His Turkish coffee therapy is creating buzz

BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | Two years ago, on a trip to his native Turkey, East Villager Uluç Ülgen did something he had done thousands of times before.

He had coffee with his father.

But this cup of coffee would prove to be special. 

In the 6BC Botanic Garden treehouse, Uluç Ülgen, host of Kahvë : The Turkish Coffee Therapy Session, explains how a traditional Turkish coffee reading is done to two group session participants. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

After finishing the the almost syrup-like drink, his father took his small porcelain cup, covered it with its saucer, flipped it all upside down and moved them in a circular motion three times. Then he flipped the cup right-side up to interpret the images he found in the runny grounds that had dripped along its sides, in traditional Turkish coffee reading fashion. 

His reading for his son was very uplifting — and gave him an idea.

“You will truly enlighten your entire surroundings,” Ülgen’s father told him, looking up from the cup. “You will experience a big love.” 

Ülgen, a video and podcast creator, had taken a break from his video podcast Mürmur, for which he invited strangers into his East Village home for an hour-long conversation. He went overseas with family to deal with a rough patch that included a bad breakup and an eviction. A month later, inspired by his father’s coffee reading for him, Ülgen returned to the East Village and went back to work on Mürmur, except this time doing his own coffee readings for others during the show.

Ülgen uses an endoscope camera to project what he sees inside of each coffee cup during the readings, with the images appearing on an iPad for fellow group members to see. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

“It is meant to be an opportunity to relay words of positivity, encouragement and hope,” Ülgen said of Turkish coffee reading, which is traditionally done in groups. According to the Ülgen the art of drinking Turkish coffee is just as much about the conversation as it is about the drink.

The readings proved to be a hit. In February of this year, Ülgen began hosting group coffee readings full time in his apartment, mostly advertised as an Airbnb experience. 

Over the last eight months alone, the 30-year-old has served between 800 and 900 cups of Turkish coffee during his group sessions, appropriately entitled Kahvë : The Turkish Coffee Therapy Session. Ülgen currently hosts one session daily Tuesday through Friday and two sessions on weekends, plus will host pop-up sessions once or twice a month.

In a pop-up event on July 30, at the East Village’s 6BC Botanical Garden, 25 people participated in group readings — held in the place’s treehouse — with the coffee grounds in each person’s cup projected onto an iPad via an endoscope camera for group members to see. Endoscopes are typically used for medical purposes to look inside people’s bodies.

Ülgen explains the images he found in a participants’ coffee grounds. The group coffee therapy session host uses an endoscope camera to project what he sees inside of each coffee cup onto an iPad for fellow group members to view. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

Most of the attendees of the July 30 garden pop-up had never before had someone read their coffee grounds in a group setting. But potential nerves did not keep laughter from filling the garden as strangers squished together in the tiny treehouse jokingly argued about whether a butterfly was actually a swan or a caterpillar or actually something lewd. Participants were supportive and would clap after each reading.

Participant Margarita Calderon commented on how fellow session members would frequently say “Congratulations” and “I’m so happy for you.”

Like what his father did for him, Ülgen tries to instill hope for the future, self-assuredness and inner peace with his readings. 

Uluç Ülgen during a Turkish coffee therapy session in the East Village in the 6BC Botanic Garden treehouse. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

“Not only did it give me a lot of assuredness but it gave me a lot to look forward to,” Ülgen reflected.

The reading his father did for him two years ago was not only special in meaning but also because it was the last one his father would give him. He passed away a month after Ülgen returned to New York City. 

Meanwhile, Ülgen continues sharing the skill — and its empowering spirit of optimism — that his father taught him.

“Everything he said came true,” he said.

2 Responses to His Turkish coffee therapy is creating buzz

  1. This was so fun! I loved participating and getting a reading. Mine was the rain after the storm- so peaceful and indicative of great things to come. I can’t wait to get another one!

  2. What a great idea! A new creative slant on gleaning personal tips and guidance—will we soon see this gent’s “Turkish Coffee Insight Emporiums” popping up all over the country? Maybe the Starbucks of tomorrow? Anyway, I’m sure the wisdom deriving from Turkish coffee readings must easily surpass that provided by run-of-the-mill tea leaf readings (with apologies to fortune tellers everywhere.)

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