When you’re looking for sterling caffeine in Istanbul, there are two paths to follow. Both have great ends.
The first, most obvious one is to stalk out the best Turkish coffee. Not the dark dreck that makes you think you’re drinking caffeinated silt, or a slick sweetened by a groaning sackful of sugar. I’m talking about good stuff. The stout and thick little pots which inspired the Turkish proverb; ‘coffee should be as black as hell, strong as death and as sweet as love’. My preference for how to drink it is ‘Az şekerli’; a little sweet- just a scant teaspoon of sugar in the cup.
Like many of the great things we ate in Istanbul, the best Turkish coffee came recommended by the esteemed blog Istanbul Eats ( in fact, along with a good pair of walking shoes and a scarf to drape over your head at the mosques, I would say a copy of their small, pocket sized guide book is an essential thing to take with you when you visit).
We found the best cups of Turkish coffee during our days in Istanbul at Mandabatmaz. It’s a small place, just off the main shopping boulevard in Beyolglu; Istikal Caddesi. Keep your eyes peeled for the Barcelona Patisserie on the corner and then turn up the hill slightly. You’ll probably see a smattering of locals perched on white plastic stools outside, nursing cups of dark magic.
Inside it’s small. There’s a marble counter behind which Cemik Pilik artfully combines custom roasted ground beans with boiled water in a copper cezve. The floor is tiled and the walls are crowded with framed curios and a large sign that reminds you not to smoke inside.
Ordering involves letting them know how many coffees you want and how sweet you like it. To me a little bit of sugar helps to soften the texture. Here it’s thick and soft, like plush velvet cushions.
Mandabatmaz translates in English to unsinking buffalo. Granted, It would be a challenge for anything to plunge to the bottom of this cup. As a drink it recalls the thickness of Spanish hot chocolate, but murkier, dirtier and much, much sexier. This version is hot, but not enough to burn and strong enough to give you the necessary kick to explore the winding streets of Beyoglu.
Mandabatmaz is the standard to measure all other coffees in Istanbul by.
You could sit and ponder your future in the thick mass that sits at the bottom of the cup when you’re finished. But after a drink like that, you’ll probably want to get up and going. There’s a city that straddles two continents waiting for you.
Nb, if you’re after something to eat soon after the Borek Centre just across the way on Istikal Caddesi is a quick and good option where they sell sliced borek by weight.
Olivia Geçidi No: 1/A, Beyoglu
Look for the Barcelona Patisserie on the corner of the alleyway
If what you really need is an espresso/macchiatto/ latte or filter coffee- from the kind that you’d expect to find in one of the side streets of London, Sydney or Copenhagen, then Kronotrop is where you need to go. It hasn’t been open long and is a small bolt hole of a place on one of the slanted streets of Beyoglu.
The walls are exposed brick and there’s a large blackboard above your head spelling out the options. There are a few seats and pastries for sale.
It’s a funky little spot in one of the most interesting parts of town, run by people who are passionate about what they do. If you’re in the area, can’t face any more borek, grilled offal or baklava and fancy a break from traditional Turkish coffee or tea, then this is definitely the place to go.
Kuloğlu mahallesi yeniçarşı caddesi No. 5/bBeyoğlu-Istanbul, 03340