Armenian Coffee – “SURJ”
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Did you know fortunes can be read from the Surj cup?
Do you know how to make Armenian Surj?

According to folklore, when you visited friends and relatives, it was the custom to be served Surj (Armenian Coffee). In all the Near Eastern countries where Surj was served, it was the duty of the young girl in the house to prepare the coffee for all occasions. Traditionally, the girl who could not make a pot of coffee (surj) with a good foaming head on it was not worthy of a good husband!

As I was growing up in my Armenian household, I became familiar with Surj, and discovered the aromatic spell it had on the friends and relatives that visited us. Our woman friends in particular were enamored with Surj, because after they drank it, they would turn the cup over on the saucer and let the coffee residue run slowly down the inside wall of the cup, forming intricate patterns. After a while, the cup would be handed to my mother who would read their fortune (pakhd in Armenian) from the coffee patterns.
My mother would look carefully at the coffee stains and, after a short deliberation, would proceed in declaring the pakhd that was visible in the cup.

The gathering would listen attentively, nod their heads, and periodically exclaim shidag es (your right, in Armenian).

I recall phrases like, jampa muh guh desnam (I see a road), yergar jampa eh (it’s a long road), Mart muh bidi desnahs (you are going to see a person), and on and on my mother would continue. I enjoyed looking at the expressions on the faces of our friends and relatives after my mother finished telling their fortunes.

When I asked my mother how she learned how to read coffee cups and tell pakhds, my mother laughed and said,

“dghas, adiga im kaghdniks eh (meaning-son that is my secret)”.


Making Armenian Coffee

What is not a secret is making Surj.
You will require Armenian coffee powder which can be bought at most Gourmet shops. My family would obtain their powder from a Coffee store where they would ask for French and Italian beans to be mixed in equal quantities and then ground, very fine (pulverized).

The other requirement is an “Imrik” (or jesveh) which is a pot with a long handle. If this is not available then a heavy saucepan will do. Surj is best served in demi-tasse cups.

Armenian traditional coffee pot Imrik

Armenian traditional coffee pot Imrik

  • Measure one demi-tasse cup of water for each cup desired into the “Imrik”, and heat it until it is lukewarm.
  • Add one heaped teaspoon of Armenian coffee and one teaspoon sugar for each cup, and stir it. Amounts may vary according to taste.
  • As the mixture begins to boil, a thick foam should form. Stir it once or twice. As the foam begins to rise, take the pot off the heat, so that the foam will sink down.
  • Put it on again; a moment later the foam will rise again. Do this three times so that the coffee grains are well cooked. Now it is ready to serve.
  • Pour a little foam in all of the cups first, then pour the remainder of coffee, filling to the brim.
  • Serve with an Armenian choreg.

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