I love traditions and what I even love more is to learn about the origins of the traditions. While researching about coffee, I came across an article by www.tourmycountry.com stating that the coffee in Vienna is always served with a glass of water, just like how Turkish coffee is served. This tradition in Turkey still continues today since the 1500s.
If you go back to year 1684, the Ottoman Army has Vienna under siege. During the months of siege, the smell of roasted coffee from the Ottoman tents fills the air. However, the Ottoman army is already weak. Jan III Sobieski , the king of Poland, comes to the rescue and defeats Ottomans and saves Vienna. The Ottoman army retreats. They leave everything behind including sacks of coffee beans. A war hero during the battle, Franz Georg Kolschitzky , is rewarded by Sobieski with hundreds of sacks of coffee. He had been captured by the Ottomans before, and he knew Turkish and Turkish customs. He knew about the value of the coffee beans. He opened the first café in Vienna, named the Hofzur Blauen Flasche (House Under the Blue Bottle). He introduced the filtered coffee and adding cream and sugar to this bitter drink, but the tradition of serving coffee with a glass of water still continues in Vienna.
When I told about this to my brother, he told me an interesting story behind it:
“Turkish coffee is usually made individually in a small “cezve” (little copper pot with a handle). However, all the Sultan’s meals go through a poison test by ‘cesnicibasi’ (chief taster). And since the coffee is only made for one person, Sultan uses the water to test the coffee to see if it is poisonous or not. Apparently, when the water touches the coffee, and if it is poisoned, the coffee bubbles more”.
This story intrigued me. And I directed all my research to this topic.
Here are the results of my search about “Why do they serve coffee with “a glass of water’?
- To test the coffee if it contains poison or not.
- In Turkey, guests are very important. They are considered as the God’s guests. The host serves coffee and a glass of water, and if the guest is full, he/she chooses coffee. And if the guest is hungry, he/she chooses the glass of water. If water is chosen, then the host prepares a meal. It is a polite way to ask the guest if they are hungry or not.
- Taking a sip of water before drinking Turkish coffee is a palate-cleansing so that coffee is enjoyed to the fullest.
- Taking a sip of water at the end of the coffee helps clear those fine grounds of Turkish coffee in your mouth, and also partially cleanses the teeth.
- Replaces the water you lose because of caffeine.
During my research I learned a few more interesting things about the origin of coffee:
- The word coffee comes from Arabic “kahwa”, meaning dark substance, drink made from coffee Arabica plant . Turkish word for coffee is “kahve”.
- It is discovered in Ethiopia around 850 CE. Legend says, a goatherd named Kali notices that his goats get quite energetic when they nibble on bright red berries of some bushes. He tries it and feels great. He takes the berries to a monastery. The monks stay up all night and enjoy the divine feeling.
- Around 1100 CE , some Arab traders carry the beans to Yemen and start cultivating them. They drink the first coffee by boiling them in water. And they called it “kahwa”, the same term used to represent “wine”.
- And at the start of the 15th century, it reached Istanbul and then later entered Europe. Kiva Han (c. 1471?) was the name of the world’s first recorded coffee shop located in Tahtakale, Istanbul.
There is a wonderful book about the origins of coffee by Mark Pendergrast. it is called “Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World“
Please visit ozlemsturkishtable.com for more details about the Turkish coffee. Ozlem provides great instructions on how to make Turkish coffee at your home.