From green beans to the cup, the historic coffee of Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi has become a staple of Turkish culture for its delicious flavor
The unmistakable aroma of freshly-roasted coffee beans greets you as you step into a Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi shop in Turkey. Recognized by the rose gold packaging of the coffee and the widely-recognized logo of a man sipping Turkish coffee, Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi has become a staple in every Turkish home. Follow the scent of the delicious coffee into the depths of its history.
Coffee has only been a part of Turkish culture since 1543 when Özdemir Pasha, who was the Ottoman governor of Yemen, introduced it to the palace. Özdemir Pasha, who had grown to love the drink while stationed in Yemen, thought that it was exactly what Turkish culture was missing. The habit of drinking coffee became very popular in the palaces - so much so that Chief Coffee Maker was added to the list of palace positions.
Coffee, along with its traditions, soon began to spread from palaces to grand mansions and eventually from there to the public. The Turkish public came to know and love coffee through the establishment of coffee houses (kıraathane). The first coffee house opened in 1554 shortly after the introduction of coffee in Tahtakale, and other coffee houses started popping up all around the city. The coffee houses were not only places where one could drink coffee, but more social places where people came to read books, play games like chess and backgammon and of course, discuss politics, poetry and literature. The tasty and unique drink soon became the staple of almost every home not only in Istanbul, but throughout Turkey.
At first, pre-roasted beans were not available, so people purchased coffee beans while they were still green and roasted them at home in pans. The roasted beans were then ground using hand-operated coffee mills, which did not give the coffee the fine grain it needed, but still did the job. The ground beans were then boiled in copper coffeepots known as "cezve," which are still used today. However, the mass consumption of Turkish coffee started with Mehmet Efendi.
Mehmet Efendi was born in 1857 in Fatih Istanbul where his father owned a spice and green coffee shop on Tahmis Street, which he would later take over in 1871. Once he took over running the shop, Mehmet Efendi started roasting raw coffee beans, grinding them into a fine powder, and selling the conveniently ready ground coffee to his customers. Tahmis Street was surrounded with the sweet aroma of freshly-roasted coffee. Mehmet Efendi offered to his customers the convenience of pre-roasted and finely-ground coffee.
After Mehmet Efendi's death in 1931, the business passed to his three sons: Hasan Selahattin Bey, Hulusi Bey and Ahmet Rıza Bey, who made the decision to formally take the last name "Kurukahveci," meaning seller of roasted or ground coffee. His sons loved the business as much as their father, and realized the potential market for their coffee and made groundbreaking innovations for their brand. Hulusi Bey had Zühtü Başar, who was one of the prominent architects of the period, design an Art Deco headquarters for the company on Tahmis Street. The amazing structure remains the company's headquarters today, but they have now also branched out to other locations, including their famous shop on İstiklal Avenue. The company started packaging their coffee in parchment paper to distribute to stores and shops all around Istanbul via automobile, which was a big deal at that time.
After the death of Hulusi Bey, the shop passed to Ahmet Rıza Kurukahveci, who was the youngest son of Mehmet Efendi. Ahmet Bey was up-to-date with global trends and took the necessary steps to modernize the company by investing in advertisement. İhap Hulusi Bey, who was a prominent graphic designer of his time, designed a logo for the company in 1933. That logo is still used on Mehmet Efendi coffee packages today.
Today, the grandchildren of Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi run the business their grandfather planted the seeds of nearly a century ago. They have since upgraded their technology and Mehmet Efendi coffee beans are now processed using the latest machinery. With hard work and perseverance, they have turned the little shop on Tahmis Street into a global brand.
How to make Turkish coffee
3 Turkish coffee cups cold filtered water (3 servings)
2 heaped tablespoons of Turkish coffee (ground)
Sugar – as desired
Place the sugar (if desired), water and Turkish coffee in the Turkish coffee pot (cezve).
Using a small spoon, stir briefly and place pot on stovetop.
Slowly bring coffee mixture to a boil over medium heat. This will take 3-4 minutes, so keep a close watch.
As the coffee warms, you will see a dark foam building up. As it draws near to boiling, use a teaspoon to transfer some of the foam into each of your two Turkish coffee cups. Return the coffee pot to the stovetop.
As the coffee comes to a boil, pour half of the coffee into the cups, over the foam.
Return the coffee pot to the stovetop and boil the remaining coffee for an additional 15-20 seconds, then pour the rest into the coffee cups up to the rim.