From Boza to Bourbon: Norm Coffee

In Yabangee's newest column, each week Cameron Loftus seeks out a new place to drink. Not restricted to alcohol, his quest is as much about the people of Istanbul and the stories they tell as what they sip while telling them. First up, coffee at Cihangir's Norm Coffee.

Norm Coffee is the brainchild of Cem Bozkuş and Gizem Yavuz, who met while working at Cihangir’s hip Kronotrop. Cem, who studied physics in university, brings the science of making a perfect espresso to the neighborhood, while Gizem, a marketing graduate, does all the in-house baking and instagramming. When I asked the duo why this street, why this neighborhood, and why coffee? Cem said he always knew that he’d open a coffee shop; when he mentioned the idea to Gizem, they thought, Why not? As for the location and the street, it was a neighborhood that needed a premiere coffee shop, and as Gizem mentions, not many people get a Bosphorus view from their espresso machine every day.

Like the space, the menu is simple and bright; it offers fresh sandwiches and toasts made by Gizem, along with with specialty coffee and a rotating stock of freshly baked items. “We don’t have a constant menu,” Cem says. “People wonder what Gizem has baked and how the coffee beans have changed.” It’s this always-fresh, always-unexpected approach that keeps a regular crowd coming back to Norm; on any given day, you never know what cookie will be waiting for you or what bean your espresso will be made from. What you can be sure of though, is that your espresso, Cem’s favorite item on the menu, will be expertly made.

“We brew it differently,” he says. “Even with the most acidic of coffee beans you get the sweetness and buttery flavors of the beans here.” A properly pulled espresso at Norm never takes anything less than a minute, a notably lengthier time than most espressos in town, and the length of the pull along with the extra fine grind of the beans are what give Norm’s espresso the natural sweetness that occurs without additional sweeteners. This no nonsense approach to making excellent coffee is replicated throughout their menu. Norm doesn’t use any additives or syrups, only uses whole milk, and makes their own almond milk. They also only use specialty and, more importantly, traceable beans from the Americas and Africa. These are roasted locally by Kronotrop and Probador Colectiva and delivered on a weekly basis.

The absence of Turkish tea on the menu is, as Gizem explains, because, ”There are so many places that brew it better than we do. We offer tea, but it’s specialty tea from China.” It is this emphasis on specialty that is at their core. They aren’t going to change Norm to fit culinary trends or fads if it doesn’t fit their simple model of quality ingredients with minimal interference; they excel at what they are good at – which is quality coffee and engaging customer service.

It is this emphasis on customer service that, coupled with Norm’s ability to create delicious coffee in its most essential form, sets them apart from your average coffee shop. In the busy streets that comprise Istanbul, Gizem and Cem love to take the time to share their knowledge about coffee, sourcing, and slow food. When I ask what they hope to teach people about coffee at Norm, Cem starts with the basics, “If they know that instant coffee is not a coffee bean, but just a particle of real coffee, that is enough for us.”

When it comes to future plans and the coming one-year anniversary (in May), Cem and Gizem plan to keep it simple and continue what they are doing. A new food menu is currently in the works, with more spring flavors. Gizem says we can expect to see more plants. “2016,” Cem adds, “is the year of the plants”.

What you can also expect from Norm – as the name suggests – is more of the same: rotating coffee beans and baked goods, smiles from behind the counter, and consistently great coffee. For Cem and Gizem, it is all about embracing the unexpected in the familiar.

Open: Tuesday–Friday (08:00–19:00) and Saturday–Sunday (10:30 – 20:00). Closed Mondays. Norm Coffee are on Facebook and Instagram, and at www.normcoffee.com, where you can check out the current playlist.

All photos by Svetlana Nekrasova.

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Cameron Loftus

Cameron Loftus is a former cook who left his job to eat and write. He is searching the world over for the best chai latte and is always looking for the next best pizza. He loves to read, write, and wander the streets of Istanbul looking for a new favorite place to eat and drink. Follow his blog: www.theeuroad.com for more musings on food, drinks, and life.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I went to Norm and it wasn’t great. Considering the number of coffee shops that are opening every day with the same design etc, it’s really average. Within the Cihangir region I think Kronotrop is a better option. In Istanbul I’d say try Petra Coffee is probably the best place to have any kind of coffee. Definitely check it out if you haven’t yet.

  2. Four Grain is made from a mash bill comprised of oat, malted barley, rye and wheat, so while most of Koval s whiskies are a practice in highlighting single grains, this stands out as a decidedly different approach.

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