Turkey’s 500-year-old cafe culture gets a hipster makeover

Since 2014, Turkey’s bigger cities have hosted coffee festivals, attracting domestic and foreign tourists . AFP
Updated 14 April 2018
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Turkey’s 500-year-old cafe culture gets a hipster makeover

  • The new wave did not pose a threat to traditional cofee culture
  • The Ministry of Cofee (MOC), introduced Australian cofee-making culture at its first branch in 2014 in Istanbul

ANKARA: A wave of stylish new coffee houses driven by Turkish hipsters and Arab visitors is shaking up Turkey’s 500-year-old coffee culture, which the UN cultural heritage agency UNESCO recognized as unique in 2013.
The new coffee houses, a feature in cities around the world, rely on artisanal coffee bean varieties, specialist roasting techniques and sophisticated equipment to produce a wide range of styles and flavors.
Coffee-lovers say the new cafes do not undermine traditional Turkish coffee culture, which started as a privilege of the Ottoman elite. The first coffee house opened in Istanbul in the 1550s after coffee beans arrived from Yemen and cafes have become the preferred means of socializing for many Turks.
“Those (older) coffee houses represent what is traditional,” Aydin Boke, founder of the Kvcii coffee house in the Aegean resort town of Ayvalik, told Arab News.
“We are just serving a modern alternative through cozy architectural designs and more varieties of coffee beans and roasting.”

Ubiquitous features
Coffee and tea are ubiquitous features of Turkish life. A popular Turkish saying is: “A single cup of coffee is remembered for 40 years.”
Many Turks like to read their fortune in the coffee grounds left in the bottom of the cup. Coffee is also an integral part of the traditional prewedding ceremony with the bride serving Turkish coffee with salt to the groom to test his masculinity and readiness for marriage.
Since 2014, Turkey’s bigger cities have hosted coffee festivals, attracting domestic and foreign tourists. Boke, the founder of the Kvcii coffee house, said he has many clients from the Gulf and Egypt.
“I can say that they are more open to new coffee tastes,” he said. “The fact that we are using high-quality coffee beans for Turkish coffee also promotes its consumption among domestic and foreign visitors.”
The new cafes are called “third wave” coffee houses, according to a popular classification that developed in the US. The first wave was marked by mass-market granular coffee introduced in the 19th century, while the second wave describes chains such as Starbucks, which first appeared in the 1970s.
One of Turkey’s third-wave pioneers, the Ministry of Coffee (MOC), introduced Australian coffee-making culture at its first branch in 2014 in Istanbul before expanding with 11 outlets across the country.
“We are continuing franchise talks with some Middle East and Gulf countries,” Deniz Yildiz Duzgun, the founder of MOC, told Arab News. “For three years, we have had regulars from that region, especially during spring.”
Many new coffee houses publish the origin and roasting dates of their beans. MOC has rigorous standards for its staff, including regular training to instil specialist knowledge. “A good barista should be able to tell the entire story of the coffee from the tree through its region, soil, country and altitude until the processing and roasting stage,” Duzgun said.
The coffee house serves traditional Turkish coffee alongside its specialized styles, with a price range similar to that of traditional cafes — but unlike them, it freshly roasts the beans imported from Yemen.
Baristocrat 3rd Wave Cafe and Roastery, which has three branches in Izmir, has franchise plans for Dubai and Kuwait, and is working on franchise requests from Germany and the US. It sells about 2.5 tons of roasted coffee a month and provides coffee beans to about 85 brands.
“Our products are being sold in Dubai and Saudi Arabia as well as in Lebanon,” Sonat Corumlu, general manager of Baristocrat, told Arab News. “We also provide consultancy services to coffee houses in these countries.”

New wave
He said the new wave did not pose a threat to traditional coffee culture. “It doesn’t have any claim to undermine this ancestral culture. Rather, the original place for Turkish coffee is the coffee house, which was the first wave of coffee. And we respect them,” he said.
“In the eyes of Turkish people, traditional coffee houses are seen as places mostly frequented by retired people to play games and smoke shisha.”
Despite coffee’s popularity, Turkey fails to feature in the top 20 countries for coffee consumption, which is dominated by Europe, according to the International Coffee Organization. Turkey does have the highest consumption of tea per capita in the world, partly because coffee prices rose sharply after the first and second world wars.
Third-wave coffee houses will be hoping to tap into this market potential.


