Turkish-Cypriot Cuisine
North Cyprus  

Kahvehane - Cyprus Village Coffee Houses
Village menfolk sitting at the kahve....Kahve (short for Kahvehane), is how we call here in North Cyprus, the little shop we come across in the city's neighborhood and in the villages. In kahves you are served cold and hot bevereges.

For many years, kahves, in the form of a public meeting-place restricted to men played an important socio-economic role in the community. A small "kahve" is typical of all villages in North Cyprus, although in larger villages we come across more than just one coffee-houses, or kahves. In villages, kahves are located in the central square or the main street of the village. Quite often the whole area is called "Kahvehane".

Turkish CoffeeKahves are generally for menfolk. Men at villages have their dinner at home and then at down they gather there before starting off to work. Usually, kahve is open all day long. It becomes the gathering place for the elders and for those who do not go to work. In some small villages the kahve often serves as a "bakkal", that is the village grocery selling a limited number of goods. Sometimes kahve also serves as the village post office as well.

In the traditional "kahve" you are served beverages mainly made of herbs growing on the mountains or in the nearby prairies (e.g. "Ihlamur" tea, mint tea, "Adachayi", anise tea,...) and off course the traditional Turkish coffee, either "sade" (without sugar), "orta" (medium), or "shekerli" (with sugar). Among other things that are served at the kahve are: "Lokum" (Turkish delight), or "sujuk" (a Turkish sweet made of grape juice with almonds or walnuts in it).

Taking a sip of an "orta" (medium) Turkish coffee!

Taking a sip of an "orta" (medium) Turkish coffee!

From an architectural point of view, "kahve" is not noteworthy, though the older kahves from the beginning of the century have somewhat distinct characteristics with arched gates. Kahve is mainly a huge room; its entrance faces the main street or the village square. It has tables and chairs and a fire- place (which was later replaced by a parafin stove). The shopkeeper's bench and utensils are in the back of the room. You can hardly find a toilet, or a kitchen in kahves. During summertime, tables and chairs are placed outside, either in the street or in the square. The same happens in winter and spring, whenever the sun is shining and a few rays of sun are gladly welcomed.

A Typical cafe in KyreniaIn the past, when neither modern means of entertainment (radio, television) nor contemporary means of communication were available, "kahve" played an essential part in the village life. It was the only place where men could either relax playing chess, cards, and other traditional games like "tavla" (backgamon) or just talk and tell stories especially during long winter nightswhen they did not have anything else to do, given the fact that work was over after sunset since there was no electricity either in those days. Money did not exist back then, therefore people did not place any bets. Ins- tead the prize for a game was a local product (raisins, figs, walnuts, wine, almonds...).

When Karagöz puppet theatre performers toured the countryside, they would often end up in the local kahve where they would perform their art. Kahve was then the scene of entertainment for the whole village; that was one of the occasions when children and women would go to the kahve. A few years following the end of the World War II, feature films were screened in some kahves. Du- ring the War, radios appeared in many kahves, thus they became the main source of information for the whole village. Later with the televisions appearing (from 1956 onwards), kahvehanes became the main source of entertainment in the village where no household had the luxury of a television set. Newspapers, with some delay, would always come to kahvehane

Kahves, or kahvehanes sometimes served for auctions, for meetings to discuss community problems, for loan and payment arrangements and even for matchmaking. Economic, social, and political issues were also discussed.

Lefgara laceworkAs in the other Mediterranean societies, women would not sit and chat in the kahve apart from Karagöz puppet theatre performances, films, and weddings. When men were at kahve, women would usually gather in the neighborhood where they would knit (e.g Lefgara lacework) and chat.

For many years, kahve was the heart of the village life. Today it is a place where people meet to talk and play traditional games like "tavla", although in cities and big towns its importance is considerably reduced.

Here's information and recipe of the world famous Turkish coffee.



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