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[Coffee Klatch] Take a sip of Turkish coffee in Seoul

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Oct. 14, 2023 - 16:01

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A staff brews coffee on hot sand. (Sand Coffee Nontanto) A staff brews coffee on hot sand. (Sand Coffee Nontanto)

For those of you who are tired of Americanos and sweetened lattes, Turkish coffee might just be what you needed. If you’re a coffee purist, why not try Turkish coffee, known as one of the strongest coffee with high level of caffeine?

Turkey, a country with over 1,000 years of coffee history, makes coffee in the most traditional way. Also known as sand coffee here, you need sand that’s heated in a pan over a stove before preparing to make a coffee.

Finely ground coffee and water are boiled in a special pot called Cezve that is placed on a bed of sand heated to over 300 degrees Celsius. The sand, evenly heating the bottom of the pot, helps to create fully-developed flavors and aromas. It also makes the coffee boil slowly, so that the result is a rich, strong coffee with a thick layer of foam on top.

Located in a back alley of Garosugil in Sinsa-dong, Gangnam, Nontanto Coffee is already well-known among coffee connoisseurs for the strong, unique taste of its coffee. A recent craze for Kaymak, a creamy dairy food like clotted cream, means the place is now also known for desserts, such as Kaymak served on toast and drizzled with honey.

Stepping into the small cafe, you will first see a giant pan of sand in front of the counter. The atmosphere inside the cafe is sleek rather than the traditional Turkish vibe.

Nontanto Coffee Sinsa (Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald) Nontanto Coffee Sinsa (Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald)
Nontanto Coffee's signature golden cream latte (left) and Cezve original black. (Sand Coffee Nontanto) Nontanto Coffee's signature golden cream latte (left) and Cezve original black. (Sand Coffee Nontanto)

Meaning “not so much” in Italian, Nontanto Coffee offers a brew that is not too strong or too mild.

Although its signature Cezve original black looks like an espresso, the taste is quite different -- strong but very smooth, even sweet, although it looks very bitter. When it comes to texture, think misugaru -- a traditional Korean drink made with powdered grain. Taking a sip, the fine coffee grinds will also come into your mouth.

For Cezve original -- Americano -- you can choose from among cafe-signature black, Honduras, Guatemala and Ethiopia.

When you have finished three-fourth of your coffee, put the cup upside down on a saucer so you see the stain that coffee has made inside the cup. It’s a Turkish tradition to interpret the image of a stain to tell fortune.

For those of you who do not want a strong caffeinated drink, try the decaf version.

The cafe's golden cream latte is very smooth and well-balanced, because the espresso extracted at Nontanto is quite strong already.

The non-coffee menu includes chocolate latte, ginger ade and tea varieties including chamomile.

Nontanto Coffee is open every day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. It is open until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Hot sand on a pan (left) and a coffee brewing stand (right) at Nontanto Coffee. (Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald) Hot sand on a pan (left) and a coffee brewing stand (right) at Nontanto Coffee. (Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald)