Once you go black you never go back in Israel. I’m talking coffee. But there is a valuable lesson here for all you Americans who come to Israel and want a cup of black coffee, i.e no cream and sugar. Like you’d get at the diner. Take my uncle from Philly. He is 70 and without fail French Presses a mean cup of joe every morning. Black. No cream. No sugar. And that’s the way he’s done it his whole life. But on his first trip to Israel he unsuspectingly orders a black coffee at Aroma and gets what we Israelis call botz (mud). But he is way too polite and reserved to spit it in the barista’s face. And he suffers in silence like a good Jew. So that’s why I’m here. To warn you. But also to tell you how amazing Black, aka Turkish coffee is and why you should drink lots more of it while you are here:
1. It can tell you your fortune. When I was in my teens and actively stunting my growth with cigarettes, booze and white-out I had a friend whose mother read my future in Turkish coffee. Let me explain. When you finish drinking there’s a mound of residue left at the bottom of your cup. Certain mystics and charlatans then claim the ability to foretell your future by flipping the cup over on a plate and divining what that Rorschach style ink blot says about you. Like a daily horoscope she was vague. I would travel the world. Which I kinda did. Not really but the devil is in the details. I would meet the love of my life. Which I did (weed…errr… I mean my M. I love you boo) and that I would be very wealthy. Well that part hasn’t happened yet but I know this whole blogging racket is gonna make me Bill Gates rich one day. Just you wait and see bank official who keeps calling me to cover my overdraft.
2. It teaches you how to be patient. As opposed to that other national coffee drink we all know and loathe – the ness cafe. Ugh. Translated it means “miracle” coffee (because it’s instant) but I consider it a miracle that it hasn’t been banned by the Health Ministry. Or used as rat poison. OK, maybe it’s not that bad. But it doesn’t hold a candle to the rich, strong and aromatic flavor of the Turkish coffee. But you have to wait. Wait for those finely ground, boiled coffee grains to settle at the bottom of the cup. This explains why we Israelis are the most patient people (ahem) in the world…. If you truly want something you have to wait for it.
3. It reminds me of fishing trips I never took with my old man, the army service I never had and the stereotypical manliness that I never achieved. I’m not very outdoorsy. Or manly. Bugs scare me. Pooping in the woods creeps me out. I’m too impatient and cynical to fish. I work in front of a computer all day. But here’s the thing. Drinking Turkish coffee, even in an air conditioned office in Tel Aviv, makes me feel like I could be one of those guys. You know. Real men. Who work heavy machinery with calloused hands. Who drive trucks. Who drink Crown Royal. Who wrestle grizzly bears. Who ride a horse shirtless. In short it makes me feel, even if only in my own mind, like, say, Vladimir Putin. Minus the homophobia, oppression and general deuchiness.
4. I love the Turks and so should you. Granted we haven’t been on such good terms for the past few years. Erdogan is a real teabagger but putting politics aside we Israelis have a long and intimate history with our neighbors to the north. The Ottomans ruled over us for a few centuries and made our life a living hell. They drove our founding father Teddy Herzl cray cray with all that Baksheesh nonsense but we got them back by collectively giving their resorts and hotels the rock star treatment and stealing everything but the bathroom faucet. Ah, the good old days. Turkish food is awesome too. Awesome. And Turkish women are known for their penchant for unlawful carnal knowledge of the posterior. Talk about Turkish delight!
5. You’ll be supporting the Israeli economy in a non-political, non-military way. So wherever you fall on the political spectrum you won’t feel bad about supporting The Strauss Group (Elite) unless you hate greedy, heartless, exploitative corporations that are enslaving us and keeping us poor while they grow appallingly wealthy on the profits of cottage cheese. In that case you might have a problem supporting The Strauss Group in general and Elite in particular.
6. It has some real health benefits (well, at least according to the people in charge of marketing it). It is rumored to contain several essential anti-oxidants that help the digestive system. Some dubious personal fitness experts even recommend drinking it prior to working out as a metabolism booster that helps promote weight loss. If you ask me the only thing Turkish coffee ever motivated me to do was smoke a cigarette.
7. It will confirm your Israeliship. Or Israeliness. Or Israelihood. Or whatever. If you ask for a Turkish coffee in Ivrit (Botz or Shachor) and refrain from adding sugar to it, no matter how thick your accent, how ridiculous your hat or how proper your etiquette, you might actually be mistaken for a Tsabar (Native).
8. It’s a ritual. Everything from the water temperature, the use of a traditional brewing pot called a cezve, the addition of a spice called cardamom, the spoon used to stir, to the exact time you add sugar (or not) is done in a very meticulous and personal way. Since I am an atheist (and somewhat OCD) this makes up for a complete lack of ceremony in my daily routine. Which is cool. We all need to believe in something I suppose. Well, I believe in coffee.
Turkish coffee dates back to the 16th century when merchants from Africa brought the coffee bean to Turkey. Fast forward a few hundred years and the fundamental ways in which we make it (more or less) haven’t changed. We boil water. We pour it on the finely ground coffee beans. We stir and we wait. Then we talk. About anything and everything. And we are alive.
And if we’re truly lucky, we get a few minutes of sheer bliss in our infinitely hectic and stressful lives.