Like so many adult indulgences, Armenian coffee is an acquired taste — and I’m glad I finally acquired it, although it’s only an occasional treat now because I managed to consume about four lifetimes’ worth of caffeine during my years in the newspaper business.
Sadly, I squandered my ration by guzzling mug after mug of weak and tasteless American coffee made in machines where the water and coffee grounds pass by each other like strangers on fast-moving trains, never even getting friendly much less intimate.
Properly made, Armenian coffee demands a bit more time and all of your attention. The result is definitely worthwhile.
Truth in brewing: Everyone I knew as a kid, including my father, called it Turkish coffee. There’s no point arguing about whether Armenians or Turks invented it because we’d both lose. Coffee was most likely brought to the Near East by the Arabs, who carried the beans from North Africa.
The common element in coffee from Greece to the Middle East is that the beans are ground so finely that they turn nearly to powder. If you can’t find the proper grind in a Middle Eastern store, you need to grind your own with a device that can produce the right consistency.
Armenian Coffee (Soorj)
- You'll need an Armenian coffee pot (available in Middle Eastern stores) or a small saucepan
- Armenian coffee cups (or demitasse cups)
- Coffee (ground super fine)
- Sugar (optional)
- Cardamom (optional)
- Set the empty cups on a serving tray near the stove and place one cardamom pod or seed in each.
- Pour one cup of cold water in the pot for each cup of coffee.
- Add one generous teaspoon of coffee for each cup of water and stir thoroughly. (I like to add an extra spoon of coffee, but adjust to your taste.)
- Add one level teaspoon of sugar for each cup of water and stir again.
- Turn the heat on high.
- Keep an eye on the pot. In this case, a watched pot definitely WILL boil — but an unwatched pot will boil over. Either way, you've ruined the coffee.
- Critical point: The coffee mixture will begin to foam when it heats. As it's about to boil, the foam will start to rise to the top of the pot. Take the pot off the heat. DO NOT let the coffee boil.
- Stir the coffee and place it back on the heat. Repeat at least once more.
- When the foam rises a third time, the coffee's ready.
- Pour a little coffee into each cup and continue until they're all full. (Don't fill one cup at a time or there may not be enough foam to go around.) Leave enough room at the top to add some of the foam. If the foam has dissipated before you're done, put the coffee back on the heat JUST until it foams again.