European coffee culture can be traced to the 16th century coffeehouses of Istanbul. Sample the best Turkish coffee the city has to offer at these trusted haunts.
Despite the arrival of Western coffee chains, modern Istanbul remains a haven for java fanatics. In this city, there’s only one brew of choice for the coffee connoisseur – Türk Kahve, the thick, pungent Turkish coffee locals usually down slowly, in short sips. It’s sweetened to taste, and when you order a cup you’ll be asked how you like it – çok şekerli (very sweet), orta şekerli (medium sugar), az şekerli (a little sugar) or sade (plain but, be warned, fairly bitter). Commit your preference to memory and set out to discover the city’s finest kahve-selling gems.
For a fresh brew that’s old hat
Fazıl Bey in the Kadıkoy Food Market is the best place to start. It’a a rustic, endearingly quirky café now in its ninetieth year of operation, and their traditional approach sets the shop apart from the competition. Your beans are roasted and ground before your eyes, and the result is a brew with a unique, winsomely creamy, almost chocolatey taste.
To taste a family legacy
Bekir Tezçakar, the dedicated proprietor of the tiny Ethem Tezçakar Kahveci in the Grand Bazaar, is a fourth-generation coffee vendor. His family has been serving loyal regulars the perfect brew for decades. Although his little white cabin only accommodates a handful of customers at a time (more can sit outside), it’s definitely worth tracking down. Pair your coffee with a bite of baklava – parcels of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweet syrup.
For a hidden view
The Pierre Loti Café, named for the French novelist who favored this spot for literary inspiration, offers an off-the-beaten-path view over the Golden Horn inlet. The coffee is predictably excellent, but the best part of visiting this cafe is the experience of getting here – via cable car, picked up beside the Eyüp mosque. Look out over the city’s minaret-studded skyline and order a brew from one of the immaculate waiters in traditional garb, fez included.For a cozier view of the Straits, enjoy your first cup of the day looking out from your room at our Radisson Blu Bosphorus Hotel, Istanbul.
To get steeped in tradition
Learn the tricks of the trade at the Mehmet Efendi headquarters in Eminönü. The internationally renowned Turkish coffee producer will teach you all about preparing your brew in a cezve, and how the dregs of your cup can be used to tell your fortune. It’s a fascinating shop and a must-see (or must-smell – the store is packed with aromatic Arabica beans) for any java fanatic.
For a taste of home
If you still yearn for a taste of home, head to Kronotrop on Yeniçarşı Cad for high quality Western-style espressos and lattés. Just don’t tell seasoned kahve-drinkers that you’ve forsaken their favorite beverage – a local proverb demands that coffee be served ‘black as hell, strong as death and sweet as love’.