Brief History of Turkish Coffee
If you had a cup of coffee this morning, you can thank the Turks. Coffee came to the West through Turkey as the Ottoman Empire expanded into the European continent. According to one legend, the first coffee house in Austria was opened with the coffee abandoned by the Ottoman army when they were repelled at the Battle of Vienna.
Fast forward several centuries later and globalization has brought coffee full-circle. Instant coffee and foreign brands have all but eclipsed traditional coffee culture in Turkey. In the sprawling metropolis of Istanbul there’s a corporate cafe on practically every street but meanwhile a quality cup of Turkish coffee can be difficult to find and a proper shot of espresso is well near impossible. I lived in Istanbul for two years and failed to find a shop worth writing home about.
Çekirdek Cafe and Micro Roastery
But an exciting new shop is introducing specialty coffee to Istanbul. Nestled in the artsy Asian district of Kadıköy, Çekirdek (which means “seed” and is pronounced something like check-ear-deck) is a small cafe and micro-roastery. With just enough room for two small tables and a 6 kilo Toper coffee roaster, Çekirdek is a cozy space where both western and Turkish coffee traditions are approached with care- fitting for a city situated on both the European and Asian continents.
Owner Tunca Özgürer got hooked on specialty coffee while he was working in London. At shops like Monmouth and Flat White Tunca experienced coffee that was different from anything he had before. Upon returning to Turkey Tunca was inspired to open a shop with the same cup quality and great community he encountered in London. After taking classes at the London School of Coffee Tunca teamed up with Istanbul-based roaster Coffee Factory, who supplies Çekirdek’s green coffee.
Çekirdek also features artisanal cakes and pastries, which are baked on site. My wife sampled the biscotti and the walnut brownie and was impressed. Tunca explained that the desserts provide a bridge for customers who may not be familiar with specialty coffee.
Çekirdek opened on December 15, which serendipitously happened to be the last day of our holiday in Istanbul. I was pleased to see that Çekirdek was already hopping with customers, and a lot of curious passers-by popped in for a coffee or cake. Grabbing a seat by the roaster, Julie and I enjoyed a couple of flat whites, which tasted good with the single origin Ethiopia Yirgacheffe espresso. Tunca is still perfecting his latte art (I saw him pour a couple nice rosettas for other customers), but the milk was well steamed and tasty. Next I tried a short espresso, which was everything I would expect a Yirgacheffe to be: bright, floral, and sweet. The body was really thin, but it was definitely enjoyable. Although Tunca jokes that he is still a rookie barista, he has a passion to learn and is on an upward trajectory. I am confident if you visit Çekirdek you’ll get the best cup of coffee you’ll have in Turkey.
Çekirdek is a 15 minute walk from the Kadıköy ferry and Metro station and is right off the nostalgic tram loop. From the Bull statue walk up Bahariye (Kadıköy’s main shopping street), go past the opera house and take a left at Şair Latifi Sokak.
Caferağa Mah. Şair Latifi Sk. 9/A
34710 Kadıköy / Istanbul- Türkiye