“Good coffees is worth the stairs.” That’s the motto that’s helped make Montag Coffee Roasters a fixture of the coffee scene in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district. The original location occupies some prime real estate overlooking the fish market, and despite being a floor removed from street level, is almost always crowded. As such a pillar of the city’s Asian side, perhaps it was inevitable that Montag would expand to the more densely populated European side. But rather than opening up in specialty coffee hot spots, like Nişantaşı or Cihangir, Montag chose the up-and-coming Bomonti neighborhood….
I’ve longed bemoaned the fact most tourists visiting Istanbul don’t make it to Balat, the old Jewish quarter. In addition to its colorful row houses and historic synagogues, Balat is home to one of my favorite coffee shops, Coffee Department. The roaster/retailer has set themselves apart as one of the strongest brands in a very crowded marketplace, due in no small part to founder Metin Benbasat’s tireless dedication to quality. Benbasat is a longtime resident of Nişantaşı, so it makes sense he would open his second café closer to home….
The most exciting neighborhood for coffee in Istanbul right now is a full 12 kilometers from the city’s center, and technically it’s not really a neighborhood. Maslak is something of an urban curiosity— a suburban financial district on the Northern edge of Istanbul’s European side. But this island of skyscrapers is also home to a booming number of specialty coffee shops— driven by the plethora of white collar office workers that populate the glass high-rises during working hours. The newest of of those shops is the latest café from roaster/retailer Petra Coffee, in the lobby of the Mudo Concept Tower….
Çağatay Gülabioğlu is something of a legend in Turkish coffee circles. Gülabioğlu was the first licensed Q grader in Turkey, serves as the national coordinator for the Turkish Aeropress competition, and is the regional distributor for Cafe Imports. He also founded the pioneering roaster/retailer Kronotrop, a company he has since sold. After moving on from Kronotrop, Gülabioğlu cofounded the wholesale roastery Probador Colectiva, which continues to set the standard for quality in the Turkish coffee scene. Although Probador often hosts professional events and trainings, consumers who wanted to try their coffee had to buy it online, or track down one of their wholesale partners. That was until Probador recently opened a tasting room in its Tophane headquarters….
Three flat screen televisions are showing The Wizard of Oz on mute while loud speakers blast classic 50s rock and roll. In the background, a dull screeching sound, accompanied by the immediately recognizable smell of roasting coffee, fills the expansive space. A small army of baristas, all dressed in identical horizontally striped shirts, swarm behind the bar, making drinks for the quickly growing queue of office workers on their lunch break. Somehow, all of these disparate things harmoniously join to create Petra Coffee’s headquarters in Istanbul’s Gayrettepe neighborhood….
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. …
Coffee shops have long been the cultural informants of their neighborhoods. When traveling, you can usually count on a barista to know the best restaurants, which tourist traps to avoid, and some hidden gems off the beaten path. Balat Coffee & Guide takes that role to another level….
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….
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….
Fresh Cup Magazine published my feature “Refining Istanbul’s Coffee” today. The story looks inside Kronotrop’s roastery, a coalition between Kronotrop founder Çağatay Gülabioğlu and renowned chef Mehmet Gürs. A lot of exciting things are happening in the Turkish coffee scene right now, not least what Çağatay and company have in the works. Read the feature here and look out for a longer, in depth article soon.