turkish coffee?
Turkish coffee cups are narrower at the top to allow the crema to rise and wider at the bottom to let the coffee fines settle. Originally the cup had no handle, and was held very carefully with fingertips while sipping. Later, metal or jewelled cup holders were introduced to protect from the heat, and then handles were eventually added to the cups.
Traditionally, when the slow-sipped coffee is finished, the cup is turned upside down on its saucer while drinkers sit and chat. After a while, the cup is turned back over for the elders to honour the ancient art of coffee reading, by interpreting the image created from the leftover coffee fines to predict the future. Ibrik is actually recognised on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
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How to order coffee in Turkey
In Turkey itself, here are some of the most popular Turkish coffee serves:
- Az şekerli kahvesi (pronounced ahz sheh-kehr-lee kah-ve-see): coffee with very little sugar.
- Sade (pronounced sa-deh): plain coffee, usually ‘single’ strength but should be naturally strong.
- Orta şekerli kahvesi (pronounced ohr-tah sheh-kehr-lee Kah-ve-see): coffee with a medium scoop of sugar, very sweet.
- Duble turk kahvesi: if you really want a very strong ‘double’ coffee.
Modern Turkish coffee trends
In Turkey, contemporary coffee shops are experimenting with different flavours and serves such as cocktails and unconventional cups. Turkish coffee is often served with water on the side and a sweet treat such as Turkish delight or a cinnamon cookie. Cafés around the world that offer Turkish cezve coffee sometimes do a coffee and Turkish delight pairing or experiment in cocktails like this Instagram post made with sambuca, bourbon, chilled Turkish coffee, orange liqueur and an egg white.
How to make Turkish coffee
Turkish coffee kit you’ll need
- A Turkish coffee pot (cevze/ibrik). Traditionally copper is used, but now you can have stainless steel or ceramic pots for aesthetic choice.
- If you want to try a more modern electric and automatic Turkish coffee maker try this.
- Coffee grinder that grinds finer than most – almost finer than sand. Here's my pick of the best coffee grinders.
- Turkish coffee cup or small coffee cups, around 3-4oz. Try this modern style or this porcelain set.
Turkish coffee recipe
- 15g finely ground medium roast coffee (fine like sand – the finer the better)
- 150ml of room temperature water
- Grind the coffee very fine, like sand or even finer.
- Add the coffee and all the dry ingredients (like sugar or spice) to the pot.
- Add water – the ratio is generally 1:10 coffee to water. If the water is room temperature, it will reduce heating time. Stir.
- Heat over a medium heat. Once it starts to foam and cream, take it off the heat. Do this three times.
- After the third heat, pour immediately into an espresso cup and leave to settle for a minute.
- Enjoy with a Turkish delight or something sweet like a cinnamon biscuit or glazed baklava.
Niki Di Landa is a Turkish coffee ibrik champion, and a Turkish coffee expert.
Image credits: Celeste Wong, Getty Images (Paolo Picciotto/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group)