“Now gently mix the coffee until there are no more lumps,” I tell my roommate.

While pronouncing those words, I feel like what I imagine my mother probably used to feel when she was teaching me how to make Turkish coffee. Like I’m handing over the keys to a long-lost mystical world, featuring sorcerers and magic potions.

Turkish coffee really is the key to my Macedonian-Albanian culture. In any Balkan country, when you say, “Let’s have a coffee,” you don’t mean the Italian caffè that never lasts more than two minutes sitting in a bar. And you definitely don’t mean walking around holding a cup of boiling so-called “coffee” from Starbucks.

When someone invites you for coffee in Balkan countries, you will spend at least the next hour drinking from a tiny cup very slowly, eating lokum and gossiping. It will sound quite banal to you, I’m sure.

But it’s not just about a beverage, it’s something more: it’s a rite.

A rite that everyone knows and loves. Women, men, children, elders. Doesn’t matter your age or where you are, it’s always the right moment to make a good Turkish coffee. Even if you don’t drink it, you’ll feel the magic in that ritual. It’s the perfect way to spend time with friends, and it’s a wonderful ice breaker.

As soon as you enter a hair salon here, one of the workers will ask you how you drink your coffee. Within minutes, she will be sitting there talking with you and other clients like you have been friends forever, even if it’s the first time you met.

It’s not all about coffee: it’s about the moment you spend together with someone, the experience you create. It’s something that, in this always-running society, we’re losing.

Even in my beloved Balkan countries, this is happening.

More and more young people choose to not drink Turkish coffee and even refuse to learn how to prepare it. The tradition of reading one’s fortune in the dregs of coffee left at the bottom of the cups is slowly dying, too.

”But I just saw you making it,” my roommate tells me, confused, as we stand in our kitchen. “I never even tried to pour it into cups. I will never manage to make it.” By this point, she’s rethinking her decision to ask for lessons.

In that moment, just like my mom said to me years ago, I tell her, “If you never try, you will never be able to do it.”

So the Italian girl learned to make the perfect cup of Turkish coffee for the Balkan roommate. And after drinking it we turned our cups to “see” our future.

”That’s clearly an old woman, I have no doubts about it,” she said, peering into the cup. “Or wait…is it one of those dogs with long ears?”

We both started laughing like crazy, realizing that two of the most cynical women on this earth were trying to see their future in a cup.

Teaching to my 100-percent Italian roommate how to make Turkish coffee was about continuing my heritage.

She wasn’t just appreciating something from my culture; she was learning how to become part of it.


  • Albena is an avid book lover, who spends most of her time reading and daydreaming about what she will eat next. She tries to balance her multicultural background into every day's life, especially every dish. She tries to create awareness about women issues, racism and chronically ill people, by writing and creating art with her illness.

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