The True Turkish Coffee on Sand,
as I saw it made in Turnu Severin
by Camelia Krausmann
There isn't such a thing as Turkish coffee. However, there are different methods of preparing a cup of coffee. Before the coffeemakers were invented, people used other ways to brew their morning delight. Turkish coffee refers to a method of making coffee which is, till today, the preferred one in some countries.
When I was in high school, my classroom went on a trip along the Danube river. The trip lasted only three days but in this short time I collected lots of information that later became memories.
First, we landed at a hotel in Turnu Severin - a port at Danube river. I remember being very happy because the boy I was interested was there too. Today I do not even recall his name but he was the one that, short after we got our rooms and unpacked, invited me to go down town for a coffee.
As we were under the age of 18 we were not allowed in any bar or restaurant without an adult so we went to a flee market he knew from his previous trips. In a large plaza, near downtown, there were people selling gadgets, fresh fish, or vegetables just picked from their garden. Others had small kiosks that served a kind of local fast-food, and of course, coffee. There were several places for coffee; he brought me to this particular one that made true Turkish coffee, as he later explained to me.
If I looked for a top stove with boiling coffee pots, I was wrong. Instead a saw this huge try filled with sand, resting on a frame above a gas tank. The tray was as big as 20 x 30 inches and the sand inside was lightly steaming. A tall, thin man, slightly bended from his back, like a reed in a breeze, came carrying some funny pots I never saw before. Those were ibrice (plural of ibrik, a pot used to prepare coffee).
Turnu Severin is a medium size city located on the south-west side of Romania, on a very accessible shore to Danube river. The archaeological discoveries suggest that once, there, was one the first settlements in Europe, dated around 9000 BC.
He put the pots on the tray, nesting them in the sand, more then 2 inch deep. Then he filled them with water from a glass carafe. "It's going to be 10 minutes till it's ready" he said to us and turned his back and left. We stuck around anyway, having nothing to do more important.
I look at the pots and the chaotic way they were laying on the tray thinking that if that man would have wanted he could have fit a couple more.
The pots were narrow and tall, made out of copper, with a very long handle. They could hold only 4 ounces of liquid unlike the ones I was used to, a large cylinder, to fit at least tree cups of water.
The man came back with a brown paper bag. Using a long-tail teaspoon he reached inside the bag and filled it with coffee, that he pour it into a coffee pot. Two heaping teaspoons for each pot. The water inside was steaming. I wanted to touch the sand so I got closer. I almost placed a finger in the try but my friend stopped me he said I'll get a bad burn.
Seemed like a long time till our coffee was ready. In the mean time lots of other people were waiting for theirs.
Working very fast, the man was taking one pot at a time and quickly emptying it in a small white cup then hand it to its customers. We got ours among the last; a hot cup of coffee, topped with a thick layer of froth.
It was the first and the last time I saw how to brew coffee in hot sand. The coffee was very good but not much different from one made on top of my stove.It is said that Turkish coffee refers at the way the Turks used to prepare it. However, it is more to it, like the rituals that took place, the social meaning of drinking it, the conversations that developed around it.For many centuries, parts of what is now Romania, were under Ottoman Empire's suzerainty. In this time a cultural transfer took place. Such things like words, foods, drinks, clothing were imported and used by the upper classes in Romania. So, I believe coffee preparations was one of many things we got from Turks, which only enhanced our own culture.
Here is how I used to make turkish coffee: what I use: - a special pot like the one in the second photo - a teaspoon - cold water, sugar and finely grounded coffee
- Turn on the stove to medium or low heat (low if gas, medium if electric).
- Pour 8 ounces of cold water on a pot and place it on the stove.
- Add as much sugar you want (I usually have 1 heaping teaspoon for a cup if in Romania and 2 if in US because US sugar is less sweet).
- Add 2 heaping teaspoons of coffee.
- Do not stir.
- Let it come to a boil and stir slightly.
- take it out of heat and collect the froth and place it in a cup (this is a little trick but it's also important).
- Put the pot back on the stove and boil it again, for few more seconds.
- Now take it out of the stove and pour it on the cup.
- Wait a minute or two to allow the coffee grounds to settle at the bottom.
- Then enjoy.
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