There’s a Word for That: Zarf

atkins-bookshelf-wordsZarf sounds like something you do after a really bad hangover; however, it is quite innocuous and more commonplace than you might imagine. In fact, you probably use a zarf every day and you don’t even know it. A zarf, for you coffee lovers out there, is a holder for a coffee cup without a handle designed to prevent you from burning your hands. The word is derived from the Ottoman Turkish and Arabic word for “container.”

In 13th century Turkey, where coffee was first introduced, coffee was served in a fincan, a cup without a handle, placed inside a zarf, typically made of metal (silver, gold, copper, or brass), ivory, or wood featuring intricate ornamental artwork  The really elegant ones featured very detailed engravings and precious stones. Today, most coffee is served in a zarf made of paper, called paper zarfs, or referred to in more generic terms like coffee cup sleeves, coffee sleeves, or cup holders. So the next time you order a coffee, since they tend to be a bumptious lot, test your barista’s knowledge of their produce and nonchalantly ask for an extra zarf for your coffee — and photograph his or her reaction, and post it with #zarf.

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