Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Making Turkish Coffee

Turkish Coffee

In the last 12 month I did less Flight archery but concentrated more on Horses and Turkish war archery so I will not write so much about Flight archery anymore. Since this is my only English blog I will re-purpose it for Turkish war archery, Turkish horsemanship and also Turkish culture.

This post is about Turkish coffee, no other drink is so deeply rooted in Turkish culture.
Turkish coffee usually goes together with nice conversations and relaxation time.

The Turkish way of making coffee became quite popular and is still used in many ex-Ottoman empire regions, from the Balkans, Greece. and also nations who traded with the Ottomans e.g. Poland.
After the unsuccessful siege of Vienna, the first coffee houses opened in the city and coffee spread from there to the whole of Europe.
Osmanen beim Kaffeetrinken/Chester Beatty Library, Dublin

Ottoman coffee house 16th cc

Traditionally it was made in an open fireplace called ''Mangal'' as seen below.

Even if the making and drinking does not have rigid steps as in the Japanese tea drinking ceremony for example, there is still some rules and traditions to consider.

How to make Turkish coffee
First of all you need the coffee. Turkish coffee is ground very finely. There is different brands today, a famous one is Mehmet Efendi's:

Depending on your taste, there is 3 versions:

  1. Without sugar
  2. With 1 sugar cube (orta şekerli), most people drink this
  3. With 2 sugar cubes 

For the brewing you need a container called 'cezve'. It always has a broader bottom and a narrower top. There is different sizes of cezves, choose the cezve according to how many cups you want to make in one go.

The cups called 'fincan' are similar to espresso cups, maybe slightly smaller. Sugar cubes create more foam than normal sugar, so use cube sugar.

Let's say you want to make 2 cups of the Orta Şekerli taste: 

  1. Put 2 sugar cubes into the cezve
  2. Put two heaped tea spoons of coffee into the cezve
  3. Add 2 coffee cups of cold water into the cezve
  4. Stir 
  5. Put the cezve on the fire with the lowest level. The slower it cooks the more flavour is released.
  6. After maybe about 2-3 mins the coffee will start to expand before it boils
  7. After the first boiling serve half of the first cup and half of the second, make sure each cup gets an equal amount of foam. The foam is the most important part here. There is different ways to preserve the foam. You can use a spoon to allocate evenly directly from the cezve or experienced people pour it directly equally to all cups. If you boil too much the foam will disappear. If there is no foam then you basically screwed it, and you have to start over again :) 

How to drink Turkish coffee
  • You drink Turkish coffee very hot and take only a small sip
  • If you wait too long, the foam may disappear
  • Turkish coffee can be drunk at any time, but it is especially custom to drink it after a meal or if you have guests.
  • It is usually drunk on its own to experience its full flavour. Or if there is cake, food etc Turkish coffee is drunk at the end of everything.
  • A cup of water is always served with the coffee
  • A funny mistake foreigners do is to drink the telve at the bottom of the cup- so please leave the bottom!
  • You may want to try your skills in coffee cup reading as well. Put the plate on the coffee, turn it, put your wedding ring on it to make it cool faster, circle the cup 3 times and wait for it to cool down..


  • When serving you start with the eldest person in the room, then the second eldest etc.
  • The cup with the most foam is given to the eldest, then the second eldest etc.
  • When you let people wait on their coffee they may say 'Did you bring it from Yemen?'
  • The saying is 'one cup of coffee is worth 40 years of gratitude' 
  • 'Kahvealtı' which is the Turkish word for breakfast actually means 'between coffee'.

Kaffee trinkende Frauen im Harem/Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris
Coffee drinking women in the harem (Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris)

Monday, 6 May 2013

The Thumb draw / Thumb lock in Archery

I see that in most discussions about 3 finger vs thumb draw, thumb draw is regarded inferior e.g. you can't draw as high draw weights as with 3 finger and 3 finger seems faster.
This is not really the case, the problem is that the majority doesnt use the correct technique.

