Tag Archives: coffee

Turkish Coffee Fortune Telling

Background Information: 

The informant is a residential real estate developer who learned a lot of traditions and superstitions from their mother. They currently live in Detroit, Michigan but emigrated from Turkey. 

Main Content: 

ME: So can you tell me a bit about using Turkish Coffee to tell someone’s fortune? 

GD: Yeah so, um, after you drink your Turkish coffee, in your Turkish coffee cup, its a small cup, maybe about like 5 mL ish, you turn it upside down and once the bottom is cool to the touch, um, you turn it right-side up, and there are people who claim they can tell your future and your fortune from what they see in the coffee grounds. 

ME: Do you know what they look for in the grounds? 

GD: If they see, like, it really depends on the person’s interpretation, it’s very subjective. But, like, you know, if someone sees something that looks like a mountain, one person will tell you that it looks like there will be a big obstacle in the way, while another person will tell you that it looks like you will be traveling somewhere soon. It’s very subjective, it’s like an art, really.

ME: I’ve seen you do it a number of times before, in cafes in Turkey with your friends, do you believe in it at all, or do you just do it for fun? 

GD: Kaya, some people absolutely believe in it, and they have people they go to regularly to read their fortunes. But if we’re doing it, it’s just for fun. I don’t believe in it, but there are definitely people who believe in it, and there are definitely people who know what they are talking about. 

ME: Do you know how it started, or how you learned about it? 

GD: I have no idea, you would have to look it up. My family is Turkish, and, um, I grew up with my aunts and family friends, that, after they drink their Turkish coffee, they turn their cup upside down and have their fortune read. 

Background: 

This interview happened at my house. 

Thoughts: 

This tradition is very popular in Turkey. The informant is my mother, and I remember seeing her do this countless times with her Turkish friends. However, to them, it was always something that they laughed about and nobody really took it seriously. Upon further research, this is a tradition that has been around for thousands of years and can be referred to as Tasseography. Trying to find the origin of this tradition was very difficult, and I could not find a credible source citing one place where this began. However, some say that this practice did indeed begin in Ottoman Turkey in the 16th century. However, other sources say that this tradition started with reading tea leaves in ancient China, whereas others claim that it first began in Victorian England. Regardless, this is a very old tradition that has a lot of history. To Turkish culture, it is something very old and cherished, and even though some do not take it seriously, most Turkish people take pride in doing this activity, just like the informant. 

Fortune Telling From a Cup of Turkish Coffee

When my friend first read my fortune out of a cooled cup of Turkish coffee, I was told that he saw angels, tigers and trails in my future. He’d been using a Wikipedia article to help him read our fortunes, but he seemed excite to be sharing this experience with me and my other friend, who had never had our fortunes read in this way before.

Turkish coffee is very dense. It’s more like espresso than coffee, and because of this one only consumes a shot-glass or specialized tiny coffee mug. The person drinking Turkish coffee leaves a small layer of coffee grounds in the bottom of the cup and turns the cup over on a saucer to cool. The grounds may slide down the sides of the cup as they cool and solidify, which the reader then uses to tell the drinker’s fortune.

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“This is very embedded in the Turkish culture. So it’s not something that you learn somewhere else, it’s around you all the time. You know, you grow up with your mom, your grandma, you know, the aunts and the ladies on the balconies, everyone does it. ” The speaker said as we sat in the Nuka Turkish Cafe in Westwood months after that initial reading in our home. He mentioned that shapes in a coffee mug might look like numbers or scenery.

