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May 18
Reviews (Drinks)
Fazıl Bey Kahvesi: Fad Proof

Two young men stood about 15 feet apart on a sunny narrow street in the Kadıköy market, chafing in their brown lab coats. The one tending to a handful of white marble tables barked “buyrun!” (roughly, “come and get it!”) at passersby; the other quietly wiped down seven or eight black marble tables.

The black tables – the ones in front of the veteran Fazıl Bey Kahvesi – used to be white until they were replaced when a gaggle of upstart neighboring cafes put out their own white tables, presumably hoping to siphon off some of Fazıl Bey’s business. Next door is Yavuz Bey and next to that Hürrem Efendi and just across the street Niyazi Bey, all serving Turkish coffee and seating customers at the same white marble tables. Buyrun!

In Istanbul, fads burn white hot and competition can be comically ruthless. Be it coffee or mojitos, you’ll see butcher shops, bookstores and pharmacies retrofitted overnight to capitalize on the latest popular trend. We even know one (now former) barber, Süleyman, who recently hung up his shears, donned a fez and turned his barbershop into place to squeeze and sell fruit juice.

We’re all for free enterprise and open competition, but the mushrooming of cafes on Fazıl Bey’s street sets up a dangerous trap that many of us could fall into. Turkish coffee is Turkish coffee and the tables are all natural stone anyway, a visitor to this stretch of Kadıköy might think, so what could be the big difference?

There’s only one way to find out. Patiently wait for one of those black-topped tables to open and order yourself an orta şekerli (medium sweet) and you will experience what it means to sip a truly superior coffee. At Fazıl Bey, they roast their own Brazilian beans to a preferred (dark) color on the premises and grind them throughout the day into a fine powder, as Turkish coffee requires. Before even taking down the copper cezve to make a cup of coffee, Fazıl Bey already has a leg up on most of the competition, who buy their coffee pre-ground from distributors.

Freshness is a big factor but the in-house roasting is a tradition that goes back to the shop’s foundation in the 1920’s. According to Murat Çelik, Fazıl Bey’s roaster of 30 years, respect for this shop’s tradition is an important ingredient in a good cup. “Around here, you’ve got taxi drivers and kokoreç vendors who quit that job and start making coffee,” he scoffed. “This is our grandfather’s profession.”

At Fazıl Bey we do believe the coffee is superior, but it’s the ritualistic experience here that we really enjoy. The tiny shop itself is like a sanctuary, with every nook and cranny filled with something precious and coffee-related. The intoxicating smell of fresh ground coffee wafts around the room like incense. Every detail of the service – the small metal service trays, the porcelain coffee cups with the Fazıl Bey logo, small glasses of water and the square of lokum served alongside – adds up to one powerful cup of coffee. Sipping a coffee here, you can feel their respect for the coffee-making tradition and the generations that upheld it in this shop. That’s something that can’t be imitated with furniture.

Address: Serasker Caddesi 1A, Kadıköy
Telephone: 216-450-2870

(photo by Ansel Mullins)

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8 Responses to “ Fazıl Bey Kahvesi: Fad Proof ”
  1. Thank you for bringing stories like this one to us. I’m glad to see that traditions are still cherished, as difficult as that might be these days.
    My grandmother used to roast coffee beans in a special thing she called shish, over the open flame, and used the hand-grinder to grind them each time she was making coffee. We’re lazy today, and buy grinded, vacuum-packed coffee, and it will never taste as good as my grandmother’s cup of Turkish coffee.

  2. A truly super blog, which I have now started sharing across to G+, which feeds my twitter stream.

    Having lived in Istanbul prior to good Google Maps, c 2003, and knowing my monolingual (English) attempts to get around, quite successfully actually, when I look back, but mainly due to my excellent guide, a taxi driver who I met when I used to just fly in and out and then used constantly whilst living in Istanbul, if you were able to put a Google map location, zoomed in to the building, then that would be a great way of guiding us monolinguists, plus it would enable you to create a culinary map with links back to articles! 🙂

  3. What a wonderful find – I mostly head to Sultanahmet to get my Turkish coffee, it is refreshing to find this superior alternative, and what an experience. Many thanks for sharing,

  4. Aaron Stein

    May 22, 2012

    Fazil Bey has been my go to coffee place in Kadikoy since moving in 2010. Well worth the Istanbuleats seal of approval.

  5. I went there last weekend. While we were waiting for our coffee, the manager of the cafe asked some people who already finished their coffee to leave and free their tables for other customers. We got our coffees, I do admit, they were tasty. Once we finished, we turned over our cups and started telling our fortunes – to each other. After a moment, the manager came, started screaming at us. He said it is prohibited, something about police, report and closing down for three days. He also told us to leave. Everything was screamed to us in turkish. We only understand a little, we did not know it is illegal in Turkey to tell fortune for money and that they could get in trouble for this. We only did it for fun and only to ourselves. Worth to mention, I’ve lived here for 1,5 years and this is the first time I encountered rudeness in a restaurant/cafe.

  6. Thanks for the note and sorry to hear about this unpleasant experience. We haven’t heard about similar experiences from other people, but we’ll go by there next time we’re in the area to check things out.

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