Coffee shops have long been the cultural informants of their neighborhoods. When traveling, you can usually count on a barista to know the best restaurants, which tourist traps to avoid, and some hidden gems off the beaten path. Balat Coffee & Guide takes that role to another level.
Although the vast majority of tourists never make it to Istanbul’s old Jewish quarter, Balat’s picturesque buildings and winding streets have made it something of a destination for young Turks armed with selfie-sticks and Instagram accounts. The Greek high school, the old synagogues, and the “stair street” are just a few of the landmarks that have made this neighborhood a hot spot for visitors from all across town. But if you stop and get coffee first, Coffee and Guide will provide you with a complementary map to help you navigate Balat’s labyrinthine streets.
But stopping to get coffee first is a good idea beyond just the free travel advice. Coffee and Guide is the first retail location for Kimma Coffee Roasters– a project from Turkish specialty coffee pioneer Aslı Yaman. Yaman has long been an ambassador of Turkish specialty coffee outside of the country. She’s the SCA education coordinator for Turkey and in 2014 placed third in the World Brewers Cup- the highest ranking a Turkish competitor has ever earned in the competition. Between our visit to Coffee and Guide and Kimma’s booth at the Istanbul Coffee Festival, we tried a lot of their coffee and never where disappointed. From the surprisingly clean Ethiopia Mormora natural to a syrupy sweet espresso, the coffee at Kimma ranks among the best you’ll find in Turkey if not the entire region.
Like many specialty coffee shops in Istanbul, the café is cozy with limited seating. If the weathers nice, try to snag the bench outside to enjoy your coffee while taking in the sights and sounds of the neighborhood. The staff is very friendly and bilingual, so even non-Turkish speakers can expect excellent hospitality.