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x0x Coffee cups and coffee houses -- a Turkish tradition

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  • trh@xxxxxx.xxx
    x0x Coffee cups and coffee houses -- a Turkish tradition * I remember years ago when Turkish coffee had become very scarce in Turkey. This was in the 1970s,
    Message 1 of 1 , May 25 2:47 PM
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      x0x Coffee cups and coffee houses -- a Turkish tradition

      * I remember years ago when Turkish coffee had become very scarce in
      Turkey. This was in the 1970s, when Turkey had to deal with many
      internal and external problems. Our coffee beans came from Cyprus
      through my father-in-law's family. These beans were raw, so my
      mother-in-law used to roast them her self. She liked her coffee
      very black, and so roasted her beans accordingly
      * As famous Turkish writer Burcak Evren explains in her book about
      Istanbul's first coffee houses, 'Pleasure seekers and above all
      well-known intellectuals and writers began to congregate together
      in the coffee houses. Some read books and essays, others played
      backgammon or chess. Others discussed poetry and literature.
      Eventually it reached the point where anyone with nothing better
      to do headed for the nearest coffee house'

      Nelleke M.V.D. Schoor-Basar

      Ankara - Turkish Daily News

      When one thinks about Turkey one of the first things that comes to
      mind is "Turkish coffee and carpets." My first introduction to Turkish
      coffee left a very bad taste in my mouth, so when I was offered a cup
      by my mother-in-law I was very hesitant; however, I accepted the
      offer, and when the black fluid came in the traditional coffee cup, I
      waited as long as I could before trying to swallow it. But, to my
      surprise, it was fantastic, and from that day onwards I never looked
      back, enjoying every cup that was offered to me, especially after
      dinner.

      Although it is called "Turkish coffee," the origin of this black magic
      is Ethiopia. But coffee drinking was perfected as an art in Turkey,
      and around this brew grew the famous coffee houses.

      Today, one is able to find many different
      types of coffee beans from all parts of the globe. Different
      techniques of roasting these beans provides the drinker with a
      beverage that suits his or her special taste. Turkish coffee, if
      roasted at home, can also be roasted to each person's own taste.

      I remember years ago when Turkish coffee had become very scarce in
      Turkey. This was in the 1970s, when Turkey had to deal with many
      internal and external problems. Our coffee beans came from Cyprus
      through my father-in-law's family. These beans were raw, so my
      mother-in-law used to roast them her self. She liked her coffee very
      black, and so roasted her beans accordingly. Today, Turkish coffee is
      plentiful and no longer a luxury.

      In ancient times, travelers carried coffee beans with them as a remedy
      for fatigue on long and exhausting journeys. They had learned of the
      drink made by boiling coffee beans from shepherds, who as legend has
      it, noticed that their goats became more lively when they ate the
      beans.

      Turkish pilgrims who had tried coffee in Mecca in turn introduced the
      drink to Istanbul, where, in time, coffee became an integral part of
      the rituals of etiquette and hospitality of Istanbul life.


      The coffee cup and holder

      In days gone by, Turkish coffee was served in traditional tiny china
      cups without handles that were placed in metal holders known as
      "zarf," which both protected the cup and prevented the drinker from
      burning the fingers.

      Today, one is still able to find cups; however, the zarf has become a
      collector's item, for it was the zarf, with its wonderful decorated
      motifs, that was visible when coffee was served.

      Since it was the cup holder that was visible, it was this holder that
      became a work of art with numerous techniques. In the past Turkish
      coffee cups were made of glass and wood as well as china and
      porcelain.

      Those made of fine pipe clay with painted designs were often
      exquisite, as were those made in Iznik and Kuthahya. Not all Turkish
      coffee cups were made in Turkey. First China and later European
      porcelain was used for the Turkish market.

      The zarf in which the cup was fitted was generally locally made and
      reflected the styles of the period and region to which it belonged.
      Coffee zarf were often but not invariably made of metal, whether gold,
      silver, copper or brass. Others were made of hard or scented woods
      such as ebony, coconut or agalocum and still other of substances like
      tortoiseshell, ivory or horn.

