From the days of the Ottoman Empire through the present, coffee has played an important role in Turkish lifestyle and culture. The serving and consumption of coffee has had a profound effect on betrothal and gender customs, political and social interaction, prayer, and hospitality customs throughout the centuries. Although many of the rituals are not prevalent in today’s society, coffee has remained an integral part of Turkish culture.
World-famous Turkish coffee (Türk kahvesi) is made by pulverizing freshly-roasted medium-roast beans in a mortar and pestle, or grinding them very fine in a cylindrical brass coffee mill (kahve değirmeni).
Here’s how to order Türk kahvesi when you’re in Turkey:
Sade – plain, no sugar (fairly bitter)
Az şekerli – with a little sugar (takes off the bitter edge; less than a teaspoon per cup)
Orta şekerli – with medium sugar (sweetish; about a teaspoon of sugar for each cup)
Çok şekerli – with lots of sugar (quite sweet; two teaspoons of sugar or more)
To drink one cup of coffee together guarantees forty years of friendship
Turkish Delight (Lokum) is a confection that in the West is frequently manufactured from starch and sugar, but which in the Middle East takes a variety of forms more subtle, including premium varieties made almost solely of chopped dates, pistachios and hazelnuts or walnuts. Western varieties have a soft, jelly-like consistency, and are often flavored with rosewater, mastic or lemon; rosewater gives it a characteristic pale pink color. The confection is often packaged and eaten in small cubes dusted with icing sugar, copra, or powdered cream of Tartar to prevent clinging. Other common types include flavors such as cinnamon or mint.
Rakı is clear brandy made from grapes and raisins, flavored with pungent anise. Most is quite potent (80- to 100-proof/40% to 50% alcohol) and thus usually diluted with water and sipped with snacks or meals.
It’s similar to Greek ouzo and French pastis.
When mixed with ice and/or water for drinking, it turnsmilky white. Because of its color and hefty alcoholic punch, Turks call it lion’s milk (aslan sütü).