Cafe Midnight Express was established in 1989
and since then we have been serving our customers with joy.

Introduction to Turkish Coffee * Turkish Coffee Pots (Cezve) * The Saz
* Turkish Coffeehouses * Turkish Coffee Grinders (Degirmen) * The Oud
* How to Make Turkish Coffee * Turkish Delight, “Lokum” * The Dombak (= Darabukkah)
* Turkish Coffee Cups (Fincan) * Halva    


Introduction to Turkish Coffee



Coffee has created its own “culture” in Turkey are the famous words of the great Turkish 20th century poet, Yahya Kemal. A little bit more than a casual visit to Turkey would convince anyone that this is the case. Coffee for Turks is not simply a drink, but has its own history, its institutions (coffeehouses), its rituals, its own rules of when and how to drink it, and even a tradition of fortune-telling by reading the coffee grinds deposited at the bottom of a traditional Turkish coffee cup… Most Turks would find it superfluous to call it Turkish coffee: coffee is Turkish coffee.

Turks were introduced to coffee over four and a half centuries ago. A short while after a governor to Yemen brought back to Istanbul and introduced to the Ottoman capital beans of Coffee Arabica, the metropolitan city was teeming with coffeehouses. Within a century, first Venice, than London and Paris were introduced to coffee via the Ottomans, which naturally acquired its epithet “Turkish” to become “Turkish coffee”. In some Western countries Turkish coffee is also known as Greek coffee as they were introduced to this type of coffee and coffee-making via the Greeks.

Shortly after coffee was introduced to the Ottomans in 1543, it became so popular so quickly that coffeehouses were opened and small shops opened specializing in roasting coffee. Coffee roasting is called “tahmis” and to this day there is a street called Tahmis in the Eminonu neighborhood in Istanbul where the so-called Egyptian spice bazaar is located. Its name derived from the coffee shops located on this street 460 years ago.

Let’s go back to what the poet said: What would a “culture” created by coffee mean (“kahve medeniyeti” in Turkish, which is hard to translate since the expression denotes something that extends beyond the more restrictive term “culture”)?

Is there such thing as “culture” when it comes to coffee?

back >



Turkish Coffeehouses



Turkish coffeehouses must be divided into two: old coffeehouses and new coffeehouses. The latter cannot even be called a distant cousin of the old coffeehouses. The first coffeehouse ever was opened in 1554 during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent.

Two people, one person from Aleppo and another from Damascus have opened this coffeehouse jointly in the Tahtakale district of Istanbul, a vibrant commercial center even today. The first people to attend this first coffeehouse were people pursuing the mundane pleasures of idly enjoying the moment (there is a specific word for this in Turkish called “keyif”), but also the educated class of the society. Some would come to read in the coffeehouse, other would play backgammon or chess, some would delve into conversations on art and culture. As other coffeehouses mushroomed, however, the unemployed, troublemakers, and the retired became regulars of coffeehouses. Imams, muezzins (those who sing the call to prayer), and high ranking officials would regularly go to coffeehouses.

There were also a number of coffeehouses with decorative pools that opened during the Ottoman period, as Ottomans believed on the soothing power of watching water. These coffeehouses were built at places with the best panoramic views of the city. The porch was covered with kilims and rugs and there was a decorative pool at the center. The walls were covered with cups of all kinds and nargiles with silver or gold caps.

However, today the entire city of Istanbul and the entire country are filled with coffeehouses numbering probably hundreds of thousands. They are different from their predecessors, with TV sets, card games and backgammon providing the entertainment in addition to the friendly conversation. The life of the coffeehouse revolves much less around drinking coffee, which has been replaced by tea as the beverage of choice. Still, coffee is consumed in large amounts and coffeehouses continue to form the center of social interaction for a lot of Turkish men, who can stop by in their favorite coffee shop with the knowledge that they will almost certainly find a friend to chat away some part of the day.

back >


How to Make Turkish Coffee



1. Pour in cold water in the coffee pot. You should use one cup of cold water for each cup you are making and then add an extra half cup “for the pot”. Add a teaspoonful of the ground Turkish coffee per cup in the water while the water is cold and stir. The amount of coffee may be varied to taste, but do not forget, there will be a thick layer of coffee grounds left at the bottom of your cup for properly made Turkish coffee. Don’t fill the pot too much. If you need to add sugar this is the time to do it.

2. Heat the pot as slowly as you can. The slower the heat the better it is. Make sure you watch it to prevent overflowing when the coffee boils.

3. When the water boils pour some (not all) of the coffee equally between the cups, filling each cup about a quarter to a third of the way. This will make sure that everybody gets a fair share of the foam forming on top of the pot, without which coffee loses much of its taste. Continue heating until coffee boils again (which will be very short now that it has already boiled). Then distribute the rest of the coffee between the cups.

