Coffee means so much to so many people. It’s much more than a drink; it’s a lifestyle. It awakens, revives, refreshes. It is the drink of intimate conversations, the best friend of books, the chosen beverage of artists, and a source of inspiration. Coffee is one of the few drinks to have spawned a related culture. This situation obviously is not confined to Istanbul; coffee has a unique value within the daily life, culture and art of societies around the world. But I wanted to look at the past and present of coffee culture in Istanbul.
Coffee has been a part of Istanbul culture since the 15th century and its aroma spread to Europe through Venetian merchants. The first coffeehouse, Kiva Han, was opened in Tahtakale, Istanbul in 1554. Kiva Han was the world’s first recorded historic coffeehouse and started a trend where coffeehouses became centers of social interaction. From the past to today, nothing much has changed. What has changed is the variety and quality of the coffee that is now engrained in Istanbul culture.
As you all know, third wave coffeehouses are the ultimate trend in the coffee culture, and they have arrived in Istanbul. We have already passed the ‘Nescafe Era’ and now the ‘Starbucks Era’ is dying out too. Third wave coffeehouses are popping up all over Istanbul and coffee making is becoming a real art. Coffeehouses are more like science labs than cafes. This mixture of the art and science results in some seriously high quality coffee. But, if we talk about Istanbul, Turkish coffee, as a cornerstone of Turkish culture, can never been ignored. Turkish coffee obviously holds a special place for us. So, even if third wave coffee is dernier cri, Turkish coffee will never be démodé.
I wanted to list a few of Istanbul’s premier coffee destinations, starting with the everlasting ones:
Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi
Since 1871, Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi has had the mission of introducing future generations to Turkish coffee. They see Turkish coffee as the Turks’ gift to the world and seek to ensure that coffee lovers enjoy superior coffee. Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi, as a quintessential Turkish brand, has a broad portfolio of products including espresso and filter coffee. If you want to experience one of the best Turkish coffees in Istanbul, you should head there. They also sell packaged products to take home. A package of freshly ground Turkish coffee makes a delicious souvenir. Just make sure to pick up a cezve (Turkish coffee pot) so you can recreate the taste at home. Their main and historical shop is located right next to the Spice Market (or Egyptian Bazaar).
Where? Tahmis Street, No.66, Eminönü OR Osmanağa, Söğütlüçeşme Street, No.12, Kadıköy.
A good Turkish coffee shows is revealed in the thickness of its foam. And for a really good Turkish coffee, Mandabatmaz is the place. Mandabatmaz literally means “water buffalo doesn’t sink” and it refers to the intense foam that sits atop a Mandabatmaz coffee. The coffee here is produced from special coffee beans which are roasted and ground in house. Many things have changed on Istiklal Avenue over recent years; except for this tiny coffeehouse. Since 1967, hundreds of cup of coffee have been served everyday from the tiny kitchen of Mandabatmaz.
Where? Istiklal Caddesi, Olivia Geçidi, No.1/A, Beyoğlu
Website: Mandabatmaz on Tripadvisor
A cup of Turkish coffee achieves a special level of pleasure when you sip it while watching the Golden Horn. Nev-i Café aims at reviving our cultural values that we skipped or forgot over time. They offer visitors an “antique pleasure” which is far away all stresses, such as visual and sound pollution. I’m sure you will like this “antique pleasure” thanks to Turkish coffee which they cook on coal and is presented in delicate cups. Nev-i Cafe is very close to the historical Fener and Balat neighbourhoods of Istanbul.
Where? Yavuz Sultan Selim Neighborhood, Ayakapı Sokak, No. 2, Fatih
Website: Nev-i Cafe on Foursquare
Çorlulu Ali Paşa Medresesi
The madrasah (religious school) was originally built in 1716. Since 80’s it’s been serving as a coffeehouse. After passing a narrow entrance, you will meet a large backyard where there are a few cafes. One of them is Erenler Nargile. Although the focus of Erenler Nargile is shisha (nargile in Turkish), they are also passionate about Turkish coffee. Çorlulu Ali Paşa Medresesi is located in Beyazıt – very closed to the Grand Bazaar – so makes a convenient stopping point when visiting the old city.
Where? Beyazıt Neighborhood, Yeniçeriler Sokak, Bileyciler Caddesi, Eminönü
Website: Çorlulu Ali Paşa on Tripadvisor
Bebek is a well-to-do neighborhood on the banks of the Bosphorus. Bebek Kahve was opened in 1945 and has been managed as a fisherman coffeehouse for 14 years. It was the frequent destination of fishermen stopping off to fix their nets or listen to the radio. Today, its a favorite with anyone who takes along his/her computer, newspaper, magazine or book for a breakfast, coffee, or tea. You will always be welcomed like old friends.
Where? Cevdet Paşa Sokak, No:18, Bebek
Website: Bebek Kahve on Zomato
Now, we can sink into the third wave:
Kronotrop is like the Mecca for coffee-lovers in the city. It’s one of the precursors of the third wave coffeeshops in Istanbul, modelled on the coffee bars in Scandinavia, San Francisco, which has paved the way for other coffeehouses to follow. It is not only somewhere to sip your coffee but also somewhere where you can take free workshops to become intimately acquainted with coffee.
Where? Firuzağa Cami Sokak, No.2/B Cihangir
Orjin Plaza, Büyükdere Sokak No. 27, Sarıyer
Allianz Tower, Kayışdağı Sokak, No. 1/1, Ataşehir
Located in a 19th Century Ottoman residence that has been tastefully restored, Heirloom serves as both a guesthouse and a café. Their café-market on the bottom floor offers coffee, pastries, panini, salads, and olives. They prepared the first syphon coffee in the city and also make coffee in pour-over cones and Italian espresso machines. Heirloom has a special sensitivity towards supporting local farmers and producers and only use the products of local producers.
Where? Adile Naşit Street, No.6, Cihangir
The Ministry of Coffee (MOC) was founded in April 2013 in Nişantaşı. Çeviköz, the co-founder of MOC, has a special certification to provide coffee training. He lived in Australia up until 2013, and established Numero Uno Coffee in Sydney. He then decided to settle in Turkey bringing along all his accumulative coffee experience. He aims to disseminate the culture of coffee and turn the city into one of coffee’s heartlands.
Where? Şakayık Sokak No.4/A Nişantaşı
Küçük Hendek Sokak, No.7, Galata
The owners define themselves as “coffee people” and add that coffee is a culture that links continents and their mission is to spread this culture in the most delicious way. Coffeesapiens is, first of all, a coffee roaster; they seek perfection by applying different roasting techniques for every different type of coffee bean and the results are unforgettable. They have two outlets: a tiny café in Karaköy and another one in Hasköy where they also give workshops.
Where? Kılıç Ali Paşa Mescidi Sokak N.10/C Karaköy
Kalaycı Bahçesi Sokak No.6, Hasköy
Website: Coffee Sapiens on Zomato
We coffee enthusiasts know that coffee is the answer for many things. So, if you are also in this club, feel free to share coffee experiences, and your favorite coffee destinations,with us.