Sometimes I revisit pictures of coffee cups, keepsakes from my therapeutic Tasseology sessions. The cups or fildzani in Bosnian, retain the dark, finely ground coffee at the bottom, and there lie the secrets. This is one way for me to remember the stories.  The cup reveals tales from the subconscious, visible in patterns left at the bottom of the cups. Other times, the synergy that was present at the moment of the reading can no longer be tapped into. Then it’s time for more coffee. Whether interpreting the symbols or enjoying a cup myself, I am always thankful for the existence of this elixir.

The Ottomans occupied Bosnia for centuries and brought coffee etiquette with them once it became popular in the 1600’s.  Still today, Bosnians drink lots of coffee, a habit woven into the daily way of life. The Ottoman refined sense of hospitality stayed on as well, creating a cult of congeniality, embedded with centuries of social lore, not least influenced by the rituals of coffee drinking. This remains inherent in Bosnian culture and is as much about tradition as it is enjoyment.  For many like myself, a thread to the old country lives on through the coffee brought in suitcases, on trains, planes and ocean liners: a pound of coffee, a pound of sugar, the dzezva and accompanying fildzan. Sitting down with company around a table, drinking from small vessels filled with finely ground, perfectly roasted coffee beans has kept Balkan types talking and entertaining with tales of love and woe or war and peace well into the 21st century. We all carry that heritage, regardless of where we come from or what we call ourselves.

I love introducing this way of drinking coffee to people. The procedure itself makes for artistry, similar to the tea ceremonies of the east and even appears to have a buoyant effect on the drinkers. The ritual shifts things around, gets people talking.

Our stories, like the coffee, are strong. Stories intertwined with laughter and smoke, hints of bitter chocolate and clove.