A new rival to Turkish coffee is brewing up in Nişantaşı
by Cameron Thomas
Jul 07, 2014 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Cameron Thomas
Jul 07, 2014 12:00 am
Sam Çevikoz moved to Istanbul from Sydney, Australia 13 months ago with the dream of revolutionizing the shot-coffee scene in Turkey. Not even a year into his stay and Sam has already established his thriving business, 'Ministry of Coffee (MO C),' frequented by a cadre of hip young locals, consulate staff and far flung tourists. With an eye to develop more than just a local hang out, Sam has set himself on a path to expand beyond the frontiers of cafe life and into the vast world of wholesale.
Peering through the open shop front of the cafe one immediately sees the likeness of an alchemist's lab as opposed to a coffee shop with walls adorned with huge distillation systems and burning apparatuses, although still maintaining the coffeehouse fixture of a library of books on a floating mezzanine. Inside, past the service bar, are tables and chairs (with plenty of room between them), a roasting and packaging area at the rear and a large lounge room on the 2nd floor mezzanine. Vials of cold brew coffee line the rear cafe bar wall and seemingly delicious sweets and pastries are on display at the front. To any onlooker the building is a masterpiece of engineering and interior design and unsurprisingly attracts passers-by like moths to a flame.
Sam came to Istanbul about two and a half years ago after receiving an invitation from a friend to explore the coffee culture of the intercontinental city. After returning to the sunny beaches of Bondi, Sydney Sam decided to close up shop and export his knowledge and experience to his home country of Turkey. "I sold up everything. I sold up my businesses because I thought there was a challenge in Istanbul," Sam told Daily Sabah. Undoubtedly Sam has something to offer, with around 30 years of experience in the coffee industry, living and working in a world renowned coffee lover's city. When asked why he chose Istanbul Sam said, "Because it's [Turkey] my own country. I have done everything in Sydney that I could."After four months of construction and wading through forests of red tape MO C became a reality for Sam. Officially in business since April 23, MO C hit the scene in stride even with the absence of a strategic marketing plan. "We didn't market anything," Sam said, adding that customers just came in, took photos and posted them on social media; it simply grew from there. "A lot of people who come here are bloggers. One girl [a very popular blogger] took a couple of pictures of our cold brews, the next day it had 500 likes with people asking 'where is this place?' " The only marketing tool MO C had before its official opening was a Facebook page - and even now, more than 2 months into business they are only just finalizing their official website.It is easy to see that Sam is letting his product speak for itself; an impression which is accentuated by his deep knowledge.
Sam was a national judge for various international coffee competitions until 2009 and was the chairperson for the Australian Barista Guild from 2007 to 2009. One staff member from MO C has already participated in the Turkish barista championships and Sam is intending on encouraging more to participate. "I am hoping to get a few [more] of my baristas in the next championships," he said, adding that he wants "to take Turkey to the next level in terms of coffee competition. I could further their coffee careers in terms of training." Sam is also a Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE) accredited trainer and is about to launch SCAE accredited barista courses in the next couple of weeks. He said there will also be workshops for home coffee makers.Needless to say, Sam has been a busy boy. Apart from operating all his own roasting, packaging and trainings onsite, he also wholesales coffee to around ten cafes and restaurants in Istanbul, one of which is the Ortunc resort on Cunda. Sam revealed that he was interested in expanding this side of the business by establishing a factory offsite to ensure his wholesale business didn't negatively impact the intimate nature of his customer service.
Undeniably, customers have been drawn to the product and experience of a quality shot-coffee culture, but it is the combination of a saleable wholesale product which has also drawn attention to Sam's operation. "Too many people are waiting to franchise us. Too many foreigners, but we have to keep the reins on and do it properly," Sam said, adding, "In 12 months we want to have two or three more MO Cs." When asked how this expansion might unfold in the future, Sam said, "I don't have a five or 10 year plan," but even with Sam's balanced approach to business development he claims he has still received the rancor of his competitors. "My customers have drunk their coffee and they know where the better coffee is."When asked about his hobbies and interests Sam confessed to being a dog lover and motorbike junkie. "I am a motorbike freak, a car freak and a coffee freak, so a combination of the three would be perfect." The host popular MO C coffee is the Australian cappuccino but they still sell a massive amount of cold brews. Sam's favorite coffees are the double shot piccolo or double shot ristretto.