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Turkish coffee is bitter!

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Turkish coffee is bitter!

That is the sentiment of most people who have had properly made Turkish coffee. However, if your taste buds can get beyond its “concentrated, bold flavor and a velvety texture,” you will begin to experience “the heart” of Turkish coffee.

I do like Turkish coffee. My taste buds sometimes recoil at its bitterness, but I know what to expect. Its bitterness serves as an analogy for me. I have heard countless stories of the bitter taste Africa has left in many people’s mouths. I have plenty of stories of my own bitter experiences in Africa (bitter experiences are not exclusive to Africa. I equally have had bitter Western experiences). These experiences often leave an aftertaste that needs water to wash away (Turkish coffee is served with a small cup of water). I enjoy eating dates with my Turkish coffee to moderate the bitterness. However, that bitterness serves a purpose. It is hard to see that purpose if your palate is only accustomed to and prefers sweet things!

However, here is the crux of Turkish coffee. In its bitterness, you are invited to be part of a community. It is an extended hand in friendship. It is an opportunity to be hospitable. It is the strength to face adversity. It is the possibility to still believe amid doubt. It is an encouragement to slow down, take a seat, and stay awhile.

Turkish coffee is predominantly a Middle Eastern demonstration of hospitality and friendship. The Turkish proverb, “Souls are after neither coffee nor coffeehouses; they are after close companionship; coffee is an excuse,” highlights our universal need for community. In Africa, this common need for community is emphasized in the term Ubuntu, “I am because we are.” In the United States, it is articulated by C.S Lewis, “Friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” All these statements are a reflection of our shared humanity, through the good times, but especially through the bitterness.


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