On our recent trip to Europe, flying with Turkish Airlines, we decided to stop in Instanbul to experience coffee, the Turkish way with Turkish Delight. We flew through the night and arrived in Istanbul at 6 am. We went straight to the hotel, hopeful that they would have a room ready for us. We were in luck! The hotel could accommodate our very early check in. And so our coffee expedition started.
What a view, no coffee yet
When I opened the curtains in the room, we received a wonderful surprise; we were directly below the famed Blue Mosque! What a sight, on an amazingly overcast autumn morning. Awesome does not even begin to describe it.
The grey of the sky and the blues of the mosque were such a magnificent match.
After a quick shower and a change of clothes, we hit the streets of the Sultanahmet area. The streets were covered in autumn leaves. What a blessing for us who have not experienced an autumn in approximately 12 to 13 years of living in the GCC.
For the love of shopping…just before coffee, the Turkish way
We walked through the Arasta Bazaar which was built in the 17th Century under the Ottoman dynasty. The wooden façade shops were filled with carpets, jewelry and souvenirs. From here we made our way through the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia.
We were headed for the two things you absolutely have to experience when visiting Istanbul. Turkish coffee and Turkish Delight!
At last, coffee – the Turkish way
We found the “PASHAZADE Türk Kahvesi” coffee shop close to the entrance of the Grand Bazaar and decided that this was the ideal place to get started. We learnt that the English word coffee first came into use in the 1600’s. The word coffee comes from Ottoman Turkish word “Kahveh”. It is hard to believe but Kahves was banned in Ottoman Turkey during the 17th century for political reasons. Luckily, this changed and we can enjoy the taste of this beautiful Kahvesi.
The method that is used at “Pashazade” was new to us, but is well known to the Turkish people.
Turkish Sand coffee consists of pure water, finely ground high quality coffee beans, sugar according to taste and spices to create the foam. After a specific quantity of water is poured into a small coffee brewing pot, which has a wide base, narrow mouth, long handle and a spout for pouring, the right amount of coffee and spices are added to the water and the pot is placed onto hot sand. As the water heats the brew is gently stirred using a metal spoon so that the coffee and spices are evenly distributed through the brew.
Wait for it! The coffee is done; a sprinkle of spice is dusted on top of the coffee for an extra spicy flavor. The coffee is now served in the most beautiful cups with, of course, the famous Turkish Delight (Lokum).
After taking a sip of the smooth coffee and tasting the spices, I knew I was in the heart of Istanbul.
A sweet delight with coffee, the Turkish way
Well there are a few stories surrounding Turkish delight. I like to share this one. Turkish Delight was the handiwork of a confectioner called Bekir Effendi. He came to Istanbul in 1776 to set up a sweet shop. He was an artist in confectionary.
The kitchen was his canvas where he could let his imagination run wild. Bekir became the love of the Turkish people because of his art and their sweet tooth. Turkish Delight was originally wrapped in lace handkerchiefs and was a chic gift shared amongst the socialites, it was even very popular with the Royal Courtesans. Bekir’s shop still exists today, on Hamidiye Caddesi at the corner of Seyhülislam Hayri Effendi Caddesi, two blocks east of the Yeni Cami (New Mosque).
This 250-year old confectionary is a Turkish institution, which still dishes out the most sumptuous and choicest Turkish Delights in the whole of Turkey.
Oh the Turkish Delight is to die for and pairs perfectly with the slow sand brewed coffee. Just writing this makes me taste every bit of it all over again.
Next on the list…after coffee
Our next stop was the Grand Bazaar and Spice bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı). ‘Well, what does one say about it?’ I simply loved the atmosphere, the smells, the price haggling, the happiness of the Turks drinking tea and interacting with their clients and the tourists walking through the bazaar, but that is a story for another day…
for now I just savour the taste of coffee and Turkish Delight in my mind’s eye.
a bit more than coffee, coming soon!