Since there is no filtering of coffee at any time during this process, you should wait for a few minutes before drinking your delicious Turkish coffee while the coffee grounds settle at the bottom of the cup.

back >


Turkish Coffee Cups (Fincan)




Finally, the experience of Turkish coffee is not complete without the proper cups. About the size of espresso cups, Turkish coffee cups nowadays have a handle and their designs have a narrower bottom.

In the past Turkish coffee cups had no handles, and were put in beautiful filigree or jeweled holders. Even the coffee trays are specially designed for the purpose, having an arched handle by which the tray is suspended.

Porcelain coffee cups were produced at the Iznik or Kutahya potteries for the Turkish market. Sets of Turkish coffee cups were subsequently produced for local European markets and known as "a la turque" coffee sets.

Carved wooden containers for cooling the roasted coffee beans and others for storing them were once part of the equipment in every household, as were the decorated wooden coffee grinders made in Istanbul.

Each household in Turkey is likely to have at least one coffee set and one can buy anything from garden variety, inexpensive porcelain cups, to gold-rimmed and very expensive or antique coffee cups in Turkey.

back >


Turkish Coffee Pots (Cezve)




Turkish coffee pot is designed specifically to make Turkish coffee. The long handle is particularly useful to avoid burning hands, and the brim is designed to serve the coffee. Please note that the most important element in choosing the coffee pot is its size.

You should neither use a too big nor a too small pot. Depending upon how many servings you need, you need to choose the appropriate size. Please note that many Turkish households do have a variety of sizes for different occasions.

back >


Turkish Coffee Grinders (Degirmen)




This specially designed grinder helps you grind the beans appropriately.

Note that to make Turkish coffee, beans must be ground very finely. If you are not a heavy coffee drinker or prefer to grind your coffee upon demand to maximize freshness and taste, a coffee mill is required to grind the beans as necessary.

A traditional coffee mill has a particular design, with a two piece moving handle and with a pot underneath to collect the ground coffee. The following mill that we would recommend also carries traditional Halep (Aleppo) designs.

back >



Turkish Delight, “Lokum”



The origin of Turkish delight (“Lokum”), like Turkish coffee dates back to the time of the Ottoman Empire. A part of Turkish culture for centuries, the recipe has remained virtually unchanged from its inception.

Before the 18th century, honey and grape molasses were the only sweetening agents available to Turkish confectioners. With the introduction of sugar in the late 18th century, a new era of sweet making opened in the Ottoman lands. Sugar brought with it the beginning of endless creative possibilities to Turkish confectioners. It was during this time that Lokum, one of the oldest known confections in the world was created in the great kitchens of the Ottoman Court.

A whimsical tale tells of the creation of Turkish delight: In an attempt to appease his many wives, a famous Sultan ordered his confectioner to create a unique sweet. Eager to please his Sultan, the confectioner blended a concoction of sugar syrup, various flavourings, nuts and dried fruits then bound them together with mastic (gum arabic). After many attempts, the delicately scented and sugary sweet Lokum - better known in the West as Turkish delight - was created. The Sultan was so taken by this elegant new creation that he appointed the sweet maker the court’s Chief Confectioner. Thereafter, a plate of Lokum was served at daily feasts in the Ottoman Court.

Lokum was unveiled to the west in the 19th century. During his travels to Istanbul, an unknown British traveler became very fond of the Turkish delicacies, purchased cases of Lokum and he shipped them to Britain under the name Turkish delight. Today, Turkish delight remains the sweet of choice in many Turkish homes. Enjoyed world wide, the subtle flavours of Turkish delight finely compliment coffee and sweeten the breath at the end of a meal. Traditionally offered at Christmas in the West, Turkish Delight is becoming increasingly popular as a confection to be enjoyed year-round.

back >





Halva is one of the oldest Turkish sweets and has a long history with some thinking that it is the oldest Turkish dessert.
While there are many types of halva, the most famous form consumed throughout the Middle East and the Balkan is the tahini halva made with crushed sesame seeds. It is commercially produced and sold in blocks by weight and may be plain, chocolate flavored or pistachio flavored.

