Çağatay Gülabioğlu is something of a legend in Turkish coffee circles. Gülabioğlu was the first licensed Q grader in Turkey, serves as the national coordinator for the Turkish Aeropress competition, and is the regional distributor for Cafe Imports. He also founded the pioneering roaster/retailer Kronotrop, a company he has since sold. After moving on from Kronotrop, Gülabioğlu cofounded the wholesale roastery Probador Colectiva, which continues to set the standard for quality in the Turkish coffee scene. Although Probador often hosts professional events and trainings, consumers who wanted to try their coffee had to buy it online, or track down one of their wholesale partners. That was until Probador recently opened a tasting room in its Tophane headquarters.
When I chat with Gülabioğlu about the space, he is adamant it is not a café. “We’re not doing iced lattes,” he says. (I decline to mention how much I love iced lattes.) As such, the space has a limited menu and even more limited hours. The tasting room is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, when the Probador team is focused on roasting and order fulfillment. On days it is open– Wednesday through Friday — it’s only open 10:00-17:00. But those who are able to visit will find a coffee experience unlike any other in Istanbul.
There are no milk-based beverages at Probador: just filter coffee, straight espresso, and specialty teas sourced in partnership with Berlin’s Companion Tea. Each coffee on the menu is assigned a different brew method. When I visited Kochere, Ethiopia was on Hario V60; Finca la Soledad, Guatemala was on Kalita Wave, and Waykan, Guatemala was the espresso option. Per the barista’s recommendation, (a friend of mine, Reza Kosar), I had the Kochere. The cup was a classic washed Yirgacheffe profile with lots of florals and citrus. The sort of coffee I would gladly drink any day.
But perhaps the real reason to visit Probador’s HQ (other than squeezing in a game on their foosball table), is to have unfettered access to their entire roasting line-up. When I visited, Probador had three Guatemala options (two single lots, one regional), two microlot coffees from El Salvador, three lots from Ethiopia, and a couple from Honduras and Costa Rica to boot. It’s an impressive lineup that presents a challenge to indecisive coffee lovers with broad taste. I pick up a bag of Finca El Cedro, El Salvador. Gülabioğlu has sourcing this washed Pacamara microlot for three years now, and the roasting certainly reveals a roaster that is in tune with his coffee.
In all, Probador Colectiva’s tasting room is a welcome addition to Istanbul’s specialty coffee scene. A must-visit for any Beyoğlu coffee crawl.