It’s always interesting to see how a food item, or culinary ingredient is manifested in different cultures around the world. Something like a dumpling, for example may appear bobbing on the top of a pot of chicken stew in the maritime provinces of Canada, but in other cultures dumplings take on various and exquisite forms- shaped by centuries of tinkering and tweaking, and traditions based on the history of one’s country.
Coffee is another example of how a universal foodstuff is enjoyed differently from culture to culture. In Canada the most prevalent way of drinking coffee is probably a drip type deal, using a contraption that boils water and lets it drip through the grounds, either once, or several times, as in the case of percolator coffee. Sad to say but the typical Canadian coffee experience can be summed up by one word uttered twice; double double.
Compare that to Italy, famous for its espresso and cappuccino contributions to coffee culture. And every time we eat out a Greek restaurant we indulge in Greek coffee, a rich, strong simmered brew that is typified by a creamy froth on top and a sediment of smooth, fine grounds settled on the bottom of the cup.
Syrian coffee is similar to Turkish and Greek coffee in this respect; the water is boiled, the finely ground coffee is added to the pot and returned to the boil, and at this point flavouring like cardamom or sugar may be added. The pot can be the small little pot known as a cezve or ibrik, or just a regular little pot. The coffee is then poured into small espresso-like cups and served black, with sugar on the side. Lots of sugar. Often it is served with a piece of dark chocolate as well, a divine match.
To make Syrian coffee, start with a dark roast of Arabica beans and grind as fine as possible. In a small pot add an espresso cup of water for each serving. When the water reaches a full boil, remove the pot from heat and stir in the required amount of coffee, 1 teaspoon per serving. Return the pot to the heat, and if you wish, add cardamom or sugar, stirring until the coffee comes to a boil again and is nice and frothy. Pour the coffee carefully into the small espresso cups and let the grounds settle for a minute before drinking.
Now some people do not particularly like the rich froth (known as bwish) on the top, and prefer it without. This is achieved by removing the boiled frothy from the heat and letting it settle, then boiling it again. Do this once or twice more or until all the froth is gone. But for many of us, the bwish is half the fun. The other half is just enjoying a delicious, hot little cup of coffee love. But be careful! Tempted though you may be, do not drink everything in your cup! The sediment is not particularly delicious. Besides you need the sediment in order to be able to do a little old-school fortune-telling.
One things that seems to be a constant among coffee lovers everywhere is the dreamy clouds-in-my-coffee idle time that often goes hand in hand with coffee pleasure, and musing upon one’s fortune based on the designs left in the bottom of an espresso cup is a heck of a lot more magical than rolling up the rim to win!