Black as Hell, Strong as Death, Sweet as Love

An old Turkish proverb perfectly describes the country’s unique take on my favorite caffeinated beverage: “Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love”. Turkish coffee is a thing unto itself, and although I initially found it disgusting, it didn’t take long to win me over. Exactly two weeks, in fact.

Traditional Turkish Coffee in copper cup holders on a carpet

[March 6th] “This is just stirred-up sludge!” That was my first judgement, after I’d foolishly emptied the espresso-sized glass into my mouth. With the mud-like coffee grinds sticking to my teeth and back of my throat, I growled. “Who wants to drink this crap?” And then I ordered an Americano.

[March 12th] “If you like your tiny shot of liquid tar with a ton of sugar, then this is your drink!” By now, I’d learned to leave the sludge at the bottom of the cup alone, but still scoffed at the idea of Turkish Coffee as a pleasure to be greedily anticipated. More like a chore.

[March 15th] “The foam is my favorite.” Captivated by the rich layer of foam found on top of every well-prepared cup, my mind had started to open to Turkish coffee’s charms. I had learned how to order it with “a little” (bir az) sugar, which helped, and had begun sitting back in my chair, drinking in small, dainty sips. Like I’d seen cool-looking Turkish guys do.

[March 20th] “Other countries are so stupid! Turkish coffee is so much better than their stupid coffees, why doesn’t everyone drink this?” It took fourteen days, but I had embraced Turkish coffee with the obnoxious enthusiasm beginners tend to bring to every new thing they’ve just discovered. I had even bought a Turkish coffee pot (a cezve) and taught myself how to make it at home.

Oh yes, I can be very annoying. Excited by my new obsession, and eager to use my cezve (how I loved saying that word! Cezve!), I fell into the habit of making another round of coffee every hour or so, each time ceremoniously presenting it to Jürgen on a tray, and secretly hurt if he didn’t notice or comment upon the layer of foam I’d so painstakingly crafted.

Mine was alright, but the best Turkish coffee we found in Istanbul was at Café Mandabatmaz, just off İstiklal Caddesi. Just a tiny room with enough stools for maybe eight people, and a master who’s been perfecting his craft for decades, the cups of coffee you get here are out of this world. Thick, rich, sweet and strong. Just like it should be.

Location of Mandabatmaz on our Istanbul Map

We also enjoyed Turkish Coffee in the Közde Türk Kahvesi, in front of the Yeni Camii, and the Nano Cafe, near the cruise terminal. Any other great recommendations? Let us know.

Turkish Hot Water for teas
Turkish Coffee Making Master
Making turkish coffee over a flame
Pouring Turkish Coffee into small cups
The master of Turkish Coffee in Istanbul
Little cups with Turkish Coffee
Portraits of a Turkish Coffee Master
Tiny Turkish Coffee Shop in Istanbul
Mandabatmaz cofffee shop in Istanbul
Street Food Coffee in Istanbul
Boiling Turkish coffee in hot sand
Turkish Coffee set

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Byron Suley

    Go visit Jennifer’s hama, she is doing fabulous work for the local weavers. Tell Jen Byron sent you! 

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