Everything will have existed once in history but the Turco-Mongolian style thumbdraw described below was widely adapted and formed the last step in the evolution due to its advantages.
  • The majority of the cultures who relied on horsearchery as a main combat form adapted this thumb lock version e.g. Safavid Persians, Ottoman Turks, Mongols, Mughals
  • It is the form you see in miniatures of the mentioned cultures
  • The thumb lock described below is described in different historical archery books
  • It is described as the correct form in the traditional Asian archery forum Atarn
  • It is the best to use for heavy bows (unless you use e.g. a Manchu thumbring, which requires a totally different technique)
  • Lukas Novotny teaches it the same way. Please have a look at his thumb draw FAQ pictures: 
  • Lukas Novotny thumb lock gallery

Thumb lock description 
  • You press your pinky, ring and middle finger hard like making a fist. This is important, it will give the whole forearm more stability as it activates all muscles in the forearm. 
  • You put the tip of the thumb onto the side of the first knuckle of the middle finger and press firmly against it. It should not slip over it
  • You close your index finger over the thumb. This creates the lock (mandal in Turkish). The first knuckle of the index finger should come over the tip of the thumb. The nail of the thumb should still be seen partially.
  • The whole hand should be like a tight fist when looked from the side, there should be no fingers sticking out.
  • Grasping the string, all fingers should be on the right side of the string, only the thumb should be on the left side.
  • You release by loosening the index finger and throwing your draw arm backwards quickly to reduce friction
  • With the release no part of your hand should touch the string.

Common mistakes
  • Index finger or other fingers go on the left side of string, which means they touch the string with the release. The thumb draw is superiour because it touches only one point on the thumbring and with the release it touches nothing else. This way it becomes like a compound bow release.
  • Index and middle finger go apart
  • Thumb can be seen between index and middle finger
  • Tip of index finger is put on thumb. (The lock will not be strong enough for war bows)
  • In competitions I see people pulling with the thumb and 3 finger
  • Thumbring doesnt fit and hurts
  • Somehow a lot of horsearchers adapted a thumb lock form where pinky, ring and middle fingers are either loose or go over the string, the tip of the index finger goes over the thumb. This is nice for 30-40lbs bows but very difficult to pull historical draw weights of war bows. 

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Ottoman Turkish archery bow drawing technique

What is the technique to draw an Ottoman Turkish bow?
In fact, the principles are general archery principles, valid for all types of archery, not just Turkish archery.

Ottoman Sultan practicing mounted archery on a hunt

The (common) wrong technique (A)
I will start with a common mistake which one sees a lot among beginners and today's horsearchers.
While pulling the bow, the ellbow is often kept low or horizontal.
This has many implications:
  1. You cannot use your back muscles properly 
  2. You have to use mostly the wrong muscle - the biceps
  3. No anchor point possible. In order to anchor near the face e.g. chin, ear etc you would have to use your biceps, but this will be extremely difficult. 
  4. The arrow is less aligned with your bow arm and eyes
Imagine a vector/line of power like in the drawing below. The two end points are your bow hand and the tip of your elbow. Your draw hand has to be on this vector as only in this position you do not need to use your biceps. This is the reason why a lot of people cannot come to their anchor point as they struggle to position their draw hand near the face, as this is a deviation from the vector.
This is also the main reason why full grown men struggle with 50lbs and higher while in Ottoman times 70+ lbs was the norm (only children, beginners and elderly would use below 70lbs bows). Why use your biceps and struggle with 50lbs if you could use the correct technique and back muscles and go easily beyond 70lbs?

The correct archery technique (B)
  1. Start drawing your bow 
  2. Keep your elbow high at the earliest stage
  3. ''Roll your shoulder'' as the English longbow archers would say
  4. Come to an anchor point, press your draw hand against the tip/edge of your chin for an Ottoman anchor point. The elbow should point upwards
  5. Release- with the released energy, the elbow goes back vertically in a quick move but stops abruptly above shoulder height. Do not activate muscles to throw your arm back but use muscles to stop the backwards move.
  6. Upper and lower arm end in a vertical position in an approximate 90 degree angle. If the draw was correct, the position of the shoulder blades will be correct and with the release the backwards moving arm will be vertical too.
The anchor point depends on the archery culture and occasion e.g. it is mostly the chin for Ottoman battle archery whereas it is the earlobe for Ottoman flight archery. Seljuks, Persian Safevids, Mughals, Mongols and Tatars had a longer draw and their anchor point ranged from under the ear to above the shoulder of the draw arm.

Comparison to modern archery
In modern archery it is exactly the same principle, if you want to learn more about Asian style historic archery, I recommend looking at the technique of top class recurve or compound archers:
 Modern Compound bow technique

Last example: 
Below you see a group of Mongols shooting arrows in battle, two are in full draw and two in the release position.

Historic Mongol archery

Ottoman Turkish hornbow drawing technique 
upon request I am adding a video with a sideview of the drawing technique. Note that the elbow never drops  and the bow is drawn purely with the back muscles. Excuse the outfit, this was on a horsearchery competition in Jordan where I tested a hornbow of a famous bowmaker :)