Monday, February 21, 2005

turkish coffee

i'm sure many long-time readers will be shocked to hear me say that i've never personally made turkish coffee at home before. and the reason was that i'd never had a good cup of turkish coffee out, even in the nicest upscale turkish restaurants here in new york.

plus i had a certain theoretical problem: the primary rule of specialty coffee is never boil coffee. and you do boil, albeit briefly, the turkish coffee.

so i thought to myself: that's why it's always bad, it's been boiled. it is an inherently flawed method, it seemed to me.

but i was talking last week to one of my colleagues, an extremely intelligent and sensitive gentleman, a turk born in a wealthy suburb of istanbul and educated at the london school of economics.

he's quite dashing in his bespoke charvet shirts -- actually everyone i know lately is wearing charvet -- i prefer hilditch & key or even turnbull & asser, but i'm strange -- yet he can chant a ghazal from hafiz so beautifully, and then in heartbeat say "this line reminds me of a line from shakespeare!" and immediately quote a bit of a sonnet that does in fact have a certain resonance.

and naturally when we talk about coffee, he talks about turkish coffee. in fact, he extols turkish coffee.

thus, i trotted down through the remnants of the snow to see mr. sahadi. because sahadi's sells nice turkish coffee pots, or ibriks, quite reasonably.

in fact, i picked up a lovely egyptian 2-cup copper one with a wooden handle and a hook for hanging at just US$6.99! thank you, mr. sahadi.

now for the coffee itself. of course, i intended to use the gillies yemen mocha sanani don schoenholt had sent me just last week.

yemen is i think most traditional coffee to use here, altho' ken davids says that any winy coffee will do, such as a good ethiopian harrar, yrg, etc. he suggests that even a kenya aa blended with a little sumatra would work.

i also already had the necessary raw, turbinado, or demerara sugar. and i'm never without green cardamom in the house.

i felt i was all set, but i called don schoenholt of gillies for advice. he suggested that for my size pot i use 3 oz. brita-filtered water, 2 teaspoons demerara sugar, and 7g (1 regular coffee scoop) fresh coffee, ground of course turkishly, to a face-powder fineness.

don said he himself dislikes cardamom in coffee, and recommended leaving it out. i however am crazy for cardamom, plus it's traditional, so i decided to use it, adding a literal pinch, maybe 1/16 teaspoon.

i got out my saeco 2002 grinder, which is perfect for this application. setting it to the "1" notch on the dial caused a bean to jam, so i had to take the hopper off and pull it out.

5 minutes later, i was back on track. following don's instructions, i added the sugar, the cardamom, the coffee, and finally the water. i gave it a quick stir and popped it on a medium-high flame.

in less than 2 mins. it did begin to bubble around the edges, and the ground coffee rose to create a crust at the top.

i was boiling coffee, and it felt so wrong. but i hung on, waiting until the coffee began to foam.

which it suddenly did, explosively, all at once! the coffee slurry had filled the ibrik just a little more than halfway, and the quick-flash foam leapt up the narrowing neck and side spout to the very top of the pot.

in fact it was just about to boil over -- this is the crucial moment! -- at just this dangerous point -- when you pull it off the flame. now ken davids says you bring the coffee to this point only once.

don disagrees, saying you should replace the pot on the flame once the foam subsides and bring it back to the fearful edge twice more, a total of 3 times in all.

don explained that you want some of this foam to persist in the coffee and float on the surface when you serve it. he said that foaming it 3 times would allow the sugar to caramelize into the coffee oils and bubble adequately to create a stiff foam capable of lasting long enough to pour and serve.

i was so freaked out by the sudden rocket-like rise of the foam, i followed ken davids' advice and poured it right away after only one foam. however, i think don is right here, because the foam didn't persist.

note to self: listen to don. there is a reason he is globally considered a coffee genius.

i poured the coffee into a 3-oz. demitasse, filling it about 2/3s, which did use up about half the pot. so you do in fact get 2 2-oz. cups of turkish coffee from it.

having just boiled the coffee, i was convinced it would be horrible. but no! it was in fact amazingly delicious.

my turkish colleague ahmet was correct. it was a thick, syrupy joy to drink.

the chocolate-y tones of the gillies yemen melded nicely with the cardamom. because the gillies isn't a dark roast, the coffee didn't have any burnt flavor, and there wasn't a speck of bitterness.

mr. right took a suspicious sniff. he didn't like the way it smelled -- he's not a cardamom fan either, it turns out.

he had a sip and grudgingly admitted it was good. he of course would have wanted it even sweeter -- which of course you can do!

i drank both cups myself. but i had to remember to leave the last bits in the demitasse: there is a good layer of sludge at the bottom.

that's just the nature of turkish coffee, after all. i have to say now that i love turkish coffee.

it's wonderful, quick and very easy to prepare, barely 3 mins. altogether.

don't make my mistake, dear readers! don't waste another day without this romantic luxury!

posted by fortune | 5:06 PM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

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