Istanbul’s Nişantaşı district occupies a unique place in the social strata of the city. Equal parts West Village and Upper East Side, it’s home to the older, upper crust, but also writers, academics, and expatriates. It’s a cosmopolitan neighborhood where you you might spot a soap opera star ducking into a boutique wine shop, but you can still buy fresh artichoke hearts from a street vendor. The district almost functions like it’s own village surrounded by the city. With some of the city’s best parks, restaurants, and schools, Nişantaşılılar need not leave their little oasis hidden in the hills between bustling Taksim and Beşiktaş. With a café like Petra Coffee in the neighborhood, we don’t blame them.
Long time readers of the Coffee Compass will remember we listed Petra Coffee as one of five coffee shops changing Istanbul’s coffee culture in 2014. Fast forward to 2017 and they’ve grown to five locations around the city. (A location that briefly pop-upped in the Southwestern beach town Alaçatı in 2015 has shut down.)
Petra’s coffee service is very contemporary, but their Topağacı location in Cihangir has an old world elegance that feels whisked from a previous generation. The antique wooden bar- a real rarity in Istanbul – and cast iron tables with marble tops lend the cozy space a certain elegance. It’s the little details that sell it, such as the wooden newspaper holders hanging beneath the bar.
Filter coffees at Petra Topağacı are brewed by the cup on Aeropress while espresso is prepared on a La Marzocco Strada EP with Mazzer grinders. Armed with a serious case of jet lag, I came prepared to drink everything. I kicked things off with a shot of the house espresso. Thick and sweet with a generous amount of crema, it was a classic espresso profile with lots of dark chocolate flavors and not much acidity. Next, I sipped on a sweet and balanced filter brew of El Desvelado, from Colombia’s Nariño region. Upon learning about my jet lag, the barista treated me to a “detox” shot: a thick and intense blend of ginger, carrot, and fruit juice that was off-menu.
In many ways, Petra’s Topağacı café points to a maturing specialty coffee scene in Istanbul. While most of the specialty coffee shops in Istanbul are concentrated in busy, tourist-friendly locations, Petra Topağacı is the sort of quiet neighborhood shop we love to visit.