Right before the end of 2014 I was able to visit the first annual Istanbul Coffee Festival. Visiting the festival actually requires a bit of planning, there are two 4 hour windows every day for not-professional visitors. Even though drink coffee like a true professional, that doesn't count and you will have to plan your visit in these two daily windows. Once you manage to visit however, the world of coffee is at your feet.
On the entry level, around a dozen coffee companies have stands where they serve you their very best products. Besides the usual suspects, like Starbucks and Caffe Nero, you can find some of the more obscure but high quality Istanbul coffee shops here. Most of the coffees here are free, and you can learn about the different shops and brewing techniques while enjoying multiple (five for me personally) coffees.
Once you make it to the second floor and you are still able to keep yourself from bouncing around the room after drinking this much coffee, you can taste some of the different snacks you can have with coffee. These snacks range from Fair Trade chocolate to cookies to different types of cake. If you are interested, you can ask about the origin of the different snacks here, and it gives you an opportunity to process the caffeine from the first floor.
On the third floor, the festival turns into somewhat of an exhibition. They show some coffee art and a video about the production process. This video was actually one of my favorite parts, because I never knew how exactly the process from tree to cup worked. Besides this art there are some smaller shops where you can buy small things, and one stand that sells old LP's. The prices here are a little bit high, but the quality is high.
On the fourth and final floor, there are coffee brewing workshops and a restaurant/bar, where you can enjoying some more coffee and some more snacks, while watching people get taught how to make coffee. Of course, you can try for yourself, but keep in mind that everyone will be able to see that your cappuccino art is so much worse than the professional's!
Overall it is a fun little festival, worthy of a day visit. The four hour window gives you enough time to cover everything, you won't feel rushed. You can really learn quite a bit about coffee, since the baristas are generally very passionate and knowledgeable about their profession. The festival ran from the 25th until the 28th of December, and tickets were around 25 TL. If you want to visit next year, make sure you go early, since the line can be pretty significant. Enjoy your coffee!
Photo Credits: Jeff Kubina