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Turkish Coffee in Modern Times

The first coffee house was opened in Istanbul (then Constantinople) in 1555. They served coffees from Yemen and the Arabian peninsula.

By the end of the century, coffee houses were everywhere. In an article from National Geographic they explain, "Reserved for men only, they became somewhere to socialize away from the ears and eyes of the mosque, promising gossip, games and good coffee. Not that everyone was on board with the caffeine craze: Sultan Murad IV felt so threatened by the popularity of coffee in the early 17th century that he prohibited it, along with alcohol and tobacco, and even executed the few who broke the ban. “Everything happened in Istanbul’s coffeehouses,” says Duygu, finishing her drink. “Actors, storytellers, puppeteers — they’d all come to perform, and tradesmen would often stay there all day in case anyone in the area needed their services. It was a bit like a job centre.”

The cafes in Istanbul continue to be social gathering places where people can pass the day, talk, work or simply take in the air. Most cafes have large outdoor spaces to enjoy the year-round pleasant weather.

When I was spending time in Turkey rolling out a cold brew program for Caffé Nero, I was amazed at how strongly the traditional preparation of coffee continued. In Italy, the younger generation has become more and more defiant against the old ways. The youth of Italy rebel against their grandfathers cafe habit and look for filter coffee and single origin offerings as Specialty culture permeates throughout the country.

Specialty coffee exists in Turkey and there are plenty of modern places to get cold brew, espresso and matcha however, if you are opening a cafe, you still need to have a traditional Turkish coffee maker to stay in business. The customers demand this form of coffee and the traditional tea as well.

I loved my time in Istanbul. The history, the food, the deserts and even the coffee were amazing. Part of what I enjoyed was that it was not as Western as most of Europe is now. It is difficult to find chain restaurants and the food continues to be authentic and made by artisans. The people are warm and the city is beautiful. It will be interesting to see how the coffee scene evolves and how they maintain their identity in the decades to come.

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