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A Turkish Coffee Roaster Finds a Home in Logan Square

Four Letter Word puts a smooth spin on centuries-old tradition.

Ria Neri (right) and a barista behind the bar at Four Letter Word   Photo: Jeff Marini

Though it may have its roots in Turkey, don’t expect a rigidly traditional cup of coffee at Four Letter Word’s sunny new café. Consider it a relaxed interpretation of the country’s storied java experience.

“We’re more paying homage to it,” says Ria Neri, who founded the roastery with a childhood friend just outside Istanbul and brought her roasting operation to Chicago in 2016.

For their version of Turkish coffee, Neri and her colleagues follow the standard technique of soaking finely ground beans in water in roughly equal proportions, and patrons don’t get to select their brew’s level of sweetness like they might overseas. Instead, Neri adds just a touch of sugar to each cup, as well as a sprinkle of cardamom, which, she says, “rounds the cup out and lifts up this nice semisweet chocolate flavor.”

They also serve a take on salep, a beverage sold by street vendors during Istanbul’s winter months. The drink is normally thickened with flour derived from a wild orchid, an ingredient Neri couldn’t readily find in the States. But she discovered that adding the herbaceous digestif Underberg to a cup of steaming milk created a close approximation of salep’s lightly floral flavor.

“Plus, this way, it’s boozy,” she says, “so it feels very Chicago.”

3022 W. Diversey Ave., Logan Square

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