There’s a coffee shop on every side street in Istanbul these days, but, on a whim, I pop into Borderline Coffee in Teşvikiye. Something about the thoughtful design of their sign inspired confidence to take a chance on an unknown café. Inside, I notice all of the calling cards of a quality-focused specialty coffee shop, with a few extra flourishes: La Marzocco Linea PB espresso machine, house-made baked goods, foliage wall, Marco SP9s instead of the typical pour-over bar. But La Marzocco espresso machines far out number cafés actually serving specialty coffee in Istanbul, so I withhold judgement until my coffee arrives. Per usual when I visit a new shop, I order an espresso.
As I sit down, I notice a bright red sign boldly declaring in sans serif font “George is here.” At first, I assume the proprietors of Borderline Coffee must be fans of the Beatle’s most underrated songwriter, but then a scan of their retail shelf reveals the referent: legendary American coffee professional George Howell. Next to Howell’s cursive logo is another iconic coffee company: Oslo’s Tim Wendelboe. These two larger-than-life figures in many ways are representatives of the specialty coffee movements of their respective continents, and I begin to understand Borderline’s project. In a scene where there’s almost as many roasters as cafés, Borderline Coffee is curating a selection of the world’s most esteemed brands, providing a standard for a burgeoning coffee scene.
In subsequent visits I notice other roasters in the line up, like England’s Assembly alonside local roasters Probador Collectiva, Boxx, and Kimma. Whether as a filter coffee or espresso, I find each coffee to be brewed with precision. Highlights included a cappuccino prepared with Tim Wendelboe’s aptly named Espresso for Milk, and a natural Kochere, Ethiopia espresso roasted by Boxx.
Equal attention is paid to the food menu, which stands several steps above typical coffee shop fare. A dedicated staffer prepares a selection of seasonal salads and charcuterie plates that make Borderline a worthy dining destination in and of itself. Vegan and gluten-free diners will find designated menu items and pastries- still a rarity in a city where dietary restrictions can be hard to accommodate.
With warm hospitality, a delectable food menu, and an unrivaled coffee selection, there’s nothing unsure about Borderline Coffee. In a few short months, the café has become a welcome addition to a maturing coffee scene.