Los Turcos III: Guatemala

The Syrian, Lebanese and other former Ottoman subjects, who came from the Mediterranean basin to live in Latin America a century ago, are surprisingly called “Los Turcos” (Turks) around the continent. In recent years, new curious generations from Turkey have been joining them to explore the continent. Orkun Çetin, who is one of them, tells us about his coffee venture in Guatemala.

“Unfortunately, the Turkish coffee sold in supermarkets today is not at the desired standards. The reason is the “double roasting” method we use. In our country, we endanger our health by roasting bad Brazilian coffee until the degree of burning.”

You have a professional interest both in music and cooking? How has it all evolved?
I have always wanted to be a cook from an early age, so I went to Mengen Culinary High School, the only cooking high school at the time. After high school, I gained work experience in the leading restaurants in Istanbul, but it did not make me happy and I went to the USA. I stayed there for three years. Meanwhile, I have developed an interest in music and set up a small studio. When I was back in Istanbul, I founded a home-studio. I received electronic music training at Galatasaray ITM. I created many mixes, but I had to disband the studio due to various problems in the end.

How did the idea of coming to Latin America drop in your mind?

As a child, I had the dream of traveling around the world and Latin America always sounded better than Europe. My adventure in Latin America started in Guatemala due to my interest in coffee.

Which countries of the continent have you seen so far?
I have spent nine months in Brazil and Uruguay. I also visited Panama and Colombia. Guatemala is the country where I’ve been living now.yı da ziyaret ettim. En uzun süre kaldığım ve hala yaşadığım ülke ise Guatemala.


How would you summarize the Latin American “mood”?
Although the variation among Latin American countries is a lot, one common feature is that people are warm and understanding. Although there are major problems in almost all countries of the continent, Latin Americans do not compromise on happiness. Living a happy life, whatever the circumstances are, is like a cultural habit. They protect their local music, dances, and food. In general, we can say that people are generally keen on their traditions.

Guatemala is one of those Latin American countries that not much is known about. Can you tell a little bit about your experience there?
When Guatemala is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is civil war. There is a perception that “Guatemala is dangerous.” But on the contrary, it is a country far from all this. Despite being one of the cheapest countries in the continent, people are usually respectful of general rules and laws. There are certain dangerous districts and neighborhoods in Guatemala, just like in other countries. The capital Guatemala City is a bit more troubled, but you can live in other cities and towns without feeling uneasy. In Guatemala coffee, cocoa, and sugar cane are primary products. Women work more than men, and family ties are very strong. They are quite sensitive about eating together around a table as a family, especially at lunchtime.


What have you learned about coffee that you didn’t know before?
The first thing I learned was that almost all I have learned about coffee was wrong. In Turkey, we have been taught that the coffee gets more delicious when it is roasted more, and that bitter coffee is the