Turkish coffee and fortune-telling

Annie Chang/Staff

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Being an avid coffee drinker, my goal is to try coffee from every country I visit, and international coffees in the States also easily grab my attention. When Semih, a dear Turkish friend of mine, asked me if I wanted to experience Turkish coffee one night at 11 p.m., I desperately wished I could — but, of course, that would mean no sleep that night. A couple of days later, I headed over to try the coffee that was constantly on my mind. Little did I know, drinking Turkish coffee had its own little ritual.

Semih began to make the coffee as soon as I entered his apartment, and I immediately started snapping photos. I was very interested, and everything grabbed my attention. He added a pure powdery coffee into hot water that was sitting in a cezve, a small copper Turkish coffee pot that makes about two espresso-sized cups of coffee. Traditionally, the cezve is held over flames and embers, but because his apartment only had an electric stove, he just rested the cezve on that. After a couple of minutes, Semih added some sugar into the coffee. He told me that it depends on personal preference: Some people drink it black, and some like it with sugar. He heated the mixture of coffee and hot water until it boiled and said that if it was done perfectly and taken off the stove the second it started to boil, there would be delicious coffee foam at the top of the cup. No cream or flavoring was added after the coffee was poured into the cup, and it was an intense, dark color characteristic of a perfect cup of pure coffee. The taste was deliciously bitter, with an almost grassy or charcoal-like note that differed greatly from regular black coffee in the United States. The bitterness was so unique that to add more sugar or cream would have overpowered the coffee taste. After drinking the coffee, we ate pieces of Turkish dessert, a type of starch gel and sugar with different flavors and pistachios or fruit jelly inside.

Then it was time for fortune-telling, in which the saucer is turned upside down and placed on top of the coffee cup. This combination is circled clockwise three times and then flipped over, so that the saucer faces up and the cup is upside-down on the saucer. A coin is placed on the cup to make it cool faster. The point is to leave the coffee residue in the cup so that it forms ambiguous patterns. My intrigued self could barely wait to see my fortune. Here’s what Semih told me:

–  There was a large part of the cup that was white: I had a pure and innocent heart.
– He saw the figure of a bird: Someone would come visit me soon.
– There was something not so pretty in the shape of a dead fish: Something would scare me.
– A bit of leftover coffee would not stop running although we were not moving the cup, which was quite strange: I was easily led by others and convinced by them, and my opinions were easily swayed.

After the fortune-telling from the cup, it was the plate’s turn. He told me to make a wish before the fortune telling started, then allow one drop of coffee to run down the back of the plate. The speed of the drop represented how fast the wish would come true, and the closer it got to the middle of the plate, the more likely it would come true. Unfortunately, my wish would start to look like it was coming true, but it would not. Reminding myself that I am not superstitious, I was fascinated by the ritual and did not let the wish bother me. Many things were revealed, and I am waiting to see whether anything comes true.

Contact Annie Chang at [email protected]