For the most part, one can predict the sorts of places one finds a good coffee shop, and they usually don’t include malls. Sure, it’s easy to find some ubiquitous dark roast from an international chain’s kiosk, but you’re probably not expecting to get a single estate microlot next time you’re shoe shopping.
The shopping malls of Istanbul, however, are a surprising exception. As compared to the suburban sprawling concrete blocks one thinks of in other countries, most malls in Istanbul are mixed-purpose buildings, with residences and offices, many of which have won international awards for contemporary architecture. In a city with precious few parks, shopping malls occupy an important place in public life. It also turns out, many of them are a great place to get a pretty decent cup of coffee.
Founded in 2012, Krontotrop is one of the oldest specialty coffee companies in Turkey. Even after changing hands and embracing an aggressive expansion plan, Kronotrop has managed to stay true to brand, with a distinct aesthetic and excellent coffees. Their newest location is in Emaar Square Mall, a mall that combines indoor and outdoor shopping in the Asian side’s Ünalan Mahallesi. It’s hard to think of a starker contrast to Kronotrop’s original surroundings in gritty Cihangir than a Gucci store, but the world is a crazy place. With two single origin espresso options and fresh batches of filter coffee, it’s hard to think of a better place to caffeinate before facing the material longing of late capitalism.
The roaster/retailer has not one but two cafés in malls: Etiler’s Akmerkez and Levent’s Kanyon. With its gravity-defying design, Kanyon remains my favorite mall in the city, even if it’s susceptible to to some pretty serious wind tunnel effects. On the ground-level floor, near the main entrance, Petra’s kiosk is a great place to get a take-away coffee, or take a break in their hidden, garden-like seating area. (Read about our visit to Petra’s massive Gayrettepe headquarters.)
Astoria AVM in Şişli is perhaps the oldest mall on this list, but has remained relevant thanks to a prime location in Şişli, Istanbul’s central business district. Inside, tucked next to the escalator, is Pieton Coffee. The small stand only boasts one table and a bench, but brews fresh cups of coffee from Four Letter Word, a micro-roaster with operations in both Chicago and Burgazada— a small island in the Marmara Sea just off the coast of Istanbul.
Cargo Coffee Co.
Cargo Coffee Co. might be Istanbul’s prettiest café, let alone the prettiest café in a shopping mall. From the hanging birdcage-like chairs, to the sensible soft seating, every detail is carefully thought out. A minimalist menu of house-roasted coffees are offered by the cup. I wish a little more information about their coffees was available, but I found my pour-over to be sweet and well balanced.
Borderline’s original Teşvikiye café has yet to even celebrate its first anniversary, but they’ve already expanded with a small kiosk in Emaar Square Mall. Expect coffee from a rotating cast of international roasters, good design, and the best take away cups in the Istanbul coffee scene.