the days of the Ottoman Empire through the present, coffee has
played an important role in Turkish-Cypriot lifestyle and culture.
The serving and consumption of coffee has had a profound effect on
betrothal and gender customs, political and social interaction,
prayer, and hospitality customs throughout the centuries. Although
many of the rituals are not prevalent in today's society, coffee
has remained an integral part of the local culture.
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 (kahveciusta), with the
help of over forty assistants, ceremoniously prepared and served
coffee for the sultan. Betrothal 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. Perspective husbands would judge a
woman's merits based on the taste of her coffee.
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 theater 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, Coffee houses
(kahvehane) in Cyprus continue their role in
society as a meeting place for both the cultured citizen and the
inquisitive traveler. North Cyprus 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 four levels of sweetness ranging from very sweet to black.
Since 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 face of the coffee, the host loses face.
Turkish coffee is
served hot from a special coffee pot calleda 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 flavor,
Turkish coffee remains a favorite today.