Mugshot: Turkish vs Greek coffee? Just call it a briki brew

Traditional: Briki brews are made in a pot with ground coffee, sugar and cold water.
Traditional: Briki brews are made in a pot with ground coffee, sugar and cold water. Photo: Marco Del Grande

Turkish coffee or Greek? The question is almost as old as the brew itself. While coffee came to Europe via the Ottoman Empire, Turkish-style coffee - dark, sweet and with a heavy sediment in the cup - is familiar to most Australians thanks to our large Greek population. Perhaps we should just call it briki coffee.

"Briki is what we call the pot," says Tia Tsonis from Vanilla Cakes in Eaton Mall, Oakleigh, which should really be renamed Eaton Plaka: it's packed with Greek cafes, bars and souvlaki shops, their outdoor tables full of Greek-Australians of all ages. And while espresso-based coffee and Greek frappe - milky iced coffee made with instant - look to be the most popular orders, Tsonis says Vanilla couldn't get away with not serving briki coffee, too.

They make coffee the traditional Greek-slash-Turkish way - adding ground coffee, sugar and cold water to a briki and slowly bringing it to the boil, so it bubbles and foams up the sides of the pot, producing a lovely kaimaki (crema).

Because the sugar goes in at the beginning, you order for degree of sweetness, Tsonis explains: sketo for no sugar; metreo (one teaspoon each of coffee and sugar per demitasse cup); glyko (two teaspoons of sugar); and even vary glyko, with four teaspoons of sugar. If you want just a little bit of sugar, you can ask for "meoligi".

She says we favour a slightly darker roast in Australia than the "blonde blends" popular in Greece, due to the influence of Italian espresso.

At Hellenic Republic in Brunswick they use a blend from Cyprus, says Hellenic's Chris Glover. "There's not much information on the pack: 'Original Mocca blend 100 per cent pure coffee.' But it's the best we've found. Thick crema and a great flavour."

Louis Dimopoulos from Emporio Coffee says traditional Greek coffee was a blend of arabica and robusta beans, but now Emporio, which supplies Vanilla Cakes, uses exclusively arabica, blending beans from Brazil, Indonesia and Uganda in a medium roast.

The coffee is ground to a fine powder at the roastery using stone-faced grinding discs that don't overheat it, an issue when coffee is being ground so fine.

The characteristic flavour - a medicinal sweetness - comes from this fine grind: briki coffee is partly a suspension of coffee particles. "You are drinking the coffee itself," says Dimopoulos. "Not just an extraction or an infusion."