Once discovered by the Ottomans, Turkish coffee became such an important feature of palace life, that a position of Chief Coffee Maker (kahvecibasi) was created by the palace.
The tradition of Turkish coffee is believed to date back to 1555 when it was introduced to the palace in Istanbul by Ozdemir Pasha, the Ottoman Governor of Yemen. He had grown to live it while stationed in Yemen.
The Ottoman palace discovered a new method of preparing coffee, where the beans were roasted over a fire, finely ground and then slowly cooked with water on the ashes of a charcoal fire. Today Turkish coffee refers to the method of preparation, where the finely ground coffee is cooked in a pot with sugar according to taste, then served in a small cup where the grounds are allowed to settle. The key to making Turkish coffee is to ensure the water is hot, but not boiling, so that the flavours can be extracted.
The Chief Coffee Maker’s duty was to brew the Sultan’s coffee, and a key job requirement was an ability to keep secrets. The popularity of Turkish coffee soon spread to the public, and further throughout Europe as a result of Turkey’s position on key trade routes. Coffee houses soon sprang up, first in Istanbul, and later in other parts of Turkey. In Ottoman times, coffee houses were arty places – somewhere to gather to discuss poetry, play backgammon or read books.
A thick layer of foam on top of the coffee is considered to be the sign of a great cup of Turkish coffee. Turkish coffee is usually served with a glass of water.