In the manufacture process of tahini halva, first the sesame seeds are sifted, washed, dried and ground. Another herb called “coven” (root of soapwort) is mashed and mixed with sugar and is used to give halva its white color. The sesame, çöven and sugar are cooked by stirring in large cauldrons. Then various flavors such as nuts, pistachio, almond, and cocoa are added and pour into moulds in which they are cooled.

back >



The Saz



Saz means musical instrument (among other meanings) in Persian; the 'oud is often called "sultan-e-saz" or king of the instruments. In Iran, though no instrument is called saz (the tar is sometimes referred to as the "amir-e saz", or prince of instruments), but in Turkey, the saz is a long-neck lute of several sizes. All share common features; Metal strings, long thin neck with tied nylon (formerly gut) frets, wood (or plastic composite) pegs, often without a hole for the strings (the special way of wrapping the strings suffices to hold them on the peg), three courses with the 3rd (and often the 1st) course doubled in octaves, Almond-shaped hemipyriform body carved from a single piece of mulberry, or more common now than ever, lute-type staved wood, and a soundboard with small "wings". Over the years the gross design features have changed little, but some details have been altered to suit changes in taste, manufacturing methods, tuning patterns, etc. Formerly the tops were strongly curved, but now they tend to a flatter shape.

A History of the Saz
One of the most ancient forms of lute is the family of long-neck lutes, which today includes the Greek (and Irish) Bouzouki, the Arab Buzuk, the many sizes of Turkish Saz, the Persian Setar, the Armenian-Persian-Central Asian Tar, the Afghan Tumbur, Dambura and Dutar, and even the North Indian Sitar. By definition any lute with a neck longer than the body is a long-neck lute, so even the American Banjo is technically in this extended family! Three ancient instruments seem to be the earliest long-neck lutes in use.

These are the Tanbur-e-Khorosan of eastern Iran and western Afghanistan, the Hittite lute found in Anatolia, and the similar lute from the Egyptian 18th dynasty, which was used over a thousand years earlier in Babylon and Sumeria. There areseveral sizes of saz, but no single clear classification is standard. Virtuoso performer and teacher Adnan Ataman used this system as of 1961: Smallest to largest- ura, baglama (strictest sense, for an old-style small instrument), cura baglama or tambura, bozuk, divan, and meydan. By this system, most common sazes are the bozuk; this word can be traced to the Iranian tambur-e bozorg, and would also be the root for the Arab buzuk and the Greek bouzouki. In many cases, if not most often, this bozuk saz is called baglama

back >


The Oud



The oud is an ancient instrument, probably of Persian origin, refined during the Arab golden age into the instrument in its current form. It is likely that the earliest ouds were carved from a solid piece of wood, much like the Chinese Pipa and Japanese Biwa which are also descendants of the ancient Persian barbat. By the time of the Moorish period in Spain the body was in its characteristic staved wood vaulted back design.

In fact, this staved wood may be the namesake for the oud as the word means wood or flexible stick, and the top was made of wood as opposed to the skin of the earlier lutes and the vaulted back that provided the model for the European lute and mandolin was constructed from many steam-bent "flexible sticks" unlike the Persian barbat, which was carved out of a single piece of wood and may have been the original model for the oud.

The oud is held similar to a guitar, but care must be taken to have the face vertical so that it is not visible to the player, and to support the weight with the thigh and right arm so that the left hand is free to move around the fingerboard. Note the idiosyncratic manner of holding the mizrab (Turkish) or Risha (feather, Arabic) or pick; although it seems awkward it is in reality easier than a conventional flatpick, and gives the right tonal shading to the plucked note.

back >


The Dombak (= Darabukkah)


The dombak is the chief percussion instrument of Persian classical music. It is a one-headed drum that is carved of a single piece of wood, and is open on the bottom. Across the larger, upper part of the body is streched a sheepskin membrane, that is glued into place. Thus, the instrument cannot be tuned; the performer prepares it for a piece by warming the membrane over a heater.This instrument can be heard in "Silence", "The Bazaar" or "Inanna (acoustic)".song, he plays an ancient Egyptian folk song called Hela Lisa.

When played, the tail wedge is placed on the left knee, and the pegs leant against the chest in a perpendicular position, or else between the knees. The strings are some 7-10 mm. from the bridge. That is because unlike most stringed instruments, sound is not produced by pressing on the strings with the fingertips, but by sliding a fingernail gently down the side of them.

The neck, stem and body of the Black Sea kemançe are carved out of a single piece of wood. Its shape, however, is entirely different. As with other folk instruments, it is impossible to speak of a standard size of Black Sea kemançe. However, those used by professional musicians and the like tend to be about 56 cm. long. The body, with its straight sides and flat back is usually made out of plum or juniper wood. The thin chest area is made out of fir or spruce. In order for the strings to be able to cope with the pressure from the bridge, a raised dome travels the length of the body. The pegs are quite small, and attached at the front of the instrument. It is played by touching the strings with the finger tips.

If standing, the player holds the instrument in the air with his left hand. If seated, he rests it between his knees. back >



All contents © copyright 2011 All rights reserved.
site by NOK DESIGN