For Turks, Coffee Grounds Have Meaning

Some tea drinkers read tea leaves to see into the future. For Turks, it’s in the coffee grounds. Symbols appear in the grounds after the cup is flipped on the saucer. Then the fun begins, as interpreters find meaning in the streaks and clumps. Reading the coffee grounds is a social activity practiced mostly by women in Turkey. Turkish Americans are keeping the custom alive in parts of America.

Karen Sullivan writes about an upcoming Turkish Festival this Sunday the 16th in Charlotte, North Carolina. At the festival, an American Turkish organization will be demonstrating the art of fal, reading of the coffee grounds. They will also pass out free samples of brewed Turkish coffee. In fal, the grounds can predict births and engagements. Some objects have symbolic meanings. For example, a lady bug and stars signify good luck. Birds signal good news, and an anchor can indicate a move is imminent. Fal is for fun, done as friends and families get together, and is not taken seriously. Life plans are not made or cancelled because of fal readings.

This activity and the brewing of fine ground coffee in a long-handled pot called a cezve are aspects of the important place of the coffee culture in Turkey. Coffee houses are as numerous in Turkey as they are in the US. But coffee’s history in Turkey is much longer, starting in the 1500’s when coffee arrived from Arabia. Many states have Turkish festivals, mostly in the summer and fall. There will be festivals in Boston, Houston and other cities later this fall. A quick internet search should tell you whether or not your city has one. The social importance of coffee in Turkey is reflected in an old saying: “A single cup of coffee can create a friendship that lasts for 40 years.” Brew on, socially.

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