A Tale Of Redemption – The Obligatory Turkish Coffee Post (With Appearances By Turkish Tea And Greek Coffee)

The first time I had Turkish Coffee, I was at a Mediterranean restaurant in the Bay Area. I had never had it before but was intrigued by the listing on the menu. The coffee was specially prepared and I was excited.

It was just all right.

I honestly didn’t really care for the cardamom in it. Don’t get me wrong, I like cardamom (especially when used to flavor kulfi) but I wasn’t sure how I felt about it in my coffee.

When my friend went to Turkey some years ago, she brought me back some Turkish coffee and so I bought myself an ibrik so I could make it properly. The ibrik I ordered came with instructions on how to make Turkish coffee. I followed the recipe, except for the part where it said to add cardamon. I liked it but my exposure to Turkish coffee was nonexistent after that.

Until this recent trip to Istanbul of course.

The first full day my friend and I were in the city, we had dessert in a cafe in the Sultanahmet district and I ordered my very first Turkish coffee and braced for the taste of cardamom. There was none!

In the next few days, I had a few from different places and found that none of them had cardamom. I finally asked our guide through the culinary tour and she confirmed that, folks? Turkish coffee doesn’t have any cardamom in it!! It was okay that I didn’t like that specific taste in the coffee because it never belonged there in the first place! I felt vindicated. And then confused as to why I see cardamom connected with anything related to Turkish coffee in the States. I reckon I will conduct some research when I get back.

After Istanbul, I was interested to see what would be offered coffee-wise while we were in Athens. I was ignorant as to what “Greek coffee” on the menus I saw consisted of so I was completely surprised to learn that the Greek utilize an ibrik as well. I asked the lady who prepared my first official Greek coffee ever what the difference was between the two and she said that theirs tended to be thinner than the Turkish version. I would have to agree. The cool thing about the preparation of both versions is some cafes, not all, use hot sand to heat the coffee in the ibrik. I thought that was pretty snazzy although for Greeks and Turks I’m sure it was just business as usual.

Coffee brewed in hot sand

Speaking of the coffee though, I have to say that I really dig the cafe culture in Istanbul. If I had another week here, I would probably spend most of the time sitting in the cafes I came across in Karakoy and Kadikoy, drinking not only coffee but Turkish tea and apple tea as, funny enough, I found myself really enjoying the tea. If you know me, you know that I don’t drink tea so I was pretty stunned by this development. I felt really bad liking Turkish tea as I felt this was a betrayal to my own culture as I don’t really care for Pakistani-style tea (“chai”). I know, I know, first I don’t like Thai food and now I publicly proclaim that I don’t drink chai?! It’s a wonder anyone talks to me…

Apple tea

My last thought on Istanbul and their cafe culture – I love that no one really seems to be in a rush when they sit down for tea and coffee. It’s so different from our own cafe culture, where most of us get our drinks to go, always rushing off to our next destination. I always enjoy those times when I have the luxury to order my coffee/mocha in a real mug instead of a paper to-go cup with the cardboard sleeve. Maybe now, if only to hold on to a remnant of my vacation, I’ll double my efforts to make the time to sit and drink my caffeinated beverage. I’m sure just a few extra minutes will go a long way to help me appreciate the little things in life.

Coffee from Karakoy in Istanbul

6 thoughts

  1. This was amazing! I love Turkish coffee, cardamom and all, but it’s kind of mind-blowing to hear that they don’t use it in Turkey!!! Also what a cool shot of the hot sand heating the coffee. Gosh.

    Agree on the lack of leisure we all feel here in this cafe culture. Not so cool.

    Keep on writing–what fun to read!


    1. Thanks for reading! I think we should all make an effort to change the cafe culture, one person at a time :)

      I wonder if there’s any cafe around utilizing sand… it makes for a cool effect!

  2. You know, I’ve actually never had Turkish coffee with cardamon in it! Now I’m curious! Because I LOVE cardamon in tea. One Yemeni family that we know makes the best tea – it has cardamon in it! I think it’s a staple ingredient in their teas. Now I must try it in Turkish coffee. Maybe it’s the way Ahmad’s family makes it…never with cardamon in it. Although we were in a coffee shop in Denver and they didn’t have cardamon in it too……but I think they were Egyptian too….so maybe it’s an Egyptian thing to NOT put it in??? Maybe I’ll sneak one in when I make Turkish coffee next and see what his family thinks, because they all love it in their teas and dishes too. I gotta try the sand thing. That’s intriguing. So is Pakistani chai the same chai tea in mainstream cafés? If not, I have to add that to the list! Thanks for sharing your adventures!

    1. Thanks for reading Jemalle! Pakistani chai really is just black tea with milk/sugar (depending on one’s tastes). “Chai” just means tea and it actually doesn’t really match up with the chai they have in the cafes, funny enough.

      I’m curious now as to why some cafes put cardamom in turkish coffee in the USA. I might just be that arrogant person who will be all like “Well when I was in Turkey, there was no cardamom in the coffee!” I’m sure that will win me points in cafes, to tell them how wrong they all are…

  3. Okay. Now I have to try Turkish coffee and a flat white. The list grows. I love the cafe culture, watching people, chatting with friends. We definitely need to slow down many things. Btw, love the donkey-themed t-shirts. Thanks for sharing your trip.

  4. Pingback: Five Cups of Tea

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