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Mandabatmaz is the best Turkish coffee in town. There, I said it. This is a hill I’m ready to die on. Mandabatmaz is for locals and by that I do not mean Istanbullus in general but Beyoğlu residents, students and workers specifically. ILike Turkish coffee, it’s hits the spot in the morning, after breakfast, after lunch, after work, or any other time you feel like pausing life.
Context: Mandabatmaz used to be a small shop with little tabures on the narrow street facing the wall of the church. It’s been one of those places that maintained a sense of community despite the neighbourhood being the epicenter of Istanbul’s crowd. When the owner and coffee master Cemil Filik passed away in 2019, the online sentiment showed how the people working there and the customers were connected beyond a simple business transaction.
Recently they’ve acquired the café next to them and now have indoor seating. But the real pleasure is in being outside, sitting crookedly on those stools which push your spine in such a way that you get closer to your company and the conversation gets more intense.
What to order: Turkish coffee. No sugar. A regular order will bring you an espresso-sized cup of Turkish coffee, a large will bring you something closer to an Americano-sized cup. A bit pricier than coffee elsewhere but very worth it.
What to know: A good Turkish coffee is hot and fresh off the stove. The quality of a cup of coffee is first assessed visually: there should be a thick layer of crema on the top, not as lightly coloured as an espresso but more of a milky chocolate colour. Referred to as the “köpük” (literally, foam) of the coffee, it is the utmost sign of expertise in coffeemaking. Secondly the coffee needs to have some body to it, meaning the coffee has been cooked for a long enough time that the water absorbed its coffeeness, if you will. Turkish coffee distinguishes itself from other types of coffee around the world because it’s meant to have about a centimeter of coffee grind at the bottom. Not meant to be consumed, though I enjoy taking small bits of it when it cools down.
Turkish coffee usually comes with a shot glass of water. This is meant to be used to cleanse your palate. It is said that back in the day sipping the water before starting your coffee showed respect for the host, sipping it after finishing the coffee shows dislike of the coffee itself. These are of course old rules of etiquette , as relevant as Victorian rules of courtly behaviour.
Final note: I tried to observe if they have an unusual method of cooking the coffee, but they do not use copper pots (cezve), no coal or sand-based heat. Literally an electric Turkish coffee machine you can find in any home or ad agency. So their beans must be of excellent quality to give such a rich, aromatic and full-bodied, fat cup of coffee. Their ground coffeewould make a thoughtful gift to a Turkish coffee lover.