About Claudia, Blog, Cooking, Mediterranean Diet

Turkish Coffee, espressos, and Starbucks: one guess which is the healthier coffee

Grab a cup of coffee, folks. Sit back and enjoy.

coffee meme

Photo from Memegram

Drinking coffee is nearly a morning (heck, late morning, midday,  afternoon, after dinner) ritual for many of us. It is estimated that 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed each day worldwide.  The coffee bean was discovered over 500 years in Ethiopia. The red coffee berries were eaten and people noticed the (ahem) stimulating effect. From the early days when the berries were simply eaten, many tried to improve on a good thing. The hard brown seeds on the inside of the fruit are the coffee beans we are accustomed to today. Those coffee beans were harvested, roasted, and then soaked. The brown liquid that was released was drunk, and we have never looked back.

From Ethiopia, the spread of the coffee bean took over the Middle East, Persia, Asian Minor, North Africa, and the African Horn. From there, it spread to Europe and, later, to the Americas. By the way, the etymological word for coffee in Arabic is “qahweh.” Later, in the Turkish language, the word evolved into “kahveh.” Then, it evolved again into Dutch “koffie,” which is how we adopted the name for this fragrant little bean into the English language as “coffee.”

The thirst for caffeine spread like wildfire across the continents. Today, there are more cafes lining a Parisian or Roman city than there are churches. Been to a Greek isle lately? After about 10 AM and before 4 PM, the drink de rigeur is a frappe.  And any good New Yorker can witness the city’s love for flavored caffeine with block after block of a Starbucks cafe.

I have always been a mild coffee drinker, not a huge addict. I like a cup to get me going in the morning, perhaps another one in the afternoon when I worked in an office. After a really nice meal at a restaurant, I may enjoy a small espresso to accompany a dessert. Nowadays, though, I generally stick to one cup in the morning. If I’m cold and feel like sipping on something hot, I grab herbal tea.

Unless I am in Cyprus and enjoying Turkish coffee.

In the Mediterranean region, the origins of food become clouded with the centuries of exchanging populations, trade and war or control over regions. Turkish coffee, as known in the West, is called Greek coffee in Greece, Cyprus Coffee in Cyprus, and simply “coffee”  across the Middle East. For today’s discussion, I am using “Turkish coffee” for simplicity’s sake. But I have drunk them in all locations and can safely assure you: they are all the same.

 Turkish Coffee Cup

Similar in size to espressos, a single portion of Turkish coffee is only a couple of ounces. Don’t get me wrong: it is a very strong couple of ounces, with a smoked, bitter coffee flavor. Dark coffee beans are roasted, then ground to a very fine, powdery texture (much finer than our typical ground coffee). The ground beans are “cooked” over an open flame in water to release the brown, fragrant liquid. Then the entire pot is added to the mini coffee cup. In the two ounces of coffee, a solid half ounce is pure grinds, which cannot be drunk (seriously, you will choke on them! I have tried). These grinds remain on the bottom of the cup and are typically tossed after the liquid is drunk.

Coffee culture in the Mediterranean

The coffee culture in the Mediterranean is huge. It has been around for centuries. There are even paintings depicting women in harems enjoying coffee. Today, the first thing a guest is offered in a person’s home in the eastern Mediterranean is a cup of coffee. There are typically three ways you may drink your coffee: “Plain” (no sugar added), “Middle” (half a teaspoon of sugar added), or “Sweet” (with a full teaspoon of sugar added). For novice Turkish coffee drinkers, I suggest Middle, until you figure out how strong you like your coffee. In the Mediterranean, people take their coffee drinking very seriously: proper plates, matching coffee service is laid out, and an assortment of little nibbles for any guest, from friend to business partner to future in-laws.

It seems the knowledge to remain hydrated while drinking caffeinated drinks is second-nature in the Med. Without fail, a glass of water is almost always served alongside Turkish coffee, implying that for every coffee drunk, a glass of water is necessary to clean out your system and remain hydrated.

I came to Cyprus from the South (raised in Virginia, and more recently living and working in Atlanta), where I enjoyed a cup of 8 ounces filtered coffee watered down with about another ounce or two of cream or milk and a sachet of Splenda. I thought I was on a diet! Never could I have been further from the truth.

Here’s a hard lesson that women of the Mediterranean know: the more liquids you drink (10 ounces of coffee, 16 ounces of soda, etc), the bigger your belly expands! I am not saying that the primary reason I switched over to espresso or Turkish coffee was simply to lessen the expansion of my mid-drift, I’m only enjoying this welcomed byproduct.

There have been many articles suggesting the unnecessary calories that are added to a typical Starbucks coffee are making Americans fat. A grande caramel macchiato has 300 calories, 14 grams of fat and more than 30 grams of sugar! What’s worse, many Americans are beginning to share this coffee “treat” with our tweens and teens, who naturally love the taste of sugar and milk (this is the basis for chocolate!), setting them up for a lifetime of unhealthy eating and obesity.

How can you make your passion for all things caffeine more healthy? 

  1. Forget the word Venti even exists. Order small or, better yet, skip the cafes altogether;
  2. Skip the whipped cream and make it foam: this is exactly what is done for cappuccinos and Turkish coffee;
  3. Avoid the syrups at all cost;
  4. Remain hydrated. For every cup of coffee, drink a glass of water.
  5. Switch over to Turkish coffee or espressos! Get the caffeine zing without all the negative side effects of sugar, milk and syrups.

So ladies, save your waist (not to mention lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and a whole litany of unwanted medical problems) from those lattes and whipped cream macchiatos. Get back to the original! Get back to how nature intended for you to taste and enjoy the coffee bean: Turkish coffee or espressos.  

To make Turkish coffee: you will need a special Turkish coffee pot (called ibrik), typically made from copper. A teaspoon of ground Turkish coffee, and water.


  • Fill the copper pot with the amount of coffee cup (typically, I fill a Turkish cup with water and add it to the copper pot.
  • Add 1 teaspoon of ground Turkish coffee per cup to the water
  • Mix until there the coffee slowly bubbles over and pour into Turkish coffee cups (finjan).

Tip: Many drinkers like the frothy “milk-like” top, so pour slowly to retain!


Need a little bit of video assistance to make Turkish coffee? Check out this Youtube vide. One caveat – the author gets technical with how many ounces of coffee per water you need. Don’t worry about it. Just remember: 1 teaspoon per portion of coffee. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Yv6CqFmxVQ.

In another post, I will share with you all the extremely entertaining way some people read leftover coffee grinds in the Turkish coffee cups (finjan).

Until then, ladies. . . .

Discover your Inner Aphrodite. . .

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