Someone once said, “Neither coffee itself nor the coffee shop is the ultimate goal / Coffee leads to a friendly conversation, the true desire of the soul.” These words are a perfect reflection of Turkey’s cultural approach to coffee. This beverage, invariably served with a glass of water, has always been one of the keystones shaping Ottoman and Turkish culture. Leaving aside its wonderful scent and delicious aroma, the passion for Turkish coffee derives from the fact that it accompanies people through their many moods and countless moments in life.
Coffee beans were first introduced to the Ottomans after Yemen was conquered. During those times, drinking coffee took form as a daily ritual. Some sources even state that in Ottoman palaces, coffee was served ceremonially, attended by at least four servants. For many years, the recipe for preparing Turkish coffee was based fundamentally on tradition. However, as decades passed and daily life accelerated to its modern form, the time available to drink Turkish coffee decreased. The design of coffee cups also had to adapt to modern requirements.
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Industrial designer Kunter Sekercioglu has brought the Turkish coffee cup to life in one of the most inventive approaches to the object. His skilful work ‘Dervish’ is named after what the cup resembles at first glance, the whirling dervishes in the Sama Ceremony; however, the philosophy behind it reveals much more. The Dervish cup truly embraces history. It highlights the importance of empathy and tolerance, two very important aspects of Turkish culture. The design represents an invitation to have a cup of coffee, in accordance with the poet Rumi’s words “Come, whoever you are, come”. After all coffee, is just a reason to sit down together and have a chat, as Sekercioglu himself agrees. Dervish has won the Superior Design Award in Turkey and L'Observeur du Design award in France.
Another designer who creates marvellous coffee cups is Özlem Tuna. In her studio at the heart of Istanbul’s historical peninsula, Özlem Tuna gives contemporary shapes to tradition. The designer enjoys crafting personal objects since she feels they are ways of expressing one’s self. The clay used for the porcelain comes from Limoges. In her designs Özlem Tuna likes to blend porcelain with metals such as copper or brass. Her 9-year-long approach to crafting cups embraces the ritual as a whole, just as in Ottoman times. Her coffee set includes a water glass, a small plate on which to place Turkish delight, a tiny decorative vase and a tray on which to serve everything.
Ceyda Bozkurt is another remarkable designer of modern coffee cups. Her minimalist approach to design is accompanied by a meticulous attention to detail. Being a coffee lover herself, Bozkurt attributes great importance to functionality. Therefore in her creations, the cup itself hasn’t really been changed. Instead what she focuses on are its handles and the plate underneath. The designer enjoys playing upon the surprise factor. Her inspiration comes from Turkish culture and nature. What she finds spellbinding is the ambiance coffee drinking creates. Bozkurt’s designs highlight tasteful combinations of pastel colours, matt and gloss finishes and distinctive details.
Apart from the designers, some leading Turkish brands are creating coffee cups with distinctly modern styles. In recent years, some remarkable designs have been produced in this area. Urart takes inspiration from ancient Anatolian civilizations for its collections, while Vakko’s muse is Ottoman culture itself. The Seljuks and their kaftan designs inspire Hiref, while Selamlique on the other hand focuses entirely on this traditional beverage, crafting a range of different versions of coffee itself in addition to contemporary cup designs.
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In a culture where coffee accompanies daily events, even playing a crucial part in daydreaming by means of fortune telling, not to mention special occasions such as engagement ceremonies, it’s safe to say that the value of the beverage goes far beyond its unmistakable aroma.