We are familiar with the coffeehouse chains from the movies in the past where the main character touches up her make-up looking in the rearview and then leaves the cars with her trench-coat fluttering about as she speeds up while she’s sipping on her coffee cup she bought from a coffeehouse.
Although there are still some people who are fond of such coffeehouse chains that we come across very frequently nowadays, there are people who wince at these tasteless, ordinary coffees and search for specialty coffees.
The latter group is interested in the heart of the problem, in other words coffee beans and the only thing they talk about is the 3rd wave of coffee…
What is 3rd Wave of Coffee?
As it has recently started to be talked about in Turkey and become even mentioned by those who are not knowledgeable about it (as it is the case with every popular thing), the third wave of coffee actually is like a summary of the phases the coffee consumption has gone through from the very beginning to this day. According to this;
First wave is the phase that began with the 2nd World War and includes the modern times where the frozen coffees like Nescafe started to get consumed and has become a craze. The keywords are “fast and practical”.
Second wave is the phase where the coffeehouse chains started to mushroom throughout the cities. As the coffee cream and foam have been taken into consideration, the whole point of coffee has become the pleasure you would get from that experience. In brief, it is the “Starbucks era”.
Third wave is the phase where the people do not see coffee beans like wheat or barley that you can easily transport, instead they approach it like wine. They respect it and try to become knowledgeable about it by learning about its sources and bean quality.
There are almost 40 3rd wave coffeehouses in Istanbul now! These coffeehouses care about the contribution of the region, harvest season and the altitudes of the coffee trees are grown in to the coffee’s taste, just like a winery would do for the grapes. Hence, they trace the arduous journey of the coffee beans from its source to cups and inform their customers about such details.
Thanks to such coffeehouses, people started to get informed about the devices (aeropress, syphon, chemex, hario V60, cold drip, etc.) that came with the third wave.
The prominent activity that promoted the third wave of coffee in Turkey was the “Istanbul Coffee Festival” which was arranged in Istanbul Greek School (Istanbul Rum Okulu). It was held between the 25th and the 28th of December for the first time. In these four days, almost 15000 people attended the festival and got familiarized with “quality coffee”.
Although some people headed towards the popular coffeehouse chain stalls; for those who were curious about the alternatives, the most successful stalls were Heisenberg which looked like a Breaking Bad studio set with the stall-workers wearing yellow aprons and masks like chemists; Coffeenutz offering its customers an experience of beer-like cold coffee from the coffee barrels pressurized with nitrogen; Petra Roasting with its delicious chemex coffees and desserts; Zapatista that warmed our hearts with the story of the coffee beans collected by a group of people from the Chipas Mountains (which also gives the coffee its name) in Mexico with primitive yet fair, collaborative, and ethical techniques; Istanbul Kahve Akademisi (Istanbul Coffee Academy) that introduced new brewing techniques which can be practiced at home; Old Java that generated a mystic fog around the stall with the smoking technique that looked like an illusion; and Ministry of Coffee (MOC) and Kronotrop, the forerunners of the third wave of coffee.
Although it was a nice thing to see the historical texture of the building was perfumed by the coffee smell, the insufficiency of the space and the multitude of the visitors caused some problems. So many coffee enthusiasts were smothered by all the crowd and left earlier. The people struggled to take pictures of the stalls in tight spaces and even some people who were waiting in the line couldn’t get inside although they had the tickets, while some people spilled coffee on themselves in the chaos.
Despite all of these problems, Istanbul Coffee Festival was a hopeful step towards the third wave of coffee in Turkey and for that matter, I prefer to see the above-mentioned problems through a rose-tinted glass. Yet, there was a huge flaw in the festival: the lack of Turkish coffee.
Turkish Coffee and the Third Wave
As you know, the Turkish coffee was admitted to “Intangible Cultural Heritage List” of UNESCO in the last year. As a person who always promoted it, it made me happy that UNESCO confirmed the Turkish coffee should be the biggest trick up our sleeves and hence should be marketed on a more international platform.
Turkey is one of the few countries that import the lowest quality Brazilian coffee “Rio Minas”. For years, we’ve double-roasted and marketed it in packages with an expiration date for years later.
That is exactly the reason why there are few people interested in Turkish coffee in terms of the third wave of coffee. Because the Turkish palate has been built on a faulty premises.
As a community who has been drinking Rio Minas from their jezwahs (traditional Turkish coffee pot), we happened to reject a successful Ethiopian or Mexican coffee and go with our own habits. I’m not sure if the Colombian coffee beans (my favorites) are studied by the third wave coffee baristas; but I hope they too will be included in their works and studied by the R&D centers.
It is one of the biggest dreams of mine to see Turkish coffee next to an espresso or latte in the menus of the restaurants I visit in a foreign country. But I get pessimistic by the fact that even some restaurants in Turkey do not offer Turkish coffee or some of those offer foamless version of the coffee which I strongly resent.
There were only a few companies in the festival which shouldered the responsibility. Among these company, especially the one that I heartily expected to bring Turkish coffee to the stand frustrated me. I was surprised to hear that I had to go to their café to try their Turkish coffee.
As it is rumored that the organization will be held on an international platform; if the Turkish cannot promote their best specialty in the festival while Turkey is home to the organization, it means somebody should be kidding us…
I know that there are some if a few people who struggle to improve the Turkish coffee as much as possible. For such reasons, if we shatter our gustatory prejudices and present these works properly, hopefully soon, the Turkish coffee will get more qualified and diverse hence the big picture will be more colorful…
Bon appétit and enjoy the taste of life…