Iraq’s Shiite rivals agree on prime minister

Updated 18 September 2018
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Iraq’s Shiite rivals agree on prime minister

  • Veteran Shiite politician Adel Abdul Mahdi informally nominated to replace Haider Al-Abadi
  • Decision reached after extensive negotiations between pro and anti-Iran factions

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s rival Shiite blocs in parliament have agreed on who they want as the next prime minister after making progress in negotiations towards forming a government, negotiators told Arab News.

The two factions, one pro Iran and the other anti, have agreed to work together as a coalition, negotiators told Arab News on Tuesday.

The veteran Shiite politician and former vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi was informally nominated to replace Haider Al-Abadi, negotiators said. 

He will be assigned on Sept. 25 to form a government if his nomination is approved by the Kurdish blocs. 

Before the appointment of prime minister, the president has to be selected. There is no indication that the Kurds, who get the post according to the Iraq’s power sharing agreement, have decided on who to nominate. 

Iraq’s parliament has been split between the Reform alliance and Al-Binna’a alliance after elections in May.

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READ MORE: Iraq parliament elects Sunni lawmaker Al-Halbousi as speaker, breaking deadlock

Rival Iraqi factions make coalition deal and end Al-Abadi’s prime minister hopes

Rival Shiite factions trade blame for who drove the burning of buildings in Basra

Iran accused of hijacking Basra protests after a week of violence that shook Iraq

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Reform is controlled by Muqtada Al-Sadr, one of the country’s most influential Shiite clerics who opposes Iranian influence in the country.

Iran-backed Al-Binna’a is led by Hadi Al-Amiri, the head of Badr organization, the most prominent Shiite armed faction.

At the first parliamentary session earlier this month, both coalitions claimed they have the most number of seats which would give them the right to form a government.

Within hours, violent demonstrations erupted in Basra, Iraq’s main oil hub, killing 15 demonstrators and injuring scores of people. The Iranian consulate was set on fire along with dozens of government and party buildings.

The violence on the street reflected the stand-off in parliament and threatened to erupt into fighting between the armed wings associated with the different Shiite groups.

The agreement between the two blocs was the only way to end the violence and prevent a slide into intra-Shiite  fighting, senior leaders involved in the talks said.

Several meetings between Al-Sadr and Al-Amiri were held in Al-Sadr’s residency in the holy city of Najaf last week to defuse the crisis.

Both parties’ desire for a truce seemed clear on Saturday at a parliament session to elect the speaker and his deputies. The two blocks showed their influence without colliding with each other. Al-Binna’a presented its candidate for the speaker post and stepped down after winning to make way for the Reform bloc to present its candidate for the post of first deputy of the speaker without competition.

The negotiations teams continued their meetings over the following days to agree on the details of the government program and select the nominee for the prime minister among the dozens of candidates presented by the forces belonging to the two alliances.

The first results of talks between the two blocs came out on Tuesday when Al-Amiri withdrew from the race “to open doors for more talks,” and avoid  conflict between the alliances.

“We will not talk on behalf of Al-Binna’a or the Reform. We both will agree on a candidate. Compatibility is our only choice,” Al-Amiri, said at a press conference in Baghdad.

“Today, Iraq needs to be saved, as we saved it from Daesh, so we have only two options, either we choose to impose the wills and twist each others arms or choose the understanding between us.”

 Iraq has been a battleground for regional and international powers, especially Iran and the United States, since 2003 US-led invasion. 

Brett McGurk, the US envoy to Iraq and Syria, and General Qassim Soleimani, commander of Iran's Al Quds Force, are deeply involved in the negotiations. 

The candidate for prime minister should also enjoy the blessing of the religious powers in Najaf, represented by Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the Shiite spiritual leader and most revered figure in Iraq, negotiators said.

“The situation is complicated as there are three different sides that enjoy the right to use veto. They are Iran, US and Najaf,” a key negotiator of Al-Sadr’s negotiation team told Arab News.

“One ‘no’ is enough to exclude any candidate. Not only that, Sadr and Amiri also have their conditions and we still have difficulty reconciling all of them.”

The marathon negotiations, which run every day until late at night, finally reached a shortlist for prime minister.

The three names reached were Adel Abdul Mahdi, a former leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, Falih Al-Fayadh, the former national security adviser, and Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, the head of the intelligence service.

Adel Abdul Mahdi was the chosen one, three negotiators from different sides told Arab News.

“We have agreed to nominate Adel Abdul Mahdi as he is the only one who was approved by the three sides (Iran, the US and Najaf),” an Al-Sadr negotiator told Arab News.