“There are places in Turkey where you would go to visit like an actual medium. Well, those are self-proclaimed mediums. But the interesting thing is, I’ve been to certain mediums that would have incredibly accurate fortunetelling. Like, they will give you a lot of information about your past and your future. And very often, I’ve met people and I have had friends who have these professional medium fortune telling them, like their fortune telling actually becomes true in the future. And so it’s an interesting thing. And I really don’t know that side of it that well. It’s very supernatural. And I just feel like some people actually do have that supernatural talent to be able to use this. “

The speaker added that Turkish mediums also use tarot and palmistry to tell fortunes, and that this tradition is quite old. “The Turkish army that my father is, is a part of has an insignia on it that says before Christ, 200 something. It’s a 2200 years old army.” He added that before Christianity, many Turkish tribes practiced paganism. “

“We have a Turkish idiom that says, “Don’t believe in this fortune telling. But like, don’t live without it… it’s an integral and cultural part of our lives. But we also live in a society where, you know, we are aware that fortune telling is not a very scientific method… So it’s, it’s more of a fun sport at this point than actual people believing in it. It’s more it’s more fun than it’s taken like serious.”

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The speaker was happy that we had come to visit him in the Nuka Cafe, and he pretended to be annoyed that I was recording his thoughts about fortune telling. When I asked him where he first saw fortune telling, he mentioned that much like a baby doesn’t remember their first steps, he doesn’t remember where he first encountered this tradition. Another friend mentioned that the speaker’s past fortune came true, and later that day he read another cup of Turkish coffee. He told our third friend that he saw a world map and a wedding.

This is important to me because much like the speaker, I enjoy fortune-telling tools but don’t really believe in them… unless something else changes my mind about their accuracy. I first came across the idea of fortune-telling from tea or coffee in the movie Coraline, and I showed the speaker the section of the film that includes fortune-telling after we had done the first reading in the house. I enjoyed having my fortune read and will not believe it while simultaneously “keeping it in mind.”

This seems to be a largely female craft. The speaker is interested in Turkish folklore and could not remember the meanings of symbols he described to us the first time he performed this tradition using Wikipedia notes.

Armenian Coffee Recipe

Main Piece: 

Informant- “ I would like to share with you my culture’s coffee, Armenian Coffee. The first step is you add 1 cup of water per person. I am making this for me and my mother. I added a little bit of extra water because you want to make sure the cup is filled to the brim. 

So then I use columbian coffee and add it just a little bit over a spoonful of coffee. Add a little more so about 3 spoons. I like my coffee very strong. You can use coffee that is ground up very finely. 

Then start the stove on high and let the water boil.

It is important that you use the proper coffee cup in order to complete the fortune reading at the end.  You also use Jazve coffee pot which is also used in many cultures, Armenians, Turks, Persians. 

So when it is boiling you can let the foam break or keep it. I like the foam because it is full of tons of antioxidants and tastes really good. 

So now my coffee is done and I will pour it in. Make sure to fill the cup all the way to the top.” 

Background: The informant learned the Armenian Coffee recipe from her mother. In the video, she explains that she is making a cup for her and her mother. Armenian coffee is meant to be shared, an important way to bond with family and friends. 

Context: This piece was collected from a full tutorial video created by my informant. The informant lives with her family in Los Angeles and is 20 years old. The tutorial describes the steps to creating Armenian coffee. It is too long to upload so I have included an outline of the audio. 

Thoughts: This is an interesting tradition that is important to her family. She spends time making coffee for her grandmother and mother and remembers times they made her coffee. This recipe is important to the Armenian culture and is recycled through generations. 

Armenian Coffee Readings/ Ritual

Main Piece:

Informant- “So when you are done drinking your Armenian Coffee you want to flip the cup away from your body and place it down into the saucer. You wait for the grounds to fall from the bottom of the cup. This is why it is important to use the Armenian style espresso cup which is not rounded on the sides. The grounds fall down the sides of the espresso cup and dry at the bottom. 

So you should never read your own fortune. Thats what my friend, who is a professional Armenian coffee cup reader, tells me. 

Waiting for the coffee to dry is important because it is time to have a conversation with your friends or family. 

So when its ready.. you take a look at your cup. So there are a few things to look out for when you are reading someones cup. 

If you cup sticks to the bottom and is hard to take off, then someone is in love with you! This is what some people believe and it is what my Armenian grandmother told me. I have had many Armenian grandmothers teach me how to read cup and what to look out for. 

So, when you look in your cup the coffee grind will settle at the bottom. You look and interpret what you see. So for example you could see a bird, and that may mean you are about to travel or freedom. You can see an egg or something.

So it is very important to read your cup during the day. You get bad luck if it is read at night. You shouldn’t read you own cup because then you will just see what you want to see. If the cup is very dark and filled with ground then your mind is full. If the cup has clear spots then your mind is at ease. 

Lastly you should hold your cup and think of an intention or wish and then mark the bottom of the cup with your finger.”

Background: The informant learned about the practice of reading the coffee cup from her mother and grandmother. She says it is a fun way to keep traditions. Reading cups is a good bonding experience and has connected her to her parents and grandparents. 

Context: This piece was collected from a video tutorial sent by the informant. Here is the audio transcription describing her experience with coffee readings. In the video she shows the espresso cup used and the different shapes of dried coffee grounds. 

Thoughts: This is a very interesting tradition and fun activity that brings family and friends together. This is an interesting folk practice and belief that is widely believed. She explains her friend who is a professional coffee reader. You can read more about the history of cup reading or  Tasseography in many blogs or academic sources. There are many professions or products distributed surrounding this folk belief. 

A variation of the Armenian coffee reading can be read about here;

Giorgi, Carina Karapetian. “Intuitive Knowledge: The Queer Phenomenology of Armenian Matrilineal Rituals of Tasseography.(Essay).” Armenian Review, vol. 56 -2, no. 1, Armenian Review, Mar. 2018.

Dalgonaa Coffee

Original Script: 달고나커피

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and the interviewer. It was conducted in Korean, and was since translated.

Informant: Dalgona coffee is a new viral recipe. Dalgona is the name of popular street candy in Korea, and the coffee is named after that because of the similar taste and color to the candy. So the recipe was first made in Korea, but you see people everywhere make the thing now.

Interviewer: Can you describe the recipe?

Informant: You mix sugar and instant coffee power, about the same ratio. You add a spoon of hot water, and blend everything. This is the key point, you have to like, really mix it. Some say it’s about 400 whips, but it’s more like 4000 if you’re using no electric utensils. Anyways after you mix it for like 10 fish minutes, the mixture’s gonna be really thick and have this beige color, which is the dalgona color. You pour a glass of milk, and drop that mixture on top. You mix the two and drink it.

Interviewer: Where did this recipe originate?

Informant: It wasn’t a thing until like, this year, once the stay at home order started. Koreans were just bored, and was looking for something to do I guess. It’s kind of the perfect thing to make in quarantine. This recipe requires a lot of manual labor, that’s the kind of stuff you need to distract yourself. And the coffee is delicious, so there’s that.

Interviewer: Why do you think the recipe became viral? Dalgona isn’t a widely known candy anywhere outside Korea.

Informant: I think it’s because everyone’s bored everywhere right now. No matter what nationality, people just want something to do. And with stuff like TikTok and Twitter, anything can be viral globally now.

Background:

The informant is a barista in Seoul, Korea. The recipe preexisted in different cultures, most notably in Macao. But around January of 2020, the recipe became a viral trend amongst Korean Twitter users, and it has since spread all over the world under the name ‘Dalgona Coffee’. On social media apps like Tiktok, making this coffee has gotten viral- under hashtag “dalgonacoffee” there are 280 million views on Tiktok, as of April 2020, and recreating this recipe has since become a viral challenge. Many cafes in Korea have since started actually selling this coffee, including the very cafe that my informant works at.

Context:

The conversation took place over the phone, and the informant was alone in his apartment during the talk, in a comfortable environment.

My thoughts:

I think this recipe had all the perfect elements to go viral. It’s extremely easy to make, and there’s just the right amount of mundane labor to keep you distracted, but not enough to tire you out too much. It’s a delicious coffee too, so it only made sense that people around the world took part in this challenge.