When "Turkish Coffee" is Greek and "Greek Coffee" Turkish
When water, finely-ground, dark roasted coffee and sugar are put together in a long-handled coffee put and brought to a near boil, is the result "Turkish coffee" or "Greek coffee"? That question, of course, is one that has been vexing the Middle East, Balkans and the Mediterranean for decades.
Inspired by a recent visit to Mandabatmaz, perhaps Istanbul's finest maker of Turkish coffee, reporter Joanna Kakkissis wrote an interesting post for NPR's food-oriented blog, The Salt, in which she took a look at how the politics of Turkish/Greek coffee. From her post:
....Ordering Turkish coffee today doesn't go over well in some Balkan or eastern Mediterranean countries that were once part of the Ottoman Empire — even if their preparation of the coffee is remarkably similar.
In Armenia, where the Ottomans led a genocide against more than a million people between 1915 and 1923, it's Armenian coffee. In Sarajevo, Bosnia, I once ordered a "Turkish coffee" only to be corrected by the irritated waiter: "You mean a Bosanska kafa" — a Bosnian coffee. In Cyprus, which the Turks invaded in 1974, it's a kypriakos kafes — Cypriot coffee. (Except in the northern third of the island, which Turkey has occupied since 1974.)
In Greece, where I live and which has a tortured history with Turkey, you order an elliniko — a Greek coffee.
"It wasn't always this way," says Albert Arouh, a Greek food scholar who writes under a pen name, Epicurus. "When I was a kid in the 1960s, everyone in Greece called it Turkish coffee."
Arouh says he began noticing a name change after 1974, when the Greek military junta pushed for a coup in Cyprus that provoked Turkey to invade the island.
"The invasion sparked a lot of nationalism and anti-Turkish feelings," he says. "Some people tried to erase the Turks entirely from the coffee's history, and re-baptized it Greek coffee. Some even took to calling it Byzantine coffee, even though it was introduced to this part of the world in the sixteenth century, long after the Byzantine Empire's demise."
By the 1980s, Arouh noticed it was no longer politically correct to order a "Turkish coffee" in Greek cafes. By the early 1990s, Greek coffee companies like Bravo (now owned by DE Master Blenders 1753 of the Netherlands) were producing commercials of sea, sun and nostalgic village scenes and declaring "in the most beautiful country in the world, we drink Greek coffee."
Kebabistan's previous coffee-related coverage can be found here. Meanwhile, for those wishing to get a taste of real Turkish coffee in Istanbul, along with Mandabatmaz, Fazil Bey Kahvesi in Kadikoy is another spot worth visiting. Culinary Backstreets, on other hand, has the lowdown on where to find authentic "Greek coffee" in Athens. Try it in both countries decide for yourself.
[UPDATE - It appears celebrity physician Dr. Oz has gotten pulled into the coffee debate. The doctor and television personality, who is of Turkish descent, recently referred to the health benefits of "Greek coffee" on one of his shows. A Turkish organization, which promotes Turkish coffee and culture, is objecting. More here.]
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