Three trips on and I still await with much anticipation for another opportunity to visit Istanbul. The city is so powerful and vibrant that not even the chaotic traffic and “warning” headlines can divert me from its majestic looks, embracing atmosphere and, I choose this word carefully, mind-blowing cuisine.
This city has won my heart and I could sing it praises for pages on end but I will leave it to travel bloggers and fellow admirers. I will share with you a little bit of the young and lively specialty coffee scene in the city.
As for anything else, I value quality over quantity and instead of ticking off the humongous list of coffee places, I picked a few at random and guided by some dear locals off into Istanbul’s coffee world I went.
Over the last five years, cafes inspired by the third wave concept sprouted all around the trendy districts of Istanbul. Each with its own personality and style.
My first stop was at Kamarad in the upcoming bla bla district. The area has the rundown look that allures trendsetters into filling it out with colourful shops and cool-to-hangout spots. Kamarad cafe is one of such places.
Our visit was brief but the Turkish hospitality did not disappoint. The two brews we tried, although not on the lightest end of the third wave spectrum, were nicely balanced, well-prepared and served with a smile. Cheesy, I know, but it did add to the experience.
Not far from there is Kadikoy, so far one of my favourite areas of Istanbul and home to coffee manifesto. Don’t let the many tea cups laying around mislead you – coffee manifesto served one of the nicest Kenyan brews I have ever tasted. The bright acidity complemented by a solid body had my taste buds dancing like Kaldi’s goats.
As if great coffee was not enough to set the cafe apart. The venue has a relaxed, pleasant atmosphere and some cool baristas.
During our visit, we spoke to Emre Bekdik and left quite impressed with his eagerness and knowledge. You will definitely be in good hands there.
Just a few meters away at Montag Cafe however, our experience was rather, let’s say underwhelming.
First impression? Pretentious baristas! Frankly, nothing kills my excitement to try out a new cafe quicker, than the air of superiority some coffee professionals exhale.
I can tolerate snootiness – to certain extent – for the sake of good coffee. However, it was not the case at Montag Cafe either. The milk for our drinks was burnt, full of bubbles and the espresso shot way overly extracted.
Wasting coffee is against my principles, but for the first time, we left our beverage after a few sips. I was so shocked by the lack of quality and skill that the ambiance lost its relevance and I am not so sure I would go back.
Drip Coffeeist was another disappointment, however only on the coffee front because the location off Bagdat Caddesi and the baristas made our late night coffee break quite enjoyable.
We ordered El Salvador beans prepared using V60 and Syphon. The V60 brew was average at its best and the syphon was unfortunately burnt and the beautiful notes typical of that region lost in the process.
Drip Coffeeist seems to be trying to get it right and the humble approach of the baristas on shift earned them quite a few brownie points. I would recommend a visit even if solely for one of their delicious cakes and will certainly give their coffee another go too.
My last stop was at the well-known Kronotrop. This cafe is at the top of the game when you talk about specialty coffee in Istanbul. Located in the bustling heart of Cihangir. Kronotrop is one of the pioneers of the third wave movement.
Preparing one cup at the time allows the barista to achieve better results but a great way to tell if the coffee is really good, is by trying a batch brewed beverage. So I ordered the available Kenyan batch brew and a specialty Turkish coffee, verdict?!
Kronotrop goes beyond its looks and lives up to the hype surrounding it. Both beverages were top-notch and the barista professional and efficient. Kronotrop was right choice to end our coffee trip.
Despite the numerous cafes raising the third wave flag in Istanbul, only a handful deliver the high standards behind specialty coffee.
The lack of quality is visible from sourcing through roasting all the way to skilled labour. Most baristas rushed into the new fashion. They have adhered to the looks and attitude commonly seen in some third wave cafes, but neglected to learn the trade.
There is a third wave war happening in Istanbul at the moment. The real coffee enthusiast and lovers against those who see the movement as a way to make a statement.
The way I see it, if only Istanbul let go of trying to fit the next door tribe and instead, cherished its uniqueness. It would unleash its potential and become a reference and I guess that goes beyond specialty coffee.
– All pictures were kindly authorized by the staff at the cafes. –