Not only does Turkish coffee have distinctive coffee and cooking pot, but the cups are also unique in a few ways that you may not have noticed. Yes, they are small, usually ornately decorated, and must have a saucer…but why?
Let’s take a look.
Historically, the cup you are familiar with hearkens back to the 19th century. France introduced the “demitasse” or half cup and that led the way for a consistent portion size for Turkish Coffee to follow. These new cups were the half size of a typical tea cup of that time. It could hold 2-3 fl. oz. / 60-90 ml of liquid. They have a height of 2-2.5 in. / 5-6 cm. They were accompanied by saucers (“coffee stands”) which had a diameter of 4-4.5 in. / 10-12 cm.
The Ottomans developed 2 versions first:
- The “no handle” Turkish coffee cups (also known as “Gawa” or “Mirra” in Arabic).They used to be the traditional Turkish coffee cups of the past. The cup was hold carefully by someone’s fingertips while sipping the coffee.
- The filigree or jeweled metal holders with a porcelain or glass cup put into them.You can also find these cups with the name “Ottoman”. You will may hear another name in for this metal basket; “zarf”. Its purpose is to protect the drinker’s fingers from burning.
Then, they moved into porcelain cups with handles and two leading companies took the reigns for development and production: Kütahya and Güral Porselen. Kutahya took over for Iznik, the main producer of colorfully designed ceramics since the 15th century.
Standardizing the size of the turkish coffee cup (2-2.5 fl. oz. / 60-75 ml. of liquid) distinguishes it from the espresso cup. Between the small size and the thinner walls, the turkish coffee cup is designed to hold the hot temperature longer, inviting the sip and savor aspect of the coffee over the quick shot of espresso.
As I have been trying to build out supplies and products, securing quality turkish coffee cups at a reasonable price has been the hardest part of this process.
I learned that hand painted and porcelain cups are still made in Turkey, but the majority of everyday use cups are sourced out of China. I was met with a conundrum: how can I invite people to take a step into the world of turkish coffee and start off charging them $30 for a small cup imported from turkey? How could I even think about purchasing such large quantities of cups from China with no space to store let alone the shipping costs?
For the moment, I have relied on estate sales, thrift stores and, yes, sourcing espresso cups. Not ideal, but within a price point, for now, to allow everyone the opportunity to dive into turkish coffee.
Moving forward, I will be working with Mean Mugs Pottery to design our own clay cups. My thought process is this: If I will be selling high quality, hand made cups, why not use a local artisan to do this for me? It’s going to take a minute..well, more like a couple of months…to get this off the ground between design, prototypes, and creation.
SO! Until then, we will using and selling what I can find in espresso cups! They will do the job until something better is available!
Before I leave you, here is a quick video that talks about the symbolism with the different cup colors from the Ottoman Empire: