ISTANBUL: The filter coffee at Güten Morgen is fine, hitting spots like a superlative example of Istanbul’s daytime culture when it comes to the roasting of imported beans. In the bijou room, furnished with not more than four tables and a counter overlooking a sleepy tree-lined street, its young and friendly baristas offer a sleek alignment of that precious global commodity hailing from Latin America to East Africa. Its scents are reminiscent of the Ethiopian origin story of coffee, said to have been discovered by a goat’s curious munching on the red berries of the plant.
And such tales are woven aplenty at Güten Morgen, the kind of cafe where so many tongues rattle off insights and anecdotes into their private lives and social concerns while sipping the hot, black drink, perhaps lightened with milk, passing time like migratory birds at a watering hole. Beyond the filtration of roasted, exotic beans, Güten Morgen excels at the espresso condensation of its substance into shots of stimulating power, natural, yet artificial in terms of process.
Handed over in ribbed glasses and porcelain mugs, and topped with swirls of foam, such afternoon accomplices like the cortado, or cappuccino, are well-paired with their sweet, baked goods. Among them are thick slices of cake, prepared with bananas or citrus fruits. And after a long morning, their savory sandwiches are nourishing, green, fresh, smeared with avocado and cheeses, packed into artisan bread. The place is practically an institution, modest in proportion to the host of cafes that line the bustling quarter.
Again, with pleasure
Güten Morgen is the kind of place where friends might meet, one traveling from Berlin, the other living in Istanbul. It’s the sort of spot where they might converse about what it’s like in Moldova, or Poland, sharing secrets on what to do at night in Kadıköy, or when to get away to the warmer climes of southern Turkey. With its German name, the cafe attracts a special blend of local foreigners, those whose anglophone stories are so often confined within the language barriers behind which they live and dream of breaking through.
With one of its tables situated squarely in the middle of the room, Güten Morgen is host to spirited meetings between new friends, whose conversations buzz with visions of their memories in the spirit of new relationships. An engineer from Washington, D.C., spoke with a mutual acquaintance who had traveled in from the deserts of California, and sitting with their father from Tehran they shared that quintessential, American sense of transnational identity, accentuated by their common differences.
With its liberal air and reticent hosts, Güten Morgen is a space to think. That’s why so many entrepreneurial creatives sit there for hours, so it seems, zoning out in front of their laptops with earbuds firmly in place, shutting themselves off from their surroundings while the person right next to them does the exact same thing. Sometimes they might open their eyes a bit wider, pick up their heads and notice the expression on a dog’s face as it passes in search of warmth.
To the last drop
On weekend afternoons, there are low stools where people from across the neighborhood chat and read, contemplate and draw while knocking back a few rounds of coffee at Güten Morgen, and almost crouching, relish in the localization of their social ecology. By virtue of its precedent as a traditional pastime, coffee drinking has defined much of work culture, but it simultaneously stands for a break from that grind, and whereas metaphors abound, its chemical reactions continue to inspire dreamers to infinity.
With a passing glance, it is possible to spot an old friend, someone who has recently enjoyed the attention of an exhibition for their artwork, while potential connections await, also, queuing up, not only for a refreshing spike of caffeine but also to be seen, and perchance heard, when the opportunity to talk, impromptu, might occur between two remote workers or between meetings. Güten Morgen has a progressive bent, it is an inclusive place, and a conscious ground for everyday solidarity within the normalcy of human life.
While in English and German, the expression for greeting someone in the morning is quite the same, the Turkish is, literally a slight variation. “Günaydın” means “bright day,” word for word, which is more similar to the Arabic equivalent. And all of these languages do commingle at Güten Morgen, sometimes even through one person, who, while sipping on their coffee, might appear, as innocent as a sleeping cat in their lonely silence, until they say “good morning.”
That multilingual patron of Güten Morgen might go on to recount their life story, surviving the move across the planet, remembering every moment of tragic urgency and dramatic absurdity, all in the duration of drinking a single cup. And just when they’ve landed on what sounds like the end of their narrative, they’re likely to raise their arm, and ask for another splash of coffee to loosen their mind and sharpen their concentration as they return to the place in their minds, transported by the effect of the drink in their hands.