What a Difference Coffee Makes

I want to take a second to really focus on something that may sound dumb.  Something I said before, but may have sounded like an off-the-cuff kind of thing.  Like a joke. But it wasn’t a joke. It isn’t.  It’s very, very real.

Coffee (finding the Holy Grail) has changed my life.

 To many people, that probably sounds really really dumb.  Like, come on girl, it’s just coffee.

But is it?

Is it just coffee?

Is it just coffee, or is it reclaiming something from a previous culture that I thought I lost?  Is it one small comfort that had been a routine in my life for over 10 years, that I had to give up during one of the most difficult challenges I have had to face?  Is it, perhaps, a little piece of home that has brought me a little more sanity?

 It’s all of those things, and so much more.

For people who have had to make a huge life adjustment, like moving to a new (and very different) country (or maybe town), you know what I’m talking about.  There’s little things that you may or may not have known were important to you in your old life, that you suddenly don’t have anymore.  Maybe it’s that specific brand of cookie, a lotion that you love, or a special place you liked to go during your free time. But now, it’s not there. On top of the struggle of giving up the life you knew, and shaped, for the last (however many) years you’ve been on this earth… you lost your security blanket too.  That thing that helped keep you grounded, regardless of what you’d been going through.  Something that was always there.

 After  while, you get used to its absence. You’ve gotten past it.  That was part of your old life, and you don’t need it now.

But then…then it’s back.

You have it again!

And you realize you didn’t really get used to it. You hadn’t gotten past it at all.

And slowly, things start feeling more normal.  You start to own the life you have now, instead of just getting through it on a daily basis.  You look forward to the next morning again, because, even if you don’t have anything to do (for now)- you have a cup of coffee to enjoy in the morning.

And for me, that’s enough.

Next on the list? Getting our own apartment, maybe learning how to drive stick, putting myself out there (friend wise)…

But I’ll do all that after my first cup.

With coffee to start my day, I can do anything.

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The Hunt For the Holy Grail- FILTERED

Yes, FINALLY.  Finally I’m writing the last installment of a series I started a million years ago.  I didn’t even get to try the last filtered coffee brand I had on my list.  Why? Because I am CONTENT.  I have found THE ONE.

(and because it’s been so long, I can’t find the pictures of each coffee brand on my computer… You’ll have to look at Instagram screenshots instead. Sorry!) 

But first, lets look at a few others.

For filtered coffee, I utilized the french press method for brewing. Because I like a strong cup, I steeped the grinds for 7-8 minutes instead of the suggested 5 minutes.  Also, due to the fact I kept letting milk spoil in the fridge, I’ve switched to powdered creamer (nestle brand). I know, the scandal! But I can’t stand wasting milk, and I simply don’t use it for much else besides the occasional dessert and coffee!

Turkish Coffee (ground for filtered)

Very simply put…Turkish coffee without the sludge.
Taste: 2/10

How is it possible that the taste got worse when I used the same beans as the traditional Turkish coffee, but with a filter?  Maybe because I hold my filtered coffee to a higher standard?  For more information on the flavor of Turkish coffee, check out my Hunt post here.

Texture: 7/10

Not having that nasty sludge was a huge improvement to this coffee.

Aroma: 7/10

One of the benefits of Turkish coffee is that it has a very strong aroma.  You can tell coffee is in my cup from across the room!

Too bad the taste dragged down the score.

Total: 5/10

Sorry Turkish coffee, you will never be my holy grail!

 

Starbucks House Blend

The standard Starbucks flavor we all know and (some people) love! (22TL for 200g)
Taste: 6/10

Like I’ve said on several occasions- I’m not a hardcore Starbucks fan.  But what I do praise them for is their consistency.  The taste of Starbucks here is the same as what I am accustomed to in the states.  So if you are a Starbucks fan, you can buy a bag of Starbucks coffee beans in Turkey and feel completely at ease. It was a welcome taste to have back on my buds, but at the same time, I always added syrups to the Starbucks I drank back home.  Because, while the flavor is a standard filtered coffee type, it doesn’t exactly wow me.  The complexity is there, but there is a bit of a sour note going on as well.

Texture: 8/10

No grits! No grains! This does a happy girl make!  Paired with the powdered creamer, the texture of this coffee has been bumped up to the slightly creamy category I’ve been looking for!

Aroma: 8/10

Everyone knows the smell of Starbucks.  These coffee beans are poignant in a very good way!  I can smell the coffee when I walk into the kitchen. mmm!

Total: 7/10

A solid choice, but still a “nothing to write home about” experience. If you are craving filtered coffee, this is not a bad option.  Plus, like I said before, the familiarity is nice when you feel a little home sick.

Tchibo (Guatemala Grande and African Blue)

Tchibo is a German company that sells a lot of random stuff.  One of their products is coffee. Guatemala Grande (GG) is their medium roast, while African Blue (AB) is their dark.  They have a few other roasts as well, but these are the ones I’ve been refilling over and over again.  I first tried the GG on it’s own…then I tried the AB…and I said to myself “these are both good. But what if I put them TOGETHER?”. (23 TL for two 250g bags)

Then the sky opened up.

Light shined down.

And the angels sang.

Taste: (GG) 7/10, (AB) 8/10, (blend) 9/10

GG is a lovely, if not standard, medium roast.  It has a mild complexity, not overwhelming, but also lacks the sourness of Starbucks.

While I am typically not a fan of dark roast, AB has me hooked!  It is a notch or two bolder than GG, without smacking you in the face with bitterness. It still has a mild complexity, but where GG is solidly in the “medium” category, AB floats softly in the “dark” category, with some of the notes found in the medium. When using the nestle powdered creamer, the bitterness is completely masked*.

But when you bring GG and AB together, it is a taste of heaven.  Even without any added flavors (hazelnut, chocolate, vanilla, etc), this coffee is a dream.  The GG and AB are just different enough that you can tell the difference when you drink them separately, but when you bring them together the flavors meld beautifully without having too much of one particular note.  I like a good 1:1 ratio of GG and AB, and if I am feeling light, I go 3:1.

Texture: (all) 8/10

I think I need to chock the texture up to the great nestle powdered creamer I’ve been using…

Aroma: (GG) 7/10, (AB) 8/10, (blend) 8/10

As is the norm, the dark roasted AB has a slightly stronger scent than GG.  However, when blended, the poignancy of the AB comes out in the scent. In my experience, you need to let this coffee steep a little longer (8 minutes) to get the full effect.

Total: (GG) 7/10, 8/10(AB), 8/10(blend)

Because the texture and aroma don’t change too much with the blend, the blend ended up tying with the AB dark roast…but everything was weighted equally in my assessment.  Because I hate statistics. And I am not about to pull out analysis software to do math on a blog post.  But in real life, the taste is obviously the most important thing.  So, numbers aside, I would say that the blend of GG+AB is the best filtered coffee I’ve had in Turkey.

I’d go so far as to say it’s the best coffee period (so far).

I’d even say…

I HAVE FOUND MY HOLY GRAIL!

Across all types of coffee, and brands, I believe the Tchibo Guatemala Grande mixed with the African Blue is my holy grail of coffee in Turkey.  Sure, there are other brands I haven’t tried.  There are flavored syrups I haven’t used.  But with my GG+AB, I have consistently made good (neigh, GREAT) cups of coffee that have started my morning right.  I’ve even gotten back in the habit of drinking coffee every morning. And that price point though!! (5.75TL for 100g. That’s 12~TL compared to 22TL for Starbucks!!)

 Thanks to Tchibo, Turkey is feeling a little more like home.  And in the end, I think that’s what I was really looking for.

Expat problem? Solved.

 

*Here’s some science for you:  The bitterness in coffee is caused by a chemical compound known as tannins, which also gives the coffee color we are all familiar with. They are also found in coffee and some wines. In order to cut bitterness, we must bind the tannins with protein (commonly milk protein).  Hence the use of milk/cream in coffee! The higher the protein content (like creamer/ powdered creamer vs regular milk vs low fat), the more effective the binding power and the less bitterness you end up with.

Hunt for the Holy Grail- Instant

Instant coffee (rather than filtered) is the typical go-to in Turkey if you want to drink coffee,  but not Turkish coffee.  There are three different types of instant coffee- plain,  2 in 1, and 3 in 1. The 3 in 1 contains powdered milk and sugar in the instant mix, while 2 in 1 comes without the sugar.  Personally,  we usually go for the 3 in 1 so that we don’t have to buy any creamer.  In order to be fair,  I am judging only 3 in 1 plain coffees from each brand.

Flavored coffees (like hazelnut and mocha) are also available,  as are those with foam (köpük) with types like cappuccino.  Specialty instants like these will get their own judgement after I complete a few other categories.

One of the big failings of instant coffee, in my opinion, is that they tend to be very flat rather than bold flavored,  and you can’t really smell the coffee without nearly drowning your nose in the cup.  Let’s see how these brands fair…

NESCAFE

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Nescafe is one of the most popular instant coffee brands in Turkey. Actually,  as I recall,  it is also one of the more easily procured ones in the US as well!  Let’s see how it fairs for a coffee nut:

Taste: 6/10
This coffee is sweet.  Sweet,  sweet, sweet.  Also,  there is almost no true coffee bitterness /boldness in the flavor.  Likely the creamer ratio is too high, binding up the bitter tannins from the coffee into the milk proteins. It’s not bad, but it’s not strong.

Texture: 7/10
As is a typical problem for instants, without the addition of actual creamer,  the coffee is a bit thin.

Aroma: 5/10
This coffee has almost no smell,  unless you stick your nose directly in it.

TOTAL: 6/10

Not bad at all,  but leaves room for improvement.  Likely using plain instant and adding the sugar and creamer yourself would give you better results. But this 3 in 1 really lacks in the boldness I crave,  which carries over into the aroma and taste category.

VIP

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I actually tested the 3 N 1 but all I had to take a picture of was this.

This brand is predominantly carried by BİM grocery stores.  I believe it is the store brand, but I don’t want to lie to you.  I still haven’t figured it out.  Let’s see how they did…

Taste: 8/10
This coffee has a much stronger coffee flavor than Nescafe,  and isn’t quite as sweet.  While the prior is more like a dessert,  this coffee is more like that morning cup I’m looking for

Texture: 7/10
As mentioned before… Instant coffees can’t help themselves

Aroma: 6/10
This brand is slightly stronger in aroma than Nescafe, but not by much.  You can start to smell the coffee from around 3 inches from the cup.

TOTAL: 7/10

This brand’s taste boosted it’s score, but it is still failing in typical instant coffee areas.

CAFEX

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This brand is carried by A101 grocery stores.  Much like VIP,  I believe it is a store brand.  I think the picture may have given it away… This is my favorite instant!

Taste: 9/10
This brand really nails it in taste.  It has a clear coffee boldness and a subtle sweetness /milky flavor that doesn’t over power.  The only reason I don’t give the taste a 10 is because I don’t want to jump the gun when there are brands I haven’t tried.

Texture: 8/10
Maybe it is an illusion created by the very nearly full bodied flavor, but the texture feels slightly creamier/thicker than the others.

Aroma: 9/10
You are able to smell the fullness of traditional coffee as soon as the hot water hits the powder in the cup.  The person sitting beside you will be able to tell you are drinking coffee. AGAIN,  I hesitate for a 10 because I haven’t tried all the brands yet.

TOTAL: 8.5/10

While I am hesitant to find a perfect cup in the instant category,  I did promise to judge each type of coffee alone.  This is definitely my favorite brand of instant right now!  However, there are a few brands I have been suggested that I still need to try.

Milk and coffee does not a cappuccino make.

A few days ago, hubby and I went out on the prowl with BIL (brother in law) for a good time.  After buying a French press (as seen on instagram),  we wandered into a hookah bar and lounge. If you aren’t familiar with hookah,  it is the tall standing water pipe through which you smoke concentrated tobacco that is flavored with syrup (usually fruit flavored).  It is very popular in the middle east,  and is rising in fame in the states.  I actually owned one state side, but I was never good at packing the bowl.

Anyway,  we wandered into the lounge and settled on a green apple/mint blend hookah experience… And began to peruse the drinks and snacks.

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Oh boy!

I was so excited when hubby said I could pick anything I wanted- prices be damned! If you haven’t noticed from hints and comments I’ve been dropping… We are going through a very very difficult time right now (the two verys are absolutely warranted),  and this outing was an attempt to unwind.  Anyway,  we all settled on a classic cappuccino.  After waiting nearly 10 minutes (were they roasting the beans right now?),  they came back… With this.

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What is this supposed to be exactly?

Based on my vast coffee experiences, I immediately deduced this to actually be a standard coffee with milk.  It was,  at least,  a dark roast. No foam to be had at all.  I looked first to my hubby,  then to my BIL…

Neither seemed to notice or care about this travesty…

This 6TL lie!

I then asked hubby,  who would also indulge in the occasional cappuccino with me in the past,  and whispered my disappointment.

What do you expect? It’s Turkey

Well,  for 6TL I expect a hell of a lot more! We commiserated with each other that everything on this list is likely the same coffee with milk,  and moved on to our board games.

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So Turkish checkers is different...

I mean,  I can’t complain too much I suppose.  The hookah was very good, the lokum was delightful,  and the service was on point (changing coals and whatnot).  Even better,  the cafe wasn’t bustling with rowdy people, and there was an appropriate ratio of men and women to make the setting comfortable.  All in all,  it was a fun night…

But leave the coffee to me.

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The hunt for the Holy Grail

Since I’ve come to Turkey I’ve been on the hunt for the Holy Grail.  My Holy Grail isn’t so much about the cup, but what’s in it.

I’m talking about coffee (no surprise there)!

coffee

I thought it would be fun to share the hunt with you guys,  and maybe it’ll help other expats who are having coffee withdrawals.

So,  I’m planning on having at least 3 installments, comparing instant coffee brands,  Turkish coffee brands, and finally,  filtered coffee brands (most likely Cafe brewed,  because I’m not willing to drop the kind of money a coffee machine is here).  I didn’t think it was fair to compare different coffee types to each other,  since it is kind of an “apples to oranges”  scenario.  I will,  however, give my overall favorite across the board.  Lastly,  I want to rate the coffee on a scale from 0 to 10 based on smell,  taste, and texture.

First,  let me describe my ideal coffee.  As anyone in a predominantly coffee drinking country knows, everyone has different ideas of the perfect cup! For me, I prefer a medium roasted filtered coffee (a slight bitter taste in the back of the tongue, but not overpowering), with a slightly creamy and smooth texture from half and half.  I do like my coffee slightly sweet (two spoons of sugar in a large “American cup”) but not dessert-like.  I’m always down for additional flavorings, particularly nutty (hazelnut, almond,  pecan,  etc) and sweet (vanilla, mocha, white chocolate,  etc).

I expect the first installment will be INSTANT,  and I hope to have it ready by next week.

If anyone has any suggestions,  let me know!