cezve (pronounced jez-veh) is often described as the world’s oldest coffee-brewing method. Its design and use have remained virtually unchanged for centuries, right down to the use of a sand bath for heating the coffee, a method that was known to Islamic chemists. In fact, before the invention of the cezve, coffee was a very different drink.
Coffee trees may have arrived in the Arabian Peninsula as early as the sixth century. They are believed to have been brought by the Ethiopians who conquered Yemen and ruled it for fifty years (Pendergrast 2010). By the fifteenth century, the plants were being used by Sufi monks to make qahwa, the ritual drink that was an essential part of their nightly prayers.
While qahwa is closely associated with coffee, it was originally made from khat — the leaves of a narcotic plant native to Ethiopia (Morris 2019). During the fifteenth century, khat was gradually replaced by qishr, a cascara-like infusion of the dried coffee fruit, or by an infusion made from the roasted beans.
Coffee-drinking became a popular focal point for social gatherings as well as religious rituals, and coffee spread throughout the Islamic world, reaching Egypt in the 1500s. After the Ottoman Empire conquered Egypt in 1516, soldiers brought the new drink back to Turkey with them.
During this period, coffee would have typically been brewed using a method similar to today’s ‘Arabic’ or ‘Gulf’ coffee. The coffee beans were lightly roasted, crushed in a mortar and pestle, and then mixed with spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and, most commonly, cardamom before being infused in water. The coffee might be boiled for 15 minutes or steeped for up to a day, strained, and stored for later use (Ukers 1922).
The invention of the cezve in Turkey during the sixteenth century allowed coffee to be prepared much more quickly.