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….
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….
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….
Recently, I traveled to Istanbul, Turkey to take the Q Grader Exam. I expected to be challenged in my coffee knowledge and abilities as well as make a few new friends in the Turkish coffee scene. I didn’t anticipate meeting a dynamic young coffee professional from Tehran, Iran. Reza Kosar quickly impressed me with acute sense of smell, thorough knowledge of SCAA cupping protocols, and his enthusiasm for all things specialty coffee. By the end of the week he proved to be Iran’s first Q Grader, a feet which involves passing 20 very difficult exams. We caught up with Reza to ask him what it means to be Iran’s first Q grader and what’s next for him.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Well, I’m 24. I work at Sam Cafe as a manager of R&D and the director of coffee. …
It’s a quiet morning in Istanbul’s Cihangir neighborhood, and Serkan Ipekli is tired. The 2013 Turkish Barista Champion is fighting an ear infection, but he’s also experiencing the grueling pace of running what amounts to be a 24/7 business: Geyik Coffee Roastery & Cocktail Bar. Geyik, which means “deer” in Turkish, only opened five months ago, but it’s already been a wild ride….
In the past two years the specialty coffee scene in Istanbul has exploded. We covered one of the first quality focused cafes that opened in Turkey’s largest city, and we’re beyond excited about all of the new cafes we’re going to visit in August when we’re back in the country for two weeks. One of those cafes is Cup of Joy in Istanbul’s posh Bebek neighborhood. I’m not ashamed to admit when I lived in Istanbul, I frequented Bebek’s Starbucks. I may not be a fan of dark, stale espresso, but I’m a big fan of drinking coffee next to the deep blue water of the Bosphorus, and Bebek has some of my favorite Bosphorus views.
Cup of Joy may be a new shop, but they’ve already produced a Turkish barista champion. After watching this video from Nople Productions, it’s easy to understand why. Be prepared for some level tamping, pretty latte art, and smooth jazz. And what would a Turkish coffee shop be without some simit?
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 …