The Ultimate Guide to Turkish Coffee: History, Traditions, How to Drink, and Where to Find the Best Turkish Coffee! 

If someone asks, “What’s the most popular drink in Turkey?” you’ll likely hear one of two answers: Turkish coffee or tea. In today’s blog post, we’re diving into the aromatic world of Turkish coffee!

This cup of perfection is more than just a drink —it’s a cultural heritage, a symbol of hospitality, and an art form that has been savored across generations. Turkish coffee isn’t just a quick fix of energy: it’s experienced, savored, and often accompanied by traditions and rituals like fortune-telling. 

In this post, we’ll explore Turkish coffee culture, the meticulous preparation methods that make it unique, how to drink Turkish coffee, and typical Turkish coffee traditions. At the end, we’ll also share some of our secrets on where to find the best Turkish coffee in Istanbul and beyond! 

Painting by Amadeo Preziosi depicting a Turkish coffeehouse in the 1800s

A Short History of Turkish Coffee

The history of Turkish coffee began in the 1500s: during the times of the Ottoman Empire, there was a man named Ozdemir Pasha, who was the Ottoman governor of Yemen. One fine day he tried a delicious new drink and, in his excitement, he rushed over to the capital to introduce it to Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

The Sultan’s staff was unsure how to prepare this new drink, so they decided to experiment and finely ground the coffee beans with a mortar before brewing it in a small pot. Sultan Suleiman was so impressed that he let the entire palace try the new drink, and then the elite, and finally the masses. In its popularity, coffee quickly became an important part of Turkish society. 

By the end of the century, the first coffee houses (known as kiraathane) opened and quickly became hubs of social and intellectual activity. These establishments were frequented by poets, scholars, and politicians, who gathered to discuss various topics over cups of coffee. The preparation of Turkish coffee became a meticulous art form and gave Turkish coffee its distinctive strong flavor and thick foam. In fact, there’s a famous phrase from the 17th century that described coffeehouses as “Istanbul’s temples without gods.”

As the Ottoman Empire expanded, so did the popularity of Turkish coffee, spreading across the Middle East, North Africa, and the Balkans. Each region adapted the beverage to its own tastes, adding spices like cardamom or serving it with local sweets, but the preparation method remained largely unchanged.

However, it’s not history without a few bumps in the road. Sultan Murad IV, who ruled between 1623 to 1640, wasn’t too happy about Turkish coffee and banned the drink altogether. He believed that radical ideas were spread in coffeehouses, while coffee had a psychedelic effect that altered a person’s state of mind. (Let’s be honest, 90% of the jokes on this blog wouldn’t exist without a few cups of coffee 😁)

Murad IV was quite cruel in his ban: he said that anyone who was found purchasing or selling coffee would receive a beating on their first offense. If they were caught a second time, they would be stuffed into a leather bag and tossed into the Bosphorus. There were also rumors that Murad disguised himself and traveled all around Istanbul to catch perpetrators and personally execute them (ouch!). Over time, coffee became more popular, and the coffee ban was eventually abolished. 

In modern times, Turkish coffee remains a symbol of hospitality and tradition in Turkey. In 2013, UNESCO recognized Turkish coffee culture and inscribed it into their list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. 

Turkish coffee is celebrated globally, and enjoyed in practically any Turkish establishment, from traditional coffee houses to cafes, tradesman lokantasi, and even upscale restaurants. It stands as a testament to Turkey’s rich cultural heritage and its lasting influence on the global coffee culture.

A typical cezve (coffee pot with handle)

How Turkish Coffee Is Made 

Turkish coffee preparation is very simple, but requires a few nuances — which is why we’ve dedicated this section to talking about how to make Turkish coffee. 🙂 

There are only a few ingredients to make Turkish coffee: a cezve (coffee pot with handle), finely ground Turkish coffee, and cold water. Depending on preferences, sugar may also be added. 

The process of making Turkish coffee starts with pouring cold water into the cezve (coffee pot). For each cup of water, one heaping teaspoon of finely ground Turkish coffee is added to the cezve, as well as sugar (optional).

Before placing the cezve on the heat, the cook will stir the mixture of water, coffee, and sugar until it’s well combined. Then the pot is placed on low heat. In fact, the key to making perfect Turkish coffee is to heat it slowly so that all the flavors fully develop!

As the coffee heats, a thick foam will begin to form on the surface. Just before the coffee reaches its boiling point and the foam starts to rise, the cook will remove the cezve from the heat. From there, they pour the coffee into cups, making sure to distribute the foam evenly among the servings. The foam is an important part of the Turkish coffee experience and indicates a well-prepared brew. 

Now that we’ve gone over the preparation method, it’s time to learn how to properly drink Turkish coffee!

