Every year lots of British tourists come to enjoy the sunshine, beaches and fascinating historical sites of Turkey. As with citizens of the US and some other European countries, British citizens need to obtain a visa, but don’t let that put you off enjoying a holiday in this beautiful country. Nowadays it’s very simple and easy.
Turkish coffee was originally brought from Syria and sold in Istanbul as early as 1555. A century later it had become established as a part of Ottoman culture. There is a tradition of women serving coffee to a prospective husband, when the man’s family ask the woman’s parents’ permission for marriage. Turkish coffee has since become popular in Western Europe and all over the world. You should take the opportunity to try Menengich, a special type of caffeine-free coffee only found in Turkey, Dibek is stone-ground coffee, Mirra is Arabic for bitter, made from twice-roasted beans and popular in the southeast. Turkish coffee comes in different flavours, gum mastic being the most popular with chocolate, vanilla, hazlenut and cardamom as other alternatives.
You can buy it in a coffeehouse, cafe or restaurant. The most preferred type to buy at the supermarket is Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi, which is just 72p for a 100g packet.
The Turkish coffeehouse is a place where men get together to chat and play traditional games like Backgammon and Okey (like Rummikub but with different rules) and, of course, drink Turkish coffee. From the 16th century, when the first coffeehouses opened in the Istanbul district of Eminönü, men gathered to talk and this was where they spread the oral traditions such as folk poetry and literature. Nowadays women are welcome but you usually only see women in the coffeehouses in large cities.
Sark Kahvesi is a well-known coffeehouse in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and it only costs £1.20 for a Turkish coffee here. The Erol Taş Cafe is another iconic place with a display of cinema icons from the 1950s-80s and a coffee is just 90p. Mandabatmaz in Taksim, Istanbul is a cool, popular coffee house where you can sit on small, Ottoman-style stools at tables and the coffee is good quality and value. At the Nev-i cafe on the Golden Horn you can have a taste of Turkish coffee cooked on hot coals for just £1.45.
The finely ground Arabica beans have a nice flavour although any kind of coffee beans can be used, the unique taste is derived from the coffee making process. If you don’t want sugar you can ask for ‘saa-de’ (plain), although it is quite bitter and most people prefer ‘orta shekerli’ (medium sweet) or ‘chok shekerli’ (very sweet). The powdered coffee and sugar are added to water in a small, copper pot called a ‘cezve’ and brought to the boil on the stove, on hot coals or hot sand.
You can get a cup of instant coffee in Istanbul for around 36p. At Starbucks in Turkey coffee is between 6 and 15 lira (72p – £1.80) depending on the kind of coffee you order. Coffee in Marmaris costs £1.20 and £1.45 at the Marina, a Cappuccino is £1.45-£1.70.