      Metal zarf sometimes consisted of filigree work, sometimes decorated
      with chasing, engraving, niello, or studded with gems or coral. Chased
      zarf were made by first beating out the metal into a 1-1.5 millimeter
      thick sheet and either beating it to the desired shape to fit the cup
      or forming it into a cylindrical shape and welding the joint. Once
      shaped it was filled with a mixture of tar, asphalt, borax and
      paraffin to cushion the blows of the implements while the metal was
      being decorated.

      Once the design was completed the zarf would be heated up so that the
      filling softened and could be poured out. It was then possible to
      further work the design from inside the holder, and so accentuate the
      motifs. Finally the foot was made and fixed to the holder by a screw.
      Silver was the most common metal used for zarf, followed by copper and
      brass, which were affordable for more people. Copper zarf were often
      gilded to prevent tarnishing by a technique involving the application
      of a mixture of gold and mercury. This type of copper gilt was known
      as tombak.

      Engraved decoration in similar designs to those of chasing were
      produced by using sharp steel styluses to gouge out fine lines in the
      metal. Filigree work was made by first drawing metal wires 1mm thick,
      then weaving into the desired shape and finally welding the ends.
      Alternatively individual motifs were made and then welded together to
      form the zarf.

      Unfortunately very few wooden zarf have survived to today. They were
      very fragile but very lovely. This type of zarf was favored because of
      its fragrance as well as beauty. Some were decorated with motifs cut
      from a sheet of silver with a fretsaw and had silver wire around the
      rim to prevent them from cracking. Before the lathe was in widespread
      use, these wooden zarf were either made by bowsaw or carved.

      Guests were presented with their coffee in these delicate cups and
      holders together with water in crystal glasses. In wealthy homes or
      palace circles the ceremony of serving coffee in past centuries was
      lengthy and complex. Coffee was far more than a pleasant substance to
      drink, but a symbol of hospitality and respect for the guest.

      The Turkish coffee houses

      Another tradition that was established around coffee were the habitual
      coffee houses. These meeting establishments were and still are the
      perfect place for enjoyable conversations and clandestine meetings. A
      place for heated discussions of politics, the latest football results
      and the latest gossip from school or work, love affairs begin and end
      here, and secrets are disclosed.

      The first coffee house was introduced to Istanbul 30 years after the
      arrival of coffee itself. This time gap between the arrival of coffee
      and the establishment of coffee houses can be accounted for by the
      time it took for consumption of this new beverage to spread to the
      point where it required special places to drink it.

      As famous Turkish writer Burcak Evren explains in her book about
      Istanbul's first coffee houses, "Pleasure seekers and above all
      well-known intellectuals and writers began to congregate together in
      the coffee houses. Some read books and essays, others played
      backgammon or chess. Others discussed poetry and literature.
      Eventually it reached the point where anyone with nothing better to do
      headed for the nearest coffee house. Sometimes the coffee houses were
      so full that there was nowhere to stand, never mind sit."

      The popularity of coffee houses soon began to disturb the authorities,
      who regarded them as potential hotbeds of public insurgence, and
      clerics and preachers pressed for coffee to be banned. The first
      prohibition on coffee houses came just a few years after they came
      into existence, during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent, imposed
      by Seyhulislam Ebusuud Efendi. All coffee houses were closed down and
      people who were caught drinking coffee were punished. All merchant
      vessels laden with coffee in the Istanbul harbor were sunk.

      But coffee is addictive, and even it's ban did not stop people from
      enjoying this refreshing, dark brown liquid with its distinctive
      aroma. Coffee house proprietors found ways to circumvent the
      authorities or obtain special waivers.

      Today, coffee house are being replaced by coffee shops. The handful of
      coffee houses that still serve water pipes preserve some of the
      nostalgic atmosphere of the past, but even their time is running out.
      Only the elderly try their best in protecting this old institution
      from completely fading away into history. It is a pleasure to see once
      in a while a coffee house mushroomed in between modern buildings still
      holding its ground on either the waterfront or a quite side street.

      __________________________________________________________________
      Copyright 1999, Turkish Daily News. This article is redistributed with
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      permission of the publisher. Contact: Turkish Daily News Online on the
      Internet World Wide Web. www.turkishdailynews.com

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