Making Turkish sand coffee

How to Order & Drink Turkish Coffee Like a Local

If you’re traveling around Turkey, there’s a good chance you’ll want to try Turkish coffee at least once on your trip. 🙂 

In this section, we’ll talk about how to order Turkish coffee like a local, the different types of coffee, and how to properly drink it. 

Types of Turkish Coffee

When you sit down at a cafe and open up the menu, you might be surprised at how many different types of Turkish coffee there are! Here are some of the most popular: 

☕️ Menengiç Coffee: Menengiç coffee is quite different from traditional Turkish coffee. It’s made from the roasted fruits of the Pistacia terebinthus (a member of the cashew family!), which is native to many areas of Turkey. This type of coffee doesn’t contain caffeine and has a unique flavor that’s slightly nutty yet fruity. Menengiç coffee is somewhat hard to find (it’s not usually served in regular cafes) — we recommend Payedar Kahve in Istanbul if you want to go out of your way to try it. 🙂 

☕️ Dibek Coffee: Dibek coffee is another way of making traditional Turkish coffee: it’s prepared by grinding the beans in a mortar called a ‘dibek’ (hence the name). The coffee beans are ground together with various spices like cardamom, mastic, or chocolate, creating a unique blend. This method results in a softer and less bitter coffee compared to the usual Turkish coffee.

☕️ Sand Coffee: The method of brewing sand coffee involves using a large pan filled with sand that’s heated over an open flame. The cezve (metal pot) is buried halfway into the hot sand, which provides a very even and gentle heat that allows the coffee to brew slowly and achieve a distinct flavor and foam. This method is more about the technique of brewing rather than a different type of coffee.

☕️ Damla Sakızlı (Mastic Coffee): Mastic, a resin obtained from the mastic tree, is often added to Turkish coffee to give it a unique, chewy texture and a refreshing aroma. Mastic coffee has a slightly pine-like flavor and is known for its digestive benefits.

☕️ Keçiboynuzu Coffee: Also known as carob coffee, this is a unique Turkish beverage made from the roasted pods of the carob tree and offers a caffeine-free alternative to traditional coffee. Rich in flavor and often touted for its health benefits, it serves as a popular choice for those who want a naturally sweet coffee drink.

Sugar Level

Once you decide on which coffee you want, the next step is figuring out its sweetness. When taking your order, the person making the coffee will ask you how much sugar you want. This is especially important, as the sugar is added during the coffee-making process, and not after. 😉

Here are some important phrases when ordering Turkish coffee:

◻️ No sugar: Sade (sah-deh) or Şekersiz (Sheker-siz)
◻️ Little sugar: Az şekerli (Ahz sheker-lee)
◻️ Medium sugar: Orta şekerli (Or-tuh sheker-lee)
◻️ A lot of sugar: Çok şekerli (chok sheker-lee)

We generally prefer medium sugar (about a tablespoon) since it helps take off some of the bitterness. However, it’s really up to your personal preferences! 

Turkish Coffee Accompaniments (Side Dishes)

One of the first things you’ll notice when you receive your coffee is a sweet treat on the side. Usually, this is a Turkish delight (locally known as lokum), a small cookie, sherbet, chocolate, or baklava. 

The sweet, chewy texture of Turkish delight (lokum) counteracts the strong, bold flavors of Turkish coffee. It’s also served as part of Turkish tradition, which we’ll talk about in the next section. 🙂 

Sometimes, you’ll also get a small cup of water which acts in a similar way to the lokum. You can drink the water according to your preferences: if you drink it before coffee, the water does a great job of ‘cleaning your palette’ so that you can enjoy the taste of coffee better. On the other hand, drinking water after coffee helps you remove the bitter taste of coffee from your mouth. 

Another accompaniment is sherbet (şerbet in Turkish), which is a sweet drink made from fruit juices, extracts of flowers, and sugar. Sherbet was traditionally served as a contrast for coffee — since caffeine increases the body’s need for sugar, a small cup of sherbet was the perfect accompaniment to enhance the overall sensory experience of the drinker.

How to Drink Turkish Coffee

You’ve placed your order, and, after a few minutes, a delicious cup of kahve has arrived… Now what? Here we’ll explain some dos and don’t of drinking Turkish coffee:

Savor the Aroma: Before you take your first sip, take a moment to enjoy the aroma of the coffee. Turkish coffee is known for its strong, distinct scent that sets the stage for the tasting experience.

Take Small Sips: As we mentioned before, Turkish coffee is much stronger and thicker than other types of coffee, so it’s meant to be sipped slowly in small amounts. This allows you to appreciate the full flavor and warmth without overwhelming your palate.

Allow the Grounds to Settle: Unlike traditional coffee (i.e. an espresso), Turkish coffee isn’t brewed through finely ground beans. The fine grounds actually go inside every cup of Turkish coffee and, therefore, should not be stirred once served. Allow it to sit for a minute or two so the grounds settle to the bottom of the cup.

Don’t Drink the ‘Mud’! As you near the end of your cup, you’ll notice the texture of the coffee change as you start to reach the grounds. It’s customary to stop drinking once you hit this gritty layer to avoid a mouthful of coffee grounds (unless you’re into that). 🙂 

Reading someone’s fortune by interpreting the coffee grounds

Interesting Turkish Coffee Rituals 

There are many rituals and traditions surrounding Turkish coffee. Here are a few: 

Turkish Delight (Lokum) —

According to an old Turkish legend, serving Turkish delight (lokum) with Turkish coffee was a subtle way to ask if the guest was satisfied with the host’s hospitality. If the guest ate the Turkish delight after drinking the coffee, this would mean that he was satisfied with the hospitality. If the person wasn’t happy with his coffee, he wouldn’t eat the lokum (I guess he wasn’t delighted? *ba dum tss*). This way, the Turkish found a polite way to ask without being too direct. 

There’s also a popular Turkish phrase that goes, “Let’s eat sweet, talk sweet” (Tatlı yiyelim, tatlı konuşalım). This means that the secret of a friendly chat is the sweets that’s served alongside — such as coffee and lokum! 😉 

Serving Water with Turkish Coffee — 

There’s an old Turkish story that, in ancient times, the host used to offer water with Turkish coffee to understand whether their guests were hungry or full. If the guest drank the water before the coffee, it means that they were hungry (and so the host would subtly understand and prepare some food). If the guest drank the coffee first instead of drinking water, it would mean that they were full and just came to chat.

If you prefer a more romanticized story, then we have another theory that comes from the Ottoman palace. Back in those days, there were special employees in the palace who had to taste the food before the sultan to make sure it wasn’t poisonous. However, since the coffee was prepared in a coffee pot, it was difficult for the ‘taste tester’ to try. Instead, before drinking his coffee, the sultan would simply dip his finger in the coffee and then put it in the water — and it would be instantly clear whether the coffee was toxic according to its distribution in the water.

Turkish Coffee Fortune Telling — 

Turkish coffee fortune telling (also known as kahve falı in Turkish) is a traditional practice deeply embedded in Turkish culture, where the patterns and shapes left by the grounds of Turkish coffee in a cup are interpreted to predict the future or gain insights into one’s life. This form of divination is popular in Turkey and parts of the Middle East and the Balkans, where this kind of coffee is widely consumed.

The fortune telling ritual is very straightforward: First, you drink the coffee and leave the grounds in the cup. From there, you turn over the cup on the plate, move it in a circle three times while chanting a phrase, let it cool, and show it to the fortune teller. From there, your fortune is read based on the shapes and patterns of the coffee grounds.

While we’re no experts in fortune telling, there’s a very popular (and highly-rated!) Turkish coffee making and fortune telling worship that you can experience in Istanbul. Click here to check availability and book 🙂 → 

Best Places to Try Turkish Coffee in Turkey

Now that we’ve told you the history, how to order, and how to drink Turkish coffee like a local, it’s time to put those skills to the test! 

Here are some of our recommendations for the best Turkish coffee in Istanbul, Ankara, and other cities. 🙂 

Best Turkish Coffee in Istanbul

☕️ Payedar Kahve (Üsküdar) — This cozy and traditional cafe is famous for its extensive menu of Turkish coffee, including damla sakızlı coffee, menengiç coffee, hurma coffee (made from dates), and more! As a nice bonus, there are beautiful views of the nearby mosque and Bosphorus (be sure to get a seat on the second floor). 

☕️ Mandabatmaz (Beyoğlu) — located in a quiet alley in Beyoglu, this local favorite started in 1967 and continues to serve its famous thick-foamed Turkish coffee. In fact, that’s how the cafe gots its name: some people began to exclaim that “not even a buffalo can sink in this foam!” (“Bu köpükte manda bile batmaz!”), so the owner changed the name to ‘unsinkable buffalo.’ 🙂 
Mandabatmaz is located right off of Istiklal Street, so be sure to pay a visit when you’re there!

☕️ Beta Yeni Han (Sultanahmet) — where you can find many specialty Turkish coffee (damla sakizi, etc) and more than a dozen tea varieties (if traveling with friends :)) — inn was built in 17th century / sand coffee 

☕️ Fazıl Bey’in Türk Kahvesi (Kadıköy) — A neighborhood classic, Fazil Bey’s cafe has been a mainstay in Kadıköy. The interior has a sweet nostalgic atmosphere, the coffee is fresh, and the employees are friendly — is there anything better?

☕️ Istanbul Kahvehanesi (Sultanahmet)— Blink and you’ll miss this cafe! İstanbul Kahvehanesi is located in a quiet courtyard (a perfect respite from the always busy Sultanahmet!) and while the menu is small, it’s well-done. 

☕️ Nev-i Cafe (Balat) — If you’re visiting the colorful houses of Balat, this cafe is a nice place to stop by and rest. The Turkish coffee is perfectly made, and the cafe serves other varieties like menengiç. 

Best Turkish Coffee Tours in Istanbul

If you prefer to learn about Turkish coffee with an expert (whether that’s going on a coffee tasting tour, cooking it at home, or learning how to read your fortune), then we recommend the tours below 🙂 

Best Turkish Coffee in Other Cities

☕️ Coffee Museum (Safranbolu)One of our absolute favorite places to learn more about Turkish coffee is *drumroll* The Turkish Coffee Museum! Yes, that’s right — Turkey has a museum dedicated to its coffee. 😉

This museum is located in Safranbolu’s historic caravansary (roadside inn) and has dozens of artifacts related to coffee, including cups, coffee-making devices, a short history of Turkish coffee, and more. Of course, don’t leave without ordering a cup of coffee from the cafe! The Coffee Museum’s menu has more than a dozen different options, including some that were meticulously recreated from historical recipes. If you’ve been thoroughly intrigued, we have a Safranbolu Travel Guide, complete with information about the museum → 

☕️ Tahmis (Gaziantep) — Of course, we couldn’t forget to add one of the oldest coffee houses in Turkey. In fact, this coffeehouse is almost as old as coffee in Turkey itself! The cafe was built in 1635 as a way to bring money for the local tekke (a gathering place for Sufis) and is one of the most famous coffee shops in the region. In fact, it even has its own Wikipedia page. 🙂  Click here for Google Maps →

☕️ Madam’ın Dibek Kahvesi (Çanakkale) — If our tales of dibek coffee have intrigued you, perhaps it’s time to pay a visit to Çanakkale. 🙂 This sweet cafe was founded in the 1890s and nowadays the fourth generation is in charge of making the family’s famous dibek kahve. Click here for Google Maps →

☕️ Kahveci Müco (Ankara)— One of the most authentic Turkish coffee cafes in Ankara! The cafe’s motto is Anadolu’nun Kayıp Kahveleri, which translates to lost coffees of Anadolu (the Turkish name for Anatolia). The owner traveled all around Turkey and collected coffee recipes from locals, including lesser-known ones — and now you can try them all here! Click here for Google Maps →

Where to buy Turkish Coffee

📍 Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi — No doubt, the most famous coffee company in Turkey is none other than Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi — you’ll see their iconic bronze and gold packaging in many supermarkets and souvenir stores! The company began in 1871 after Mehmet Efendi (the founder) noticed an opportunity in the market. Back in those days, Turkish coffee was typically sold as raw beans and grinded at home. Instead, Mehmet Efendi began roasting and grinding the beans himself and then selling it in his storefront — and in just a few years, launched his coffee empire. 🙂 

As we mentioned, you can find Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi coffee in many supermarkets. However, the best place to buy their coffee is at the flagship store in Eminonu (click here for the Google Map location), where you’ll typically see a line of locals and tourists. You’ll get the absolute freshest coffee there! 

📍 İhsan Kurukahvecioğlu Halefleri – Another famous main staple of Istanbul is İhsan Kurukahvecioğlu Halefleri, which was founded in 1871 and has been selling coffee from the same spot since 1912. The sixth-generation owner is running her great-great-grandfather’s company, and still uses the original coffee roasting machine from Probat. The secret of their coffee is in the historical technique: after skillfully roasting the coffee beans on a wood fire, the company grinds them in the antique grinding machines and stone mills. Click here for their location on Google Maps

📍 Selamlique — Specializing in premium Turkish coffee, Selamlique combines tradition with luxury. Their coffee is known for its rich flavor and is often infused with unique aromas like cardamom and chocolate, catering to the high-end market. Likewise, their presentation and packaging is absolutely delightful! You can find Selamlique coffee in luxurious supermarkets like Macrocenter, or at their stores in Istanbul — the one in Galataport is our favorite (click here for the Google Map location). 

Other popular Turkish coffee brands include Nuri Toplar and Fazil Bey

If you’re not planning a trip to Turkey anytime soon, no worries! You can also assemble your own Turkish coffee making kit 🙂

You can buy the famous Mehmet Efendi coffee here, an authentic copper cezve (coffee pot) here, and lokum here.


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