- What’s On
Although coffee was already widely consumed in the Ottoman Empire, it was not until the 16th century that it was served and sold in places specifically dedicated to the beverage. In 1544, two Arab entrepreneurs opened establishments beside the Golden Horn, in the district of Tahtakale (still the home of Kurukahveci Mehmed Efendi, Turkey’s most famous coffee producer). In an area notorious for its taverns, they began to sell coffee instead of wine. In a very short time, coffeehouses became Istanbul’s favourite secular meeting places. Games such as backgammon and chess may have been popular there, and books and poems were recited, but the coffeehouse was primarily a place for conversation. Merchants ensured that the fashion quickly spread across the empire and eventually to Europe.
As Prof Mehmet Kalpaklı, chair of the departments of history and of Turkish literature at Bilkent University, explains, the coffee-houses that opened in Vienna and Venice, Paris and London were modelled on those of Istanbul.
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