2018 Primetime Emmy
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Putting Milk in Turkish Coffee Is Completely Wrong

Putting Milk in Turkish Coffee Is Completely Wrong

Coffee in Istanbul

I had come down with bronchitis on the Turkish coast two days before, so exploring the treasures of Istanbul in 100-degree weather was more ordeal than fun. The heat was unbearable, and the medicine I had been prescribed was taking its time to kick in. All I wanted was to sit in some shade, feel the breeze on my face, and do nothing.

As I daydreamed about the perfect rest spot, we saw an ancient cemetery with neat gravestones and bushy trees. The gate was open, so we entered, not so much to admire the architecture as to cool off. Then I heard distant chatter, a mixture of laughter and high tones, not the silent murmuring I expected to hear among the tombs. As we followed the sound, the gravestones started to thin out, replaced by trees and flowers. Folk music reached my ears and the smell of tobacco tickled my nostrils. We had stumbled upon a café, where people were enjoying tea, shisha, and chats in the company of the deceased. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

The place was formed out of one large terrace, without doors and windows, where ancient trees protected patrons from the burning sun. Apart from its unusual location, it was a typical café, with colorful carpets, low wooden tables, and no chairs. The mostly male clientele reclined on huge red pillows and sofas scattered around the tables. As we sat down, we received some quick, curious glances, probably because we looked out of place. It seemed like a place for locals.

We ordered Turkish coffee with milk. This is the way I used to prepare it at home in Slovenia: boil the water with sugar in a special pot, add two tablespoons of finely ground coffee, stir, and wait until the mixture starts to rise. Wait a little bit for the powder to sit, and serve—with milk.

Turns out, I’ve been doing it all wrong. The waiter repeated my order, somewhat incredulously.

“Turkish coffee with milk?”

“Yes, please.”

“We don’t serve Turkish coffee with milk.”

I asked him to bring me the coffee and a cup of milk separately, so that I could prepare it myself. He replied that Turkish coffee should never be mixed with milk, and that the only coffee you can drink with milk is instant coffee, which, incidentally, isn’t really coffee. I agreed to order the Turkish version.

The waiter returned in a better mood, with two small, steaming copper pots and some sugar cubes. As I sipped the dark liquid crowned with rich foam, I decided that I prefer a plain cup of strong Turkish coffee to a fake one with milk.

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