Millions of coffee lovers around the world enjoy Turkish coffee as a part of their daily routine.
Turkish coffee is not only a great beverage because of its long history and rich cultural roots but because of its aroma and taste are incredible as well.
If you’ve never visited Turkey and tasted a properly made cup of this delicious and unique drink but still want to try it at home, making it taste authentic might seem like a daunting task and you might wonder “What does Turkish coffee taste like?”
Unsweetened Turkish coffee has a very bold and strong taste and a thick consistency. Turkish coffee smells nut-like and it’s bitter with a slight hint of saltiness.
But before making any judgements about the taste of Turkish coffee, we need to explore what gives coffee its pleasant taste, the right way to evaluate the taste of coffee and how Turkish coffee tastes in greater detail.
Aroma, Taste and Flavour: What’s the difference?
In everyday language we make the mistake of using the terms aroma, taste and flavour interchangeably. Although they are related words, they describe different parts of the coffee experience.
Aroma is the first component of the coffee experience that attracts you to it. When you’re walking down the street and walk past a coffee shop, the aroma what makes it really hard to just walk past and not get in and get yourself a cup of coffee.
Aroma is the smell of coffee and it’s as important as the taste, if not more. Aroma is so important that without the smell, apples and onions would taste the same. This is why when you have a stuffy nose, food tastes weird.
Also, aroma is what hooks you into the experience so its significance is undeniable.
Coffee’s taste is the sensation that coffee triggers when it touches your tongue. It’s basically an evolutionary tool that has prompted our ancestors to seek out energy and nutrients they needed so much.
We love the taste of meat and fruits because they are full of nutrients that are vital to living a healthy life, we love fast food and junk food so much because they are full of calories that our primitive ancestors desperately needed.
We love coffee because books need a tasty companion.
We can describe the taste of coffee in four categories; sweetness, sourness, saltiness and bitterness.
Flavour is basically the combination of aroma and taste. It’s what gives coffee its complete experience.
What gives coffee it’s taste?
Coffee grounds are actually seeds of the plant. Their primary purpose is to spread around and replicate. Because of this, they are full of sugars and protein to feed the embryo and caffeine to protect itself from predatory insects. In its raw state coffee seeds taste and look completely different from coffee beans you’re used to seeing.
So in order to turn raw coffee beans into coffee as we know, we roast them. During this process coffee goes through a chemical reaction called the Maillard Reaction. It’s a process like caramelization and it’s what happens when you sear a steak or toast a marshmallow.
Maillard Reaction changes the properties of proteins and sugars inside the coffee beans and this is what gives the coffee it’s delightful taste.
Also caffeine itself has a taste that’s bitter and salty.
Beyond anything, coffee is an acquired taste. Part of what makes coffee taste good is feelings that you associate with it. Not everyone likes the taste of coffee on the first try, but because of the initial rush of dopamine and serotonin hormones secreted due to caffeine, we associate coffee with feeling good.
What You Add Matters
When judging the taste of coffee it’s important to know that tasting a cup filled with natural and artificial flavours, thickeners, preservatives, emulsifiers and bunch of spices can’t be the way to go.
When you add milk to your coffee naturally it tastes more like… Well, milk and less like coffee.
So, when judging the flavour of coffee it’s best to avoid adding anything and simply taste it in its purest form.
Best Way to Judge the Taste of Coffee
Because of the reasons I’ve mentioned above, it’s best to avoid adding anything and enjoy your cup of coffee, at least when you want to get its most natural flavours.
First it’s important to relax and be in the moment. Let your senses take control and shut off your racing mind. This way you’ll get to experience the most subtle flavors. Appreciation of coffee starts with appreciation of life.
Then, smell your coffee and let it take you where it does. Ask yourself how it smells. Is it flowery, herby or carmelly? Or maybe it smells spicy or resinous?
And lastly take a sip and try to gauge its flavours. Assess its levels of sweetness, saltiness, bitterness and sourness.
Most importantly, enjoy it to your heart’s content.
Although the taste of Turkish coffee is the best part of it, you shouldn’t forget that we taste with our eyes first.
So presentation of Turkish coffee is quite important.
Turkish coffee is given with a glass of water. Contrary to popular belief its purpose is not cleaning the palate after drinking coffee but you drink it beforehand so that you get rid of all the other flavors in your mouth that might interfere with the taste of Turkish coffee.
Along with that, a sort of snack food that’s called lokum (Turkish delight) is served with Turkish coffee. It’s actually one of the reasons why I believe it’s better to have Turkish coffee unsweetened. Like many Turkish desserts lokum happens to be very sweet and combining it with sweetened Turkish coffee just doesn’t seem like a smart thing to do. But do whatever floats your boat.
You should have Turkish coffee in a relaxed environment and preferably in the company of good friends or while reading a gripping book.
Turkish Coffee Smell and Taste Profile
Most dominant aroma in Turkish coffee is nuttiness.
Turkish coffee is made by boiling very finely ground coffee beans and due to the increased total surface area of the almost powder-like coffee, it ends up with a coffee that could be considered over-extracted by Western standards.
So, it’s safe to say that Turkish coffee has a very bold flavour.
Without any sweetener added, the dominant taste in Turkish coffee is bitterness with salty undertones.
Texture of Turkish Coffee
Relatively thick texture and having a decent foam on top is one of the defining characteristics of Turkish coffee. The thickness of the foam shows the skill of the person who brews the coffee.
A good Turkish coffee is never thin or watery.
Because it’s served unfiltered, it’s best to rest Turkish coffee for 30-60 seconds to avoid coffee particles that float around and disturb your experience.
The unique taste of coffee is due to the Maillard Reaction that changes the chemical properties of sugars and proteins inside the coffee bean.
In order to get the full flavour profile of a cup of coffee, you need smell and taste it in its unsweetened form and assess its aroma and levels of bitterness, sweetness, saltiness and sourness.
Turkish coffee is a thick type of coffee that smells nutty. It’s has a very bold bitter flavour with slight saltiness.
If you’re still curious about the taste of Turkish coffee, I urge you to try it out and see it for yourself. You can check out these guides on the best Turkish coffee products to prepare Turkish coffee in the comfort of your home.
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