Conspicuous consumption of specialty coffee is on the rise in Istanbul.
A city once synonymous with demitasse Turkish coffee, and tea from Rize’s mountainous, Black Sea coast, you can now practically get a single origin pour over from simit selling street vendors.
Because there is serious money to be made from the second most valuable traded commodity, the term third wave coffee, has morphed into a buzzword. It’s a new language businesses are adopting to sell coffee at ever higher prices. However, it’s fairly easy to spot which establishments respect the humanity of coffee production all the way to a customer’s cup, and which ones are in it solely for the money. Regardless of how successful the venture is, or how fluent they are with the coffee process, the mindset of top management/ownership is reflected in the baristas, who ultimately lend coffee houses a certain vibe. The baristas subconsciously mirror a culture that is either directly or passively encouraged, regardless of what is claimed in the mission statement.
In Istanbul, where the affluent and hipster alike are always on the prowl for some “next level shit”, one shop stands alone. In the wake of Istanbul’s original coffee house culture, it reminds us of a time when having coffee meant meaningful conversation, oftentimes with strangers.
With a population of over 14 million, there is a tendency to see people merely as foot traffic, easily hustled into the latest trending, money making venture.
This is why Tribu Caffe Artigiano is different. They aren’t trying to franchise. They aren’t obsessed with building a brand as a stepping stone to coffee world domination. Simply put, they strive for excellence, from bean, to cup, to customer. They show a genuine interest in who walks in the door, even remembering names and coffee orders.
After working in the corporate world for too many years, Ilker, the multilingual owner, decided to go rogue, setting up shop in the historical neighborhood of Istanbul’s Moda. On a typical day he can be found meticulously slinging specialty drinks, and baking off fresh, classic pastries and cakes. In order to maintain consistency, the cafe currently sources beans from renowned roaster, Coffee Sapiens, located in Karakoy, just across the Bosphorus on the European side. In the near future however, the shop intends to host their own roasting operation.
I thought the name suits the place, as Tribu in Italian means tribe, essentially summing up our modern quest, as world citizens, for belonging somewhere that fits. Discovering the right cafe that meets a peculiar handful of needs can feel like finding the “One”.
For Millennials especially, the coffee shop fulfills multiple roles. It’s church, a safe, non-judgy place to reveal the deepest, if not weirdest feelings, and laugh about it with your surrogate crew behind the bar. It’s an office that doesn’t require a long term lease. A casual space to meet anyone who could potentially change your life forever. I actually met my future husband in a coffee house we both happened to love. I was a barista there, and he was a techie entrepreneur, originally from Istanbul. If it wasn’t for our shared affection for a particular place, our paths would never have crossed. Did I want to get married at the time? No, but I couldn’t bear the thought of losing him forever, so I said yes to his proposal during a laid back Chinese dinner, and oddly prophetic “fortune” cookies. Ten years & two kids later + (one on the way), we live as expats in Turkey, mostly happily, and still find ourselves drawn to shops with high ceilings, quality brew, and unpretentious energy.