November 29, 2008

History of Turkish Coffee

It's believed the history of coffee dated back to ninth century.

That magical fruit were boiled in water and the resulting concoction was thought to have medicinal properties. Over time, fame of the coffee plant spread to other lands and its centuries-long voyage was about to begin. The coffee plant was first discovered in Ethiopia and from there coffee beans moved to Africa, Europe, and America...

The word coffee entered English in 1598 from Italian word caffè, which was derived from Turkish word kahve. If we keep digging etymology of coffee, the next stop is Arabic qahwa.

As Islam prohibits the use of alcohol as a beverage, coffee that has caffeine became an alternative to wine. When European met with coffee, they called coffee as Islamic wine.

Turkey (at that time named Ottoman Empire) was introduced to coffee in 1517 by Ozdemir Pasha, who was Ottoman Governor of Yemen.

Turks developed their own way to brew coffee. They prepared the coffee in a special pot (cezve -also known as gugum or ibrik-), which is a copper vessel. As that new technique was invented by the Turks, the drink has started to be called as Turkish coffee.

With the popularity of coffee, a number of coffeehouses have opened in Istanbul, the capital city of the Ottoman Empire. Then, the coffeehouses have spread all around the Empire rapidly. So, coffeee became a cultural icon in Turkish life. For example, the Turkish word for breakfast (kahvalti) literally means "before coffee".

There are two important historical acts that let Europeans to know about Turkish coffee.

The first one was an Ottoman ambassador's visit to Paris. In 1657, Suleyman Aga, the ambassador from Sultan Mehmed IV, arrived in Paris to present a letter from his Sultan to King Louis XIV of France. The ambassador also brought coffee beans and introduced Turkish coffee to French elite society. When the ambassador returned to Istanbul, his coffee brewer stayed in France and opened a coffeehouse to serve Turkish coffee.

The next one was Battle of Vienna. In 1683, Austrians obtained many supplies from defeated Turks. Among many things, there were also coffee bags of 250 kg coffee beans! A Polish military officer of Ukrainian origin Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki got those bags and opened the first coffeehouse in Austria.

Then Turkish style of brewing coffee spread to other European countries with the help of merchants, travellers, and soldiers. Therefore, the legend of Turkish coffee had been moved from Istanbul to whole world...

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