Legendary Istanbul Adventure

Legendary_Istanbul_Blue_Mosque

Welcome Legends!

I recently returned from an international trip to Prague (Czech Republic) where I was working on a Music Project called Electronic Opus (I did orchestration for an artist named BT).  I followed this leg of the trip with three days in Istanbul (Turkey).  First off, here are a few cool facts about coffee throughout history in Turkey:

  • The Coffee Plant was discovered in the 11th Century in Ethiopia where it was boiled in hot water, believed to give strength to sailors for long journeys.
  • Coffee was then introduced to Yemen in the mid 14th Century where it was consumed in the same boiled whole plant (instead of just the coffee bean) concoction.
  • Coffee was introduced to Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1555 from one of the Ottoman governors of Yemen.
  • Sultan Suleiman so liked the drink that he created a position of Chief Coffee Maker (kahvecibaşı) in the royal court!

Knowing this, I wanted to search out the best and strongest coffee in the birthplace of modern coffee.  While staying in the Historic District, I plotted out my points.  Here is the tale of my coffee experience in Istanbul!

CoffeeTopia
Hobyar Mh.Arpacılar Caddesi No:8, Fatih, Turkey

delicious-take-away-coffee

I started off by the hotel and ran into CoffeeTopia (“Coffee is Good!” – their slogan).  It was a very modern coffee shop with extremely well trained staff.  Many of the shops in Turkey have people standing in the doors asking for your business.  I caught them off guard as it was early for them (8:15AM)…Yes…8:15 was “too early” to buy coffee!  Their coffee game does not start till about 9, but their nights go until around 11 or so.  The Barista quickly went inside and told me I could have whatever I like. I glanced over the menu and was impressed by the setup.
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I asked about a Turkish Coffee, and his face set the tone for the rest of the day.  In Turkey, a lot of coffee shops actually like to serve “American” style coffee (sugar, cream, milk, syrups).  Star$’s is seen as a status symbol.  Most shops in the city offer you an Americano (espresso with hot water), latte, or a Cappuccino, but advise against the “Turkish Style” coffee.

That said, I ordered a small cappuccino, knowing I would have a lot of coffee in the hours to come.  It was delectable.

image11The Barista was proud of their craft and did something I had never seen.  They stopped pouring my foam about 1 cm from the top and he quickly asked if I wanted spice.  I said, “I’ll take it!” And then he went on to load up the top of the drink with the spice mixture he had in a canister.  “You’re ruining it…” I thought to myself!  He completely covered the top of the cup.  In a moment of salvation, however, he redeemed the life of the cappuccino by pouring the rest of the foam over top of this layer of spice.  The visual effect was STUNNING.

As a side, these were the single greatest printed coffee cups I had ever seen.  The printing, thickness, and texture is second to none.  After that I was OFF!

Karabatak Karaköy (Julius Meinl)
 Kara Mustafa Paşa Mah., Kara Ali Kaptan Sok. No:7, Kemankeş/Istanbul – Turkey

Check out this one coffee shop that roasts their beans in Austria!

image2I walked across the Bosphorus Bridge to find this one.  I was able to see all of the fishermen making fires on the side of the bridge to stay warm as they caught their daily catch to sell to the local market.  I walked up an extremely steep hill for a few miles and then stumbled down a few back alleys filled with cobblestone and broken building pieces, to find this incredible little place identified by a Red Fezz.  I knew I had found the place when I saw their very cool wall art.  The place is called Karabatak Karaköy (by Julius Meinl).  It was a converted abandoned metal workshop.

They had big band playing and I walked in to a barista also not quite ready for business.  Again, I was “up early”!  She was more than ready to help me though.  She was a nice girl studying psychology at a local university and working here part time.  The other barista was a musician with a sick pattern tattooed up his neck.  I thought I was in Fishtown in Philly.  I asked if I could have a few pictures and the girl told me I would need to contact the owner, who promptly emerged from the back.

After formal introductions he relaxed a bit and warmed up.  I was served the n0XJ4o22UGGH9L4uykCk4uSAJOI47NG3OcyuNsB-VxIrichest Americano I have ever experienced served with a small glass of water to clean the palate when I finished. The owner sat with me for a moment and told me that when we has building this place, he had to lie to people and tell them he was the architect for the first two years.  He said “I was beat up two times.  Everyone kept telling me now that I’m lucky.  ‘You’re so lucky!’  I am lucky…” (He gave me a side glance) “but you have to work very hard for it too.  Work and luck.  It must be both.”  They are being featured in The Guardian and the New York Times.

He went on to explain that “Turkish people have developed a certain taste for [bad – inferred] coffee.  You know, it’s surprising but it’s very hard to find good coffee IN TURKEY, even though they introduced the rest of Europe to it.  We were bringing in all of these…Sumatra, Blue Coast specialty coffees and people just didn’t like them.  You have to know what they like.”  We completely agree.

image1I sat downstairs and felt like I was in a time warm.  All of the music and furnishings were from an age past with a touch of class.  Think if Gatsby owned a coffee shop and wanted to throw a soiree, but in the morning.  The seats were comfortable and the stone tables gave the place a feeling of permanence.

I was then brought upstairs to enjoy their quiet room.  It was a wonderfully designed room with long tables and no music.  There were pictures of Steven Tyler and it was mentioned that Ben Afflek also visited when they were filming Argo and liked the place!

I sipped my coffee in silence for a few minutes and then headed downstairs to go to the next place!  Enchanting environment.

 

Mandabatmaz
Olivia Geçidi 1/A, Beyoğlu (near St. Antoine Cathedral on İstiklal)

I originally went here at 8:30 AM, but the door was chained up.  This little shop that is down an alley in a very full shopping district (where they have a Shake Shack btw) is called Mandabatmaz, which translates to “So thick, a water buffalo could not sink in it!”

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It was down a side alley and looks like a little old place, but make no mistake, this operation doesn’t stop moving from the moment it opens.  Mandabatmaz gets coffee brought in and roasted just for themselves.  They do not sell their beans either.  They make it over an open flame, which looks like a Bunsen burner from a science lab and sounds like a jet engine.  It is the traditional way of making Turkish coffee (Turk kahvesi).  They have been doing it since the 60’s at this same little spot.

They heat up coffee finely grown (finer than espresso) in what is called a cezve.  It is actually roasting a little bit in the water until it almost bubbles and then they swiftly pour it into tiny coffee cups called fıncan.

Though the cups are tiny, it took me 10 minutes to finish!  I simply COULDN’T finish it any faster.  It was the thickest, darkest coffee I have ever tasted in my life.  It put even deep love for dark coffee to the test, but I came out victorious.

image6At first, I did not like it.  At ALL actually.  Texturally, it was as though I was drinking sand.  I couldn’t bear it, but I pressed through and something happened.  The grains began to sink and what was left on TOP of the tiny cup was a taste richer and deeper than I had imagined.  It was like I was drinking history.  I could see merchants on large boats in early ages waking up watching the same sunrise I had seen earlier to export this finely roasted and ground work of art and bringing them to all the corners of Europe and beyond.  I am thankful for their hard work, as we would not have coffee in our daily vocabulary.

I slowly realized, this is a cup to be enjoyed with friends, over conversation, even in an alleyway.  This is the drink of revolutionary ideas and government planning.  It is so small, but yet, so powerful, a good reminder that what is underneath the surface can be more potent than what others may initially see in us.

I finished this off and said that this was “a trip well spent”, even if for that moment alone.  I had accomplished PRECISELY what I set out to do.  I wanted to have the finest cup of Turkish coffee and I do believe I found it that day.

Thanks for reading!  If you want to have your own adventure, tap here to pick up a Cup of Legendary!

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Turkish Delight

Merhaba from Istanbul!

We are having a great time sampling different coffees here and are excited to post about this.  For now, let’s talk about one of my favorite things here.

Turkish Delight (Türk lokumu) is a delicious snack that is served here in Turkey. It is made of Gel, Starch, and Sugar (very cheap materials). To quote Wikipedia, it “consists largely of chopped dates, pistachios, and hazelnuts or walnuts bound by the gel”. I can attest to this. About every 50 yards there is a confectionery shop that is serving this. In fact, right now I can smell the sweet Türk lokumu wafting up through the inside of my hotel into the room. I have the window open since it’s a little warm in here. That said, it’s not cheap! It’s about 40 Turkish for a kilo (2.2 lbs). 40 TYL is about 20 USD. Good things come at a price. I was a little put off by this, until I watched it being made. The layout and design of each piece is very important. It’s not as if you receive one piece that looks different than the Ad in the window (that’s still advertising). It looks precisely like the display.

Legendary_Istanbul_Blue_MosqueIt made me start to ask a question, “Why do we pay for good quality?” I asked this about myself, and about the brands I run. To us, here at Legendary Coffee, we believe that quality should be reflected in the price, packaging, material, and the actual good itself. When things are handled with care, we are more likely to care about them.  This is why we have taken so much time in selecting our packaging, working with design crews to ensure our labeling and measurements are perfect to the eye, and that your product tastes like it costs, expensive, rare, top-quality.  Our Legends understand quality and won’t settle for anything less, so neither do we.  This small window shopping experience has helped me to see a bit about why we do what we do.

I want to thank each and every person that has already purchased coffee.  To date, we have roasted just over 45 kg, or 100 LBS, of coffee!  This will look small one day, but for now, thank you for allowing this to happen.  Together, we are, “A Cup Above the Rest!”

Matt Campana

Lead Roaster
Legendary Coffee Company

Your Roast is Resting!

Just like each of us, good roasting requires rest. When you roast coffee beans they go through two stages, first crack and second crack. The first crack is a physical expansion of the coffee bean. It is physically cracking the bean to let off heat in an exothermic reaction. It is imperative that you continue to give the beans heat to ensure this does not become an endothermic reaction. If this happens, the beans will taste baked and lose their character. This is just like us! When we have a golden opportunity, we must continue to apply our best to the situation and see it through. This followthrough is what makes us an aroma to those around us!

The second section of a roast is the second crack. This part is where the bean actually expands and the cellulose wall in the center of the bean breaks down. Second crack is not necessary, and just like in life, sometimes we need to know when to ease back and let things cool down! Just after first crack is when CO2 begins coming out of the crevices of the bean. Water and Carbon Dioxide begin to split and CO2 degassing begins to occur. As you get deeper into a roast, origin characteristics or distinct flavors begin to dissipate. We stop Luna Roast right before second crack occurs, ensuring it is dark and bold, while remaining extremely flavorful.

Once a roast is complete, you can opt to let the beans outgas and settle. This allows CO2 out of the chamber, while allowing the flavors and aroma of the bean to become solidified due to the fact that there are multiple beans enhancing the flavor of one another. There’s power in groups!

Once this degassing occurs over the week, we will place your coffee in gorgeous custom packaging and ship it out directly to your doorstep. This will ensure that you receive coffee at the perfect MOMENT in its flavor arc.

I can’t thank you enough and I look forward to hearing your reactions!

Matt
Lead Roaster

LIVE BROADCAST = Piano Music + Roasting!

A lot of love and care has gone into making Legendary Coffee a reality. I said last year during my Christmas broadcast that I would come out with three things:

  1. An Orchestral Album
  2. A Coffee Roasting Company
  3. A Piano Album

…I have some exciting news!  All three are under way.  I can’t talk about the 1st one, but it involves an actual orchestra.  Since you’re reading this…you can see that Legendary Coffee Company is open for business so #2 is complete.  Now we will launch the piano album project!

Matt Piano HeadshotTo do this, we will be actually having roasting sessions that also include a live broadcast of me writing and recording on the piano in the studio.  These will literally be “live” sessions where what we record together will be mixed, mastered, and become the “Legendary Sessions”.

That said, all orders placed in the next two weeks will be roasted during our LIVE BROADCAST from the studio on November 8th at 12:30PM.  As always, follow Legendary using the links on the top of the page.  I can’t wait to sip some coffee and talk about music with you on the 8th!