University City

Festival helps keep Turkish tradition alive

Sipping coffee together has been an important social custom for many women in Dilek Incoglu's native Turkey.

The conversation becomes more interesting once the coffee cups are nearly empty, with fine grinds of roasted beans still resting in the bottom, ready to tell a story.

A few swirls and a flip of the cup onto its saucer is the start of the ancient custom known to Turks as fal, or reading coffee grounds.

Someone well-practiced as an interpreter will look into the streaks and clumps of coffee grounds and see figures and symbols that Turks believe reveal details about a person's life and emotional state.

"My mom's family is very close," Incoglu said. "There are six sisters. When they get together, there is conversation and coffee is always poured for reading the grounds."

Incoglu, a Wells Fargo risk manager, learned enough about reading coffee grounds in Turkey to rank herself as a hobbyist.

She and other members of the American Turkish Association of North Carolina at Charlotte will demonstrate and share information about fal on Oct. 16 at the second annual Turkish Festival.

As part of the same cultural and educational program, Incoglu and the others also will give out samples of coffee brewed as Turks enjoy it.

They grind the beans in a hand-cranked coffee mill called a Degirmen. The fine powder is prepared in a cezve, a copper coffee pot with a long handle that slowly brews the drink.

The coffee culture developed in Turkey in the mid-1500s, as beans came to the Ottoman Empire from Arabia.

Today, coffee houses are as numerous in Turkey as in the United States.

"Turkish coffee is a big part of the culture, said Incoglu, who lived in Turkey until she was 24.

Fal is fading as a tradition among the younger generation of Turks, Incoglu said. She and others are preserving the tradition through demonstrations and educational programs.

Coffee readings can predict births or good news or an engagement. Symbols for travel and relocations also can show up in a cup.

Birds are a symbol for good news. A lady bug and stars represents good luck. An anchor can mean that you might be moving.

Turks who still carry on the tradition seldom live their lives based on what a reader might see in their coffee cup. Still, they're curious to know what a reader will see.

"It's a social activity," Incoglu said. "It's not taken too seriously. It's for fun."

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