October 19, 2010

Zarf Coffee Cup Holder

In Ottoman Empire days, Turkish coffee used to be served in coffee cups without a handle. So, how could people hold the cups? The answer lies on special coffee cup holders called "zarf".

Silver zarfs of Sultan Selim III (1789-1807)

A zarf can both keep coffee cup safe and protect coffee drinker against heat of hot cup. Traditionally, zarfs are mainly made of silver. However, many other materials are used too. For instance, there are zarfs made of brass, copper, tombak (an alloy of copper and zinc), and even gold.

Golden zarf decorated with diamonds - 19th century

Another golden zarf from 19th century

Rarely, there are also zarfs made of tortoiseshell, ivory, and horn. There are even wooden zarfs that are made of woods such as agallochum, coconut, ebony, and beech.

Since the coffee cup is not visible, decorating zarfs had become a special area of art. Expensive zarfs are decorated with chasing, engraving, niello and studded with valuable things like gems and coral.

A zarf from late 18th century made of gold and decorated with emerald

Today, you can find beautiful examples of those zarfs in Turkish museums or private collections.

Golden zarf and porcelain coffee cups from 19th century - Such a coffee cups set was known as "wife & husband cup" and bride served the very first coffee to her husband with those cups.

A coffee cup that is going to be used with a zarf can be made of many materials, such as porcelain, china, glass, and even wood. They have to be without a handle, so they can perfectly fit into their holder zarfs.
Two zarfs from 19th century

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

why do zarfs have such small feet? Surely they can't be very stable with a small cup of coffee in them? Why weren't the feet made a little larger?