As I travel the world I’m still pleasantly surprised when I find a great coffee bar somewhere unexpected. Of course, the internet has helped make the coffee world smaller and more accessible to everyone, and especially to travelers, for whom a click of a button can mean the difference between an average experience and something extraordinary. It is no accident that the generational rise of specialty coffee around the world corresponds to the growth of the internet, creating a global market of coffee loving geeks both professional and amateur.
But there's still no beating a good personal suggestion, as I learned during a recent trip to the edge of Europe, where the Bosphorus separates Occident and Orient in a city that is both. This is Istanbul, one of the great cafe cultures in the world, and a major reason why coffee and modernity matured together in the first place. It's a cradle of coffee civilization, but it's not merely a history piece. I had a friend of mine, Matt Wade of Coffee Planet in Dubai, pass along a Google Map with some of Istanbul's best specialty coffee bars (I will share that map with you, dear reader, for your future travels). It just so happened that the first place, Kronotrop, was located around the corner from our hotel in a quiet part of the Taksim area of Istanbul, known for vintage and antique shops, bars, restaurants, traditional Turkish cafés, and kebab and borek houses.
Kronotrop opened in 2012, and is widely regarded as one of the first specialty coffee bar and roastery in all of Turkey. The cafe moved to their new, current location just three months ago. The semi-curved bar dominates the narrow space, which is elegantly lit, with French doors at the front giving way to a narrow high bar. The back is more relaxed with low couches, bookshelves, and some vinyl decks at the end of the bar making sure the beats keep coming.
This coffee gear is thoroughly modern: a La Marzocco's Strada EP espresso machine for shots and milk drinks, as well as a manual brew bar anchored by the Mahlkonig EK43 coffee grinder. The store offers single origin or blended espressos, roasted in house by Kronotrop from green coffees sourced in partnership with importers like Mercanta and Nintey Plus. The filter coffee bar options included Hario V60, AeroPress, and Japanese cold drip. Kronotrop served me a positively stand out filter coffee from the Sumatra Wahana Estate, one of the nicest Sumatran coffees I've had in years, as well as a delicious cup of the Ninety Plus Ethiopia Beloya.
During multiple visits to Kronotrop in researching this feature, I spoke to barista Umut Gokdeniz about the coffee scene in Istanbul and Turkey. In Mr. Gokdeniz's opinion the scene is small, but undeniably going through a growth spurt, expanding to include 7 or so noteworthy coffee bars in the two years since Kronotrop opened. Kronotrop is part of a new generation of coffee lovers and business owners in Istanbul, a city where traditions are constantly changing and evolving. There will always be the Ibrik bars and the tea & backgammon houses here in Istanbul, doing business in much the same way as they have for 100's of years. But now you can also find French presses and flat whites, or even delicate, expertly prepared AeroPress filter coffees if you know where to look.
In Istanbul, the old and and new have always run side by side, built into the lives of the 17 million people who call this place home. In one of the cities that first gave birth to the coffee house, coffee culture is flowering again in new and exciting ways.