It takes less than five seconds in Safranbolu to realise why this place was given UNESCO World Heritage status. In fact the old town was so wonderful to walk around that we didn’t even make it to the new town, even to look for coffee or tea.
Our first stop off in Asian Turkey (unless you count the bit of Istanbul just over the Bosphorus) and we decided it was time to try our first Turkish coffee.
There surely can’t be many better places for an initiation into Turkish coffee than Arasta Boncuk Kahvesi, a coffee shop in old Safranbolu that claims to have been around since 1661, though that might have been the building rather than the coffee shop, as lots seems to have gone up in this town round that time.
They take great pride in their coffee here, and seemed to appreciate someone actually ordering a cup rather than being in some tour group being shown the place but not stopping to partake.
They brew the coffee over hot coals in from of you. It’s done in one of those copper containers with a long handle and the coffee kind of merges with the water as it comes to the boil.
They then pour the coffee into lovely little decorated coffee cups and present it on a silver platter, along with glass of water and a glass of grape juice.
This is where the initiation came in. The manager very kindly came over and told us what order to drink: 1-2-3; water, coffee, grape juice.
Mrs Cuppa chose to do it in one gulp each; I chose the one sip at a time, making it about six cycles of the 1-2-3. Who know which is correct; we both enjoyed the experience.
And top tip for Turkish coffee is to let it settle a while before drinking, and definitely not to knock it all back, because then you get all the gloopy black mush that everyone associates with Turkish coffee.
A delightful start to our day in Safranbolu. And a fantastic setting, either out in the courtyard, with a vine as ceiling and tables to look out at passers-by, or inside in the elegant room (where I gather they have live music most nights).
What I liked about Safranbolu is that they really make the most of their key local product. You find saffron in everything, from soup to soap via Turkish Delight or lokum.
And the local speciality drink is of course Saffron Tea. The saffron turns the tea a slightly yellow or green colour, and there are bits of saffron floating around in it, but this is basically the same black tea as you find everywhere else in Turkey.
It is delicious and there were lots of venues round Safranbolu serving up Safran Cay. We don’t have any particular spot to recommend, but we had a couple of glasses of the stuff through the afternoon.
What we did finally find was a place serving up Turkish Delight with the tea. They tried to force their home-made baklava on us as well, and normally we’d have leapt at the chance, having struggled to find that combination in Istanbul, but even for us there can be a limit to the sweet stuff we can consume.
And we had already had saffron tea with baklava earlier in the morning!
And the saffron Turkish Delight was one pleasure we ate an awful lot of, walking away from town with a massive box full, of which we are only half way through some 3-4 days later.
Just two more observations on coffee and tea in Safranbolu:
– If you’re desperate for a European or American-style cappuccino, they do a decent cuppa at the old caravanserai, which has now been restored into the Cinci Han hotel. And it’s a fabulous place to sit and have a coffee, imagining yourself sitting with the silk and spice traders hundreds of years ago.
– It’s also amazing how widespread Nescafé is round here as the ‘western’ alternative to Turkish coffee. I can’t imagine this menu appearing on any café wall in the UK these days, even if they did Nespresso!