How did Kurdish Coffee become Turkish Coffee?

Between 1850 and 1930 Kizwan from the Turpentine Trees of the mountainous regions of Semsûr, Amed, Batman, and Mardin in Northern Kurdistan knows as Bakuri Kurdistan, located in modern-day “Turkey” was collected and made into coffee, which was then exported to France where it was packaged and sold in Europe as Kurdish Coffee.

A Traditional Coffee Pot

For over 80 years, Kurdish coffee was one of the most popular types of coffee in France. What made Kurdish coffee different from other types of coffee? It didn’t have caffeine in it. Kizwan coffee is made from fruits collected by the Kurds from the wild pistachio menengic. Ground roasted terebinth fruits, milk and sugar are its main ingredients in the traditonal recipe. But modern branded recipes include coffee.

However, following the proclamation of the Turkish state, a series of systemic discrimination was issued and Kurds were denied their language, music, traditional clothing, and their customs. When the Turks started to rename the cities, towns, and villages of Kurdistan, they also renamed Kurdish Coffee as Turkish Coffee.

Kurds themselves called it Kizwan Coffee, and to this day they do. At the time, however, France and Europe knew it as Kurdish Coffee, and in a short period, it became the most sold coffee in France where it was packaged and sent to the rest of the world. Geographers to this day claim that if you search all of Turkey, you will only find the turpentine tree in Bakuri Kurdistan. This is the tree that Kizwan Coffee is made from.

Kurdish Coffee Served with Chocolate and Water

In 1930, 100 grams of Kurdish coffee was packaged and sold in France, known as “Kurdish Coffee” with a picture of a Kurdish gunman as it’s leading logo. It was marketed as Chicorée au Kurde.

Packaged Kurdish Coffee in 1930

Something, seemingly as simple as coffee, was such a threat to the Turks, that they had to ask the French and European governments to change the name and picture of their packaging.

This is merely one example of the systemic discrimination imposed on Kurds in Turkey, and it’s a “mild” one. However, Turkish coffee has become a household name, an item on every menu and since 2013, it was inscribed in UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It has since been used in fortune telling, written about in poems and novels, and it is one of the most fundamentally well known beverages of our decade. But at what cost?

R O J A V A

I close my eyes and remember warm summer nights 

Spent on rooftops, mattresses spread out, spray bottles filled with water

Waving at neighbours, enjoying the rare breeze of a summer’s night.

My three sisters and I would laugh endlessly as our parents slept

Underneath the blanket of stars and an overzealous moon 

Watching over us, and we danced, we danced around with our hopes and our dreams while Singing to Jupiter and the trees.

On cold winter nights, it was the clanking of the pots and pans that 

Awoke us in the morning, underneath our covers, we etched a lifetime of 

Memories, now all a faded distant dream.

It was the chestnuts by the fire, and the sherbet for our guests, 

It was the long conversations over the hedge with a friendly neighbour, 

It was the young boy who brought us our warm bread in the mornings 

And the little geckos hiding by the air conditioner that frightened us, 

It was this and all of this, 

That I built my magical kingdom on. 

And now, a crumbling dynasty of hope.

First came the whispers and murmurs of a revolution, a spring, 

Then came the protests, followed by a siege, and all of a sudden, 

Our hometown was destroyed by madness and our streets were overflowing with 

Black flags with white writings and perverted tendencies, 

A betrayal of the innocent, an angry cry, tears of blood from the sky, it wasn’t a bomb,

it was three and more, followed by the creation of streams of light blood,

dark blood, all blood Blends, of friends and foes, the city was exposed.  

From cradle to grave we were born into a war, 

Our fairytale life was nothing but a dissolved rumour. 

Scenes of family and friends fleeing, images of fallen faces, feeling afraid and famished, 

We were now uninvited from our homes, unwanted by our people, unwelcome by all. 

Our misfortune was a means to an end. 

They didn’t care about the chestnuts or the rooftops,

they had no intention of listening to our hopes and dreams,

they were monsters from my unimaginable childhood nightmares, 

And they were here to stay. 

We fought and fought, we buried the dead, 

We buried Sheereen, Berivan, Ruhan and too many to count. 

I look to the sky to see a glimmer of hope, 

But all I see is an untrusted enemy, a betrayal. 

You were supposed to protect me. I wished upon all the stars, I wished for protection. 

And now the cycle repeats, it’s different faces and a different flag, 

But the decree is the same by all intents. 

Our mother, a lover of the mountains, of the sun, of the earth, 

Now a body of regret, “Why?” She would ask herself every day as she visits my grave, and waters my flowers, “Why did I stay?” She would ask as she prayed, 

And “why” she would utter at the world? 

“Why?”