Coffee culture

Copyright David Belt 2014

It is said a cup of Turkish coffee can mend a friendship wounded forty years deep. This wonderful saying gives pause to something so common we often take it for granted. We bustle about in our morning routine, grabbing a cup of joe anyway we can, be it an automated brewing machine that makes the coffee on a timer, because we can’t be bothered to do so ourselves, or we slap a K-cup in a Keurig and call it coffee. I have both in my home, but if I leave my hovel without my java, there is no end to the myriad of available choices to get that tasty choice. My brother, Steve, makes his living as the owner of Echo Coffee in Scottsdale, AZ, catering his craft to coffee connoisseurs and local commuters, and why?

Well, think of the alternative… Life without coffee is just unthinkable.

I still remember one of the first jokes I ever received on Face Book:

Writer (ri-ter) – noun – An organism that converts coffee into novels.

Coffee is an integral part of our daily lives, and in many cultures, it has greater meaning than a simple kick start to our morning routine. The mocha from Persian cultures dates back to their desert dwelling nomadic days. In the desert, water is more precious than the coffee bean, so they use as little water as possible when making their coffee, resulting in the thick, strong flavored mocha. The offering of a cup of coffee by a desert nomad is a sign of respect as both the coffee and water are difficult to come by in the desert. This tradition is carried forward to modern Persian homes as guests are offered coffee as a sign of respect.

In Turkey, coffee has a much deeper meaning than a simple beverage. The best time for Turkish coffee is a hot midsummer afternoon, because the conditions are just right to make natural Turkish coffee. Boiling hot water is not filtered through ground beans in Turkey, but rather, a good cup of Turkish coffee starts with cool mountain spring water. The coffee is shaved to a fine powder and the water is set in the warm sun as the coffee dissolves naturally, slowly in the sun heated water. The offering of this labor shows great respect to the guest and gives time to talk and resolve differences as the coffee slowly brews.

Like the Persians, the Turks were nomads, and many of those traditions have been carried forward in time. Among those traditions is the arrangement of marriage, but Turkish culture has an interest veto method. Though they may not be permitted to interact or even converse, the bride will always meet the groom before the wedding, and it is the bride who has the final say on whether or not she will marry. The bride does not speak her decision; she serves coffee. Once the parents have settled on the arrangements, the meeting is concluded with the bride serving coffee. She will flavor the coffee with either sugar, indicating she agrees to marry, or salt, indicating her refusal.

Next time you sip on your favored cup of coffee, think more fully on what it means to you, for friendships are mended and marriages are sealed on the strength of a cup of coffee.

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One thought on “Coffee culture

  1. Thanks to the local Middle Eastern restaurants I got hooked on Turkish coffee. Some staff members at one of the restaurants ordered me a coffee pot and taught me how to make it on the stove.

    I had no idea that the traditional method was to let the sun heat the water! how fascinating!

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