Cup 'O Joe By Any Other Name

I never used to be a regular coffee drinker but lately can’t seem to get my day started without it. I’m fond of Starbucks but only occasionally order anything but their brewed coffee as both the price and the calorie content of some of their featured items scare me (although once or twice a year I indulge in a Cinnamon Dolce Latte or a cappuccino). My frugal side spurs me to make the majority of my own coffee at home, but because I fancy myself a sort of coffee connoisseur, I've found the fair-trade organic blends from Trader Joe’s (they have a few) nicely suit my daily needs.

(A Fair Trade Certified designation, in theory, marks goods that pay the farmers producing them - typically coffee, tea, chocolate and sugar - a larger percentage or "fair" amount of the proceeds. For more on this, see

Regular coffee aside, my Vietnamese coffee post prompted me to think about other “exotics” I’ve tried both here and abroad. Of course I’ve had Jamaican Blue Mountain and Kona coffee; indeed, when I was on the Big Island in April, I visited a coffee co-op and bought plenty of Kona for me and some to share. But, I suppose my two absolute favorites are of the Greek and Turkish varieties. Although I’d tasted Greek coffee at our local Greek food fest, the cup I had in Crete was second to none. I was able to watch the curator grind the beans in an ancient looking mill, carefully spoon out just the right amount of fine powdered coffee from the mill’s wooden drawer, simmer my single serving in a small metal pot known as a briki and slowly pour the rich, dark brew, grounds and all, into a white porcelain demitasse topped with the lighter brown foam left clinging to the sides of the pot. Delicious.

(Greek coffee is made with or without sugar. The amount or a lack thereof sugar is identified by the name. Sketos = no sugar, metrios = a little sugar, glykos = a lot of sugar, vary glykos = extra strong coffee with extra sugar.)

Turkish coffee is prepared in the same manner as the Greek coffee and indeed is often referred to as one in the same (although the Turkish beans traditionally have a far darker roast). Finely powdered coffee - sugar or no - is also brewed in a long handled pot called a cezve.  Not unlike a briki in form and function, this Middle-eastern version is traditionally made from copper and a bit more ornate.  Additionally, Turkish coffee is frequently spiced with cardamom. Cardamom, of the ginger family, is indigenous to India but also grown in South America. Available in whole pod, seed or powder form, it is widely used throughout Indian cooking from curries to desserts and even to season steamed basmati rice. In the Middle East, where I lounged on a red velvet couch to enjoy my first cup of Turkish coffee, cardamom is used to add flavor to both coffee and tea.

I don't have the capicity to grind my coffee beans as fine as is required for either of these, nor do I have plans (unfortunately) to travel overseas again any time soon, but I have learned to make due.  A couple brands of pre-ground Greek coffee can be found in specialty markets, and I satisfy my Turkish coffee crave by grinding a whole cardamom pod (purchased from, of course) with my regular beans before brewing. 

Thanks to these last couple posts, in addition to a Vietnamese coffee press (I've now learned is called a cà phê phin), I now feel the need to find a briki or perhaps even a cezve.

(Thank you to for the cardamom picture and to for the cezve picture)

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