Arabic/Turkish Coffee

As I mentioned before here, I have a love-hate relationship with what Libyans call Arabic coffee, and the rest of the world calls Turkish coffee. In North America I found that Arabic coffee is usually used to refer to Saudi coffee, which is very light (it looks like light green tea, and has a lot of cardamom in it). I actually love the taste of Turkish coffee, and I enjoy making it once in a while, my problem is that I rarely get what one must get in order to be considered a good coffee maker: the face.

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What’s the face? Well, it’s the foam that forms at the top of the coffee as you boil it on the stove. Everyone gets it at first, but the tricky part is in getting it into the cups! If you’re not fast or skilled enough, the bubbles will be all gone by the time the coffee makes it into the cups. Some smart ladies manage to get a few cups with faces, and then distribute the bubbles to the rest. Preferably, you shouldn’t be making more than 4-5 cups at a time, so that everyone gets at least a bit of the foam! A cup of coffee without a face, is like melted ice-cream: blah, it still tastes good, but your desire to eat it goes from 10 to zero in a millisecond. As you can see from my pictures here, my Turkish coffee is utterly faceless, unlike my beloved espresso (which I describe here).

As I explained in my white coffee recipe, in order to make Arabic/Turkish coffee, most people use what’s called a bukrij, which is basically a metal mug with a long handle, in which you pour your water, coffee, and sugar, to boil on the stove. It also has a little spout from which to pour into the cups.

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The proportions are very simple: 1 heaping teaspoon for each cup of water, and 1 or 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar (I have mine without, and in Turkey they’ll ask you if you want sugar or not, most Arabic places will put the sugar in with the coffee, unless you ask them not to). Keep in mind that the coffee grounds aren’t filtered here, so you’ll be getting them in your cup. This is why sugar is usually added to the boiling water with the coffee, so you don’t have to stir it once you get it, which would unsettle the grounds and make them land in your mouth as soon as you sip. It’s good to let the coffee sit for a few seconds (half a minute or so) before drinking, to ensure that the grounds settle to the bottom, as finding grounds in your mouth can be a bit like eating sand, and who likes that?!

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We use Turkish coffee, because we like this particular brand, but you can purchase Arabic coffee at your local Arabic grocery store, and you’ll find it in regular and cardamom, which simply means they have added ground cardamom to the coffee grounds for extra flavor. I love cardamom, but I’m not partial to it in my Arabic/Turkish coffee. Some people will also add a few drops of rose water or orange blossom water to the boiling coffee for added flavor. I don’t particularly like this, especially if the coffee is of good quality, but taste is personal, so if you don’t enjoy your coffee plain, you might want to give this a try. One thing I’ve never seen done is adding milk to it, it could be because milk is usually hard to keep in such hot climates, so you don’t want to risk it curdling in your fresh coffee, but there might be a myriad of other reasons.

Prepare your tray with sweets (chocolates, cookies, halgoom/Turkish delight), as you won’t have time to set it up once the coffee is boiling. It should be all set up before you even put the water on the stove, so you just might get your beautiful coffee face in as many cups as possible!

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You should fill your pot (or bukrij) with a bit of space at the rim, to allow the coffee to rise when it boils, without spilling over. Bring the water to a boil, remove the bakrij or pot from the stove for a few seconds while you put your coffee grounds (and sugar, if desired), lower the heat to medium and place the bukrij back on the stove. Keep your hand on the handle and stir the contents with a spoon to ensure that the flavors seep into the water. Be careful, because this process can become very messy very quickly, so make sure you keep your hand on the handle to be able to remove it from the heat before it overflows. The coffee should boil with the water for only a few seconds, while you stir.

Have your tray with cups and saucers nearby, remove the bukrij from the stove, turn off the heat, and carefully pour the coffee into your cups. Serve piping hot. No spoons necessary. Enjoy! Let me know if it worked out for you, and send pictures of your coffee faces on Instagram @caterpillarsister, on Twitter @cafecaterpillah, on FB, or in the comments below. Make sure to save the pin to this post on Pinterest, and share it with your family and friends!

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