Some of our group members consume and discuss coffee with almost the same fervor as they do reports on contemporary Middle Eastern politics. My enthusiasm for caffeinated beverages not quite reaching this level, I am perhaps one of the lesser-qualified people to write a post on the subject of coffee. Yet this past Tuesday, Mike, John, Duncan, and I wanted to get some coffee after class at the Ataturk Institute. A fairly reasonable request from four college juniors, yet after nearly two hours of traveling – using every form of public transportation that the municipality of Istanbul offers – the four of us landed in the district of Kadikoy, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, completing what is perhaps the only trans-continental, after-school coffee run in recorded history.
Our destination, called Fazil Bey, was a coffee shop that John had found online after Google-ing “Best Turkish Coffee in Istanbul.” The sign in this tiny shop bore the date 1923, suggesting that they have spent the nearly 90 years since the proclamation of the modern Turkish Republic roasting, grinding, and brewing their product (all three processes using unique and time-honored methods that I will not detail here). The coffee we were served certainly upheld its pedigree. We ordered ours with “medium sugar” at the recommendation of our server, and soon each of us had on a metal tray in front of him a demitasse cup of thick, piping-hot Turkish coffee, a cup of cool water, and a piece of Turkish delight skewered with a toothpick.
The coffee was rich and strong, and the last few sips were full of bitter grounds crushed to a consistency almost as fine as cocoa powder or flour. A swig of water washed away the grounds from our mouths and the Turkish delight gave the experience a sweet, nutty finish. Clearly, this was more than your average Starbucks coffee (although the Starbucks in Turkey do sell Turkish coffee, in small paper cups), providing some explanation as to why four young men took three trains, a funicular, and a ferry in search of a 5-lira cup of Turkish Joe.