TURKISH COFFEE, RICH IN FLAVOUR AND TRADITION
"One neither desires coffee nor a coffeehouse. One desires to talk with others,
coffee is but an excuse." A Turkish saying
From the days of the Ottoman Empire through to the present, coffee has played an important role in Turkish lifestyle and culture. The serving and drinking of coffee has had a profound effect on betrothal and gender customs, political and social interaction, prayer, and hospitality traditions throughout the centuries. Although many of the coffee rituals are not prevalent in today's society, coffee has remained an integral part of Turkish culture.
First brought to Istanbul in 1555 by two Syrian traders, coffee became known as the "milk of chess players and thinkers." By the mid-17th century, Turkish coffee became part of elaborate ceremonies involving the Ottoman court. Coffee makers with the help of over forty assistants, ceremoniously prepared and served coffee for the sultan. Marriage customs and gender roles also became defined through coffee rituals. In ancient times, women received intensive training in the harem on the proper technique of preparing Turkish coffee. Prospective husbands would judge a woman's merits based on the taste of her coffee. Even today, when a young man's family calls to ask a girl's parents for her hand in marriage, a formal coffee is served even in the most modern households.
For both men and women, coffee has been at the center of political and social interaction. During the Ottoman period, women socialized with each other over coffee and sweets. Men socialized in coffee houses to discuss politics and to play backgammon. In the early 16th century, these coffee houses played host to a new form of satirical political and social criticism called "shadow theatre" in which puppets were the main characters. Over the years, Turkish coffee houses have become social institutions providing a place to meet and talk. Today, Turkish coffee houses continue their role in society as a meeting place for both the cultured citizen and the inquisitive traveler. Istanbul offers many new and delightful cafe-restaurants where friends and family meet to discuss topics of the day over a cup of traditional Turkish coffee.
Derived from the Arabica bean, Turkish coffee is a very fine, powder-like grind. An aromatic spice called cardamom is sometimes added to the coffee while it is being ground. One can also boil whole seeds with the coffee and let them float to the top when served. Turkish coffee has various levels of sweetness ranging from bitter to very sweet. Because sugar is not added to the coffee after it is served, spoons are not needed. As the coffee begins to heat, it begins to foam. A rule of the Turkish coffee ceremony dictates that if the foam is absent from the surface of the coffee, the host loses face. Turkish coffee is served hot from a special coffee pot called a cezve. Tradition states that after the guest has consumed the coffee and the cup is turned upside down on the saucer and allowed to cool, the hostess then performs a fortune reading from the coffee grounds remaining in the cup. Rich in tradition and flavour, Turkish coffee remains a favourite today, not only in Turkey, but also among discriminating coffee drinkers around the world. Reference: Newspot/BYEGM
THE MIRACLE OF THE OLIVE TREE
Why is it Important?
Olive and olive oil have been indispensable ingredients of the Ottoman and Turkish culture, and the Mediterranean cuisine. The accounting records of Ottoman palace kitchens reveal that olive and olive oil were purchased in enormous quantities. Olive holds an important place both in the Ottoman and in the Turkish cuisine, and it is vital for the industry of Turkey. Although it is difficult to determine the exact provenance of the olive tree, it is generally believed to be indigenous to the Anatolian lands because it grows by itself in the Aegean region. In this region, the wild olive tree, “Olea Europea
Oleaster” is much more common than the domesticated variety known as “Olea Europea Sativa.”
How does it grow?
The olive tree, which has a lifespan of three hundred to four hundred years, can thrive in altitudes of up to six thousand meters. However, a maximum altitude of four thousand meters is deemed ideal for the growth of high quality olive plants. Mild winters, rainy spring and fall seasons, dry and sunny summer seasons, and a hard soil are best for the olive and hence it grows over the entire Mediterranean coast. Another natural characteristic of the olive tree is that it can be grown in uneven terrain. Today, it is possible to find eighty domesticated varieties of olive in Turkey. Although the plant is also occasionally grown along the Black Sea coast, seventy-five percent of olive trees in Turkey are located in the Aegean coast. Averaging one hundred and twenty thousand tons of olive production, and featuring six hundred fifty eight thousand hectares of olive cultivation area, Turkey is the fifth largest producer in the world. Currently, five hundred thousand families are involved in the olive business, and there are around one and a half million olive farmers.
What is it used for?
The miraculous fruit of the olive tree is consumed in fruit and oil form, it is used as raw material for soap and natural medicine, and it is also burned as fuel. During countless ages, the miraculous olive has been considered an elixir of beauty and health. Indeed, olive oil not only reduces risks associated with heart attack, but it also regulates cholesterol levels, prevents stomach discomforts, and makes skin more beautiful. Its color, aroma, taste and ease of digestion make it unique. Unlike other herbal oils —
such as sunflower, soy, cottonseed, and corn — olive oil is produced naturally, with no
additives and no chemical processes.
How is it made?
Although the olive oil production process has undergone some changes due to mechanization, the ancient method, which goes back three or four thousand years, is still used. In the first stage of this three-step method, the olives are crushed and grinded in whole, the meaty part and the core and all. Cylindrical mills which are called “yuvgu” in colloquial language are used for this. In the beginning these mills were operated by human or animal power, but later on, water and steam-driven mills, and finally electric powered mills were developed. Today, in certain villages of Anatolia, hand-driven grinders called “torku” are still used. In the second stage, the paste
acquired from this process is squeezed. It is then placed in a sack or cloth bag, hot water is poured over it, and it is crushed with a stone or by foot. The sack or cloth bag keeps the paste secure, and acts as a kind of filter. In the third and final stage, the oil is separated from the black liquid that the olive gives off. The partially separated oil is called “Sira” . The “Sira” is then allowed to rest in deep vessels for some time. At this
stage, the oil that rises to the surface is collected with dippers. The black liquid and the mash are separated. Warm water is then poured over the oil that is produced, and it is again left to rest for a while. Following this, the water that sits at bottom of the vessels is emptied out through holes and the olive oil that remains in the vessel is then ready for consumption. This method enables six or seven kilograms of olive to yield approximately one kilogram of high quality olive oil. Both the primitive and the mechanized system yield a residual product, which contains 8 to 10 % oil and this can be recycled in various areas. This by-product called “Prina” is mostly used in soap making.
Olive oil soap was the most popular type of soap during the Ottoman period. During the Ottoman period the prina was pressed and dried, and then used as fuel in shops and businesses. Calories from two kilograms of this “Pelet” are roughly equivalent to one kilogram of fuel oil.
What are the different types of oil?
Naturally produced edible olive oils can be classified into the following types: Virgin Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Virgin Olive Oil, Ordinary Virgin Olive Oil, Refined Olive Oil and Olive Oil. Virgin Oil is produced naturally without involving any chemical processes. Extra Virgin Olive Oil has the lowest acidity levels of all olive oils and it is produced by cold pressing olives collected before full maturity. Extra Virgin Olive Oil which is considered to be a tasty type of olive oil is suitable for sauces, salads and cold dishes. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a rather expensive type of olive oil. Virgin Olive Oil is more suitable for cooking since its acidity level is relatively high. Ordinary Virgin Olive Oil is favored by those who prefer olive oils with high acidity. Refined Olive Oil is produced through the physical removal of the acids from the acidic olive oils, and because of its taste it is not suitable for raw consumption. Olive Oil is mostly used for frying. Olive oil and dishes prepared with olive oil hold a very large and dear place in Ottoman and Turkish cuisine. Olive oil is used in dishes all over Anatolia in large quantities. The Aegean cuisine features hundreds of dishes prepared with olive oil. Olive oil is consumed with every meal of the day, usually a vegetarian dish served at room temperature and in salads.
Reference: Yesim Gokce (Bilkent University)/Turkish Cultural Foundation