March 21, 2008

The heart seeks a friend: coffee is just an excuse.

In a fantastic Today’s Zaman article entitled, “There’s nothing like a cup of coffee!” Charlotte McPherson shares her personal history with Turkish coffee. 

McPherson shares the concern of many Turks: western imports in the arena of coffee simply do not match up to local favorites.

Often we think when the Western version of something has arrived in Turkey, it is the first and best of its kind. Coffee and coffeehouses are a good example of this. Everyone thinks Starbucks and Gloria Jean’s are the places to be, but the best coffeehouses in Europe are of Turkish descent. 
Have you ever visited Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi in the Spice Bazaar or in Kadıköy? If you like coffee, you will want to stand in front of this shop and inhale the aroma of the roasting coffee beans. 

She also talks about learning how to drink Turkish coffee, including not sipping the very bottom where the telve (grounds) sit. 

When I came to Turkey, I fell in love with Turkish coffee after I learned how to drink it properly; that is, not swallow the last sip! If you do you, get a mouthful of coffee grinds. I am probably not the only Westerner who has done this. I somehow managed to swallow the grind without making a face or letting my hostess know what I’d done. The glass of water your host gives you with the Turkish coffee is not really for washing down the grind, but it worked in my case. 

She also shares some of the mystique and cultural appreciation surrounding the history of Turkish coffee in Istanbul and beyond:  

You can find a wide variety of coffee shops alongside the traditional coffee houses. Don’t forget that Ottoman envoys introduced Turkish coffee to European capitals beginning in the mid 1500s.

If you have not visited the Pierre Loti Coffee House in the Eyüp district of İstanbul, you are missing more than a cup of coffee! Although it has changed hands many times over the years, it claims to be the oldest coffee house in Turkey. You may wonder why it is called Pierre Loti. After all, he is not a Turk! Wasn’t he a French poet? 

Finally,  McPherson concludes with a beautiful Turkish proverb about coffee drinking that really cuts to the chase:

My dad and aunt listened to me then they would share their problems and thoughts with each other. Sitting around the table sharing coffee and our thoughts helped us bond. Metin Soytürk shares this Turkish proverb: 

“The heart seeks neither coffee nor the coffee house

The heart seeks a friend: coffee is just an excuse.”