Among many other symbolic drinks and foods of Turkey, Turkish coffee is definitely a standout. It is unique both in its taste and its preparation method. But did you know that this tasty coffee actually accelerated the downfall of the Ottoman Empire?
Coffee was brought to the Ottoman Empire during the 16th century, while Suleiman the Magnificent was in charge of the empire, by the governor of Yemen. This tasty and energizing drink became popular really quickly in the empire. Coffee-masters were hired in the imperial palace, and they would grind coffee beans and boil them in copper cezves like we do today. It is said that the tradition of serving Turkish coffee with a glass of water and a square of Turkish delight comes from the wife of Suleiman the Magnificent, Hurrem Sultan.
Some believed that drinking coffee wasn’t permitted in Islam. Even though Quran does not specifically mention coffee, one of Suleiman’s clerics issued a fatwa that stated consuming anything burnt was forbidden in Islam. But this fatwa didn’t stop the spread of coffee in the empire. The interesting part started when the first “kahvehane” (coffee house) was founded in Istanbul in the year of 1555. During the next 3 centuries, these coffee houses only multiplied in number.
These coffee houses gave people a place to talk, socialize and exchange information. Literate people read the news to the illiterate people and janissaries planned their protests in these coffee houses. The palace soon started seeing these coffee houses as major threats, but they were too profitable to shut down. A few sultans sent spies to these coffee houses, and things weren’t looking good. In the 19th century, nationalist leaders in Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria planned their strategies for gaining independence in the coffee houses. In 1821, 1835 and 1878, these 3 countries gained their independence from the Ottomans respectively. In the 3 and a half centuries that Turkish coffee stayed in the Ottoman Empire, it housed protests and nationalist movements against the Empire.