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.

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Turkey 250: Intro to Turkish Cheeses

If you are a self proclaimed cheese-aholic like myself, Turkey can be a wonderful but also intimidating place.  As cheese and yogurt are staples in Turkish cuisine, the natives have found many different ways of expressing their fondness of this dairy delight.

While there are many different types of cheeses in many cultures,  the Turkish varieties may be harder for expats to decipher because most of them aren’t popular in the West (at least not where I was shopping).

In order to make it easier,  I’ve compiled a list of Turkish peynirler (cheeses) that I have personally tried, and when I know it,  comparisons to American equivalents.

Not to be confused with Indian paneer… Peynir just means cheese.

Also,  it is important to know that every peynirci (cheese maker) can produce a slightly different tasting cheese… And even different batches can vary! For example, I prefer the tulum from the beach peynirci more so than the city one. Make sure to get a taste before you buy! They don’t mind handing out samples.

So without further ado,  and in no particular order…

image

Turkish cheeses

Beyaz peynir : the ubiquitous cheese Turkey is known for (and the one I could actually find in specialty stores in the states).  Salty and briney,  this is a more moist version of feta.

Tulum: prepared similarly to cheddar (kept in a press and aged), this cheese is moderately dry and crumbly, ranging in flavor from a mozzarella+cheddar baby to a taste I can only compare to cow skin.  This can be aged in skin (deri) or a standard press. If you get the opportunity,  go for the izmir tulum.

Ezine: Ezine is a softer, very moist cheese that can be made from goat (my fave) or cow milk. It can be slightly sweeter than others,  and is great at kahvaltı with bread.

Kaşar: tbh, it’s kind of Turkish mozzarella.  A stretched, fresh cheese with all the mozzarella properties you crave.

Lor: Turkish ricotta, the cheese curds that are forced out of the whey remaining from bacterial fermented cheeses.  Should be eaten in handfuls (or not. But that’s my personal recommendation). Tulum lor and kaşar lor are delicious.

Çökelek: not to be confused with lor,  it is a bit drier and comes from ayran (watered down yogurt )  rather than whey.

Labneh: Turkish cream cheese… Which I have not eaten or tried to cook with (yet), but I see it all the time at the store.

Süzme peynir: the most moist and spreadable cheese I’ve found to date.  The flavor is similar to cream cheese, but it is slightly firmer and you can pick it up without getting a mess on your fingers.

Küflü peynir: Turkish blue cheese.  Just do it!

One thing that is very important to consider when buying cheese (from a peynirci), is that they don’t have preservatives. Well, at least not a lot if they do at all. That means that the cheese you buy at the pazar won’t taste the same a week or two later (depending on the type, the change can happen slow or fast). This is because of a little thing called oxidation. Oxidation causes fats in cheese to break down, making the flavors we love/hate. As time progresses (especially if your cheese has a lot of surface area) oxygen will act on the exposed parts of the cheese, changing the flavor! Like I said before… You may love it or hate it. For example: 2 week old tulum tastes like how a cow’s skin smells… And I hate it! That doesn’t mean the cheese is spoiled, it’s just aged!

To limit oxidation:
1. Don’t cut up your cheese until you are about to eat it
2. Store it in whey/brine
3. Cover it in a film of oil (good for lor and çökelek, which can be pressed into a box)
4. Eat it quickly!

While this list is in no way all inclusive,  it does cover your basics.  While the time I spend in Turkey increases, I hope to come back to this post and add more!