Thursday, March 03, 2005

turkish coffee, part vi

i promise this will be the last installment on turkish coffee for a good long while. honest.

i would write about the newsweek chocolate article, except for some insane reason it isn't available online in their rss file. what's the point of that?

you'll have to buy the dead tree version to read this pretty-ok piece on artisanal chocolate. which is a shame, because otherwise i could link to it and drive people to their website, which would increase their ad revenue. . .on what planet do these dopey online-marketing people dwell, hmm??

so chocolate fans, i'm sorry i can't indulge you on this one, but long-time bccy pal clay gordon of chocophile gets great mention!

as for the subject at hand, la-la land food critic charles perry offers a fantastic overview of the turkish coffee landscape here on

and to humor bccy pal and comment fiend alex b., the story of the jordanian driver. . .

yesterday the awesome todd, gary, and lauren of wholelattelove sent the major door prize for the scaa march 9 nyc coffee meetup. a lovely gaggia "coffee" in white with a matching white gaggia "mm" grinder.

these are lovely entry-level espresso devices, smallish in size, and thus suited to the crowded nyc apartment kitchen! with just a little practice, they make such fine espresso that many owners never bother to upgrade.

they are well-reviewed and well-regarded machines that with some care can last many years. i know some people have had their "coffee"s for 6 years now.

however if you already have a mid-level or above espresso machine, this gaggia model won't be of interest to you. . .but most people in the meetup group seem to lack any espresso machines at all. so i'm very happy that wholelattelove donated this nice beginner's machine.

what was i saying? yes, to take these machines home meant i had to call a car service. said car being driven by a pleasant jordanian; naturally i quizzed him on the turkish coffee front.

he expressed his deep affection for turkish coffee with what he called "hel" or "hal." i asked him if this was cardamom or cinnamon, to which he replied no, but said if you went to standard bklyn hangout, sahadis, mr. sahadi would mix it into the coffee for you.

i searched the net and it seems we had some confusion -- because "hel" appears to be an arabic word for whole cardamom seed. apparently if you buy coffee for turkish at sahadi, mr. sahadi himeself will ceremoniously stir the proper proportion of cardamom seeds into the whole-bean coffee for you, so that you can grind it up together in your brass grinder.

the driver also mentioned that some people put "cherry" into the coffee. being a coffee person, i thought he meant dried bits of the coffee fruit, also called cherry, and which is used to make a kind of arab tea, "qishr."

but no! it appears he is referring to what i would call "mahlab," from a dried tiny sour cherry.

this powdered fruit seed adds a bitter, almond-like taste to the coffee, and i suppose could serve as a taste balance to the ultra-sweet cups often served in the middle-east.

finally, he noted that powdered ginger went well with coffee too. so your authentic middle-eastern spice options are wide indeed!

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