Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk wrote in his memoir, Istanbul: Memories and the City, “it was in Cihangir (where we too would move as our fortunes dwindled) that I first learned Istanbul was not an anonymous multitude of walled-in lives – a jungle of apartments where no one knew who was dead or who was celebrating what – but an archipelago of neighborhoods in which everyone knew one another.” Pamuk’s observation rings true today. Cihangir has long been a destination for artists and writers, but at the neighborhood’s heart is a community: a village surrounded by a megacity. Norm Coffee is one piece of that community.
Situated at the northern corner of Cihangir Park, Norm Coffee is a collaboration between Gizem Yavuz and Cem Bozkuş. The pair met while working just a few blocks away at Turkish specialty coffee pioneers Kronotrop. Yavuz handles baking and social media while Bozkuş, whose résumé also includes Petra Roasting and acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant Kantin, runs the coffee program. The café is both open and intimate, with wall-length windows flooding the room with natural light. Norm Coffee boasts Turkey’s first Slayer espresso machine, and the barista behind it enjoy a view of the Bosphorus Strait.
During my recent visit to Istanbul, I found myself repeatedly returning to Norm, and bumping into the same regulars – who Cem prefers to call normals – each day. Over the course of a week I managed to work my way through most of the coffee menu, (not to mention any gluten-free pastries that were on offer). Norm is one of Istanbul’s few multi-roaster cafés, with a rotating selection of locally roasted coffee. When I visited the coffee was from Probador Collectiva, a new company from Çağatay Gulabioğlu. Gulabioğlu is a pioneer in the Turkish coffee industry, having started what many consider to be Istanbul’s first third wave coffee shop before going on to become Turkey’s first Q grader. Gulabioğlu’s expertly-roasted coffee is in good hands at Norm, as the espresso and filter beverages I enjoyed at Norm ranked amongst the best coffee I’ve had in Turkey. Whether it was the La Illusion, El Salvador or the Kayanza Shembati, Burundi, each drink we had was dialed in and tasting great.
Unfortunately, recent terrorist attacks have impacted Norm’s business. Tourism is down and even locals are staying home more. We hope that Norm’s beautiful café and impeccable service will draw people out to the streets again and be a small part of putting the country back together again. Somehow, the differences that divide us seem smaller over a cup of coffee.