Papirüs Café and the Alley of Tea and Coffee
It was another one of those moments. The map said go right, and I figured that going left – a lane we hadn’t yet taken – would likely take us back onto our chosen path in a few blocks but take us past something we hadn’t seen. So off we went down a narrow and gently curving back alley. We came to a coffee shop in a small courtyard building. The waiter came to us to take an order or find us a table, “Buyrun,” he said. A Turkish sort of May I help you. I told him we were only looking, an odd sort of thing I think in many cultures, this noncommittal, ambivalent attitude that leaves hosts a little unsure what to do with us. Looking at what? To what end? Wouldn’t you prefer to drink tea or something? Feeling the need to say something before turning and leaving, I asked what time they closed. Midnight, apparently.
We ducked back down the alley and ten steps later was another café. And another across the alley. Gradually the whole passage opened up to a veritable coffee and tea garden colony. At the next T-intersection a bookstore, also serving tea, opened out onto the lane. Any one of these places would have been lovely for a chat, some tea, or a good book, but we just happened to stop in front of Papirüs Café as two English-speaking travelers came out, and like us, turned to snap a photo of the doorway. One woman told me, “You have to see this place. Don’t miss the upstairs. They are restoring it and it is nice to see what it looks like before the work.”
Fair enough. Inside was a large courtyard two-thirds shaded by a heavy covering of grape vines crisscrossing on wires strung from the second-floor walkway-balcony. The host sat us at a small table and we ordered tea and watched others chat or play tavla (backgammon) and chess. According to the host, this 1884 building was once an Armenian konak or mansion. The founder of the modern republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk stayed one night here back in 1918 as World War I drew to an end and the war for Turkish independence began.
He brought us a second round of teas which were bright yellow in color and we weren’t able to agree on the translation. (Later I emailed Turkish food writer Aylin Öney and she informed me: “It is a tisane of wild thyme called zahter. It greatly aids digestion and a strong antiseptic. Good after a feast of kebabs.” We paid our bill and the man insisted we go upstairs and check out the rooms being restored. We spent as much time in there as we had sipping tea. Let the photos speak for themselves…
Where Is This Place?
At the alley entrance off of Atatürk Bulvarı, look for a sign above that reads Kayacık Kapası. One of the other entrances to this alleyway is to the right of Yunus Hotel where we stayed.
Enjoy more posts from Southeastern Turkey! Click here for the Gaziantep trip.
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