Unseasonably hot weather and freak flash thunderstorms didn’t keep thousands of Istanbullu from flocking to the Istanbul Coffee Festival last week. As avid Turcophiles, we’ve been following the progressing specialty coffee scene in Istanbul since 2012 when the first third wave cafés opened. It’s hard to believe in a few short years specialty coffee in Istanbul has gone from a smattering of boutique cafés tucked away on back streets to filling one of the larger event spaces in the city: Küçükçiftlik Parkı.
Perhaps it was because of the intermittent rain, but the coffee competition stage attracted big crowds throughout the festival. The Istanbul Coffee Festival hosted the Turkish barista, brewers cup, roasting, and cevze/ibrik competition. In the barista comp, Pınar Mısırdal took home top honors, edging out Nisan Ağca who had won the previous two years. Mısırdal used a coffee roasted by Copenhagen’s April Coffee- a testament to how globally networked the Turkish coffee community is. In the brewers cup, Serkan İpekli of LOL Coffee Roasters won with a Yemeni coffee from Oakland-based importer Port of Mokha. İpekli previously was the 2013 Turkish barista champion.
On the festival floor, we enjoyed coffee from many familiar and new roasters. Probador Collectiva and Coffee Department are two of our favorite Istanbul-based coffee roasters, and both booths were brewing up exceptional filter coffees. We were also excited to get our first taste of Kimma Coffee Roasters, a project from former Turkish brewing champion Aslı Yaman. At the Kimma Coffee booth we not only found some nice coffee, but a good sense of humor about the less than ideal weather.
Throw in live music, a surprisingly diverse selection of food trucks, and an interesting mix of corporate sponsors (test drive a Hyundai anyone?), and you had what we would consider a world class coffee event. And we’re not the only ones. We talked to people from over six different countries, with plenty more in attendance. All of these things point to a maturing specialty coffee community that ranks among the most passionate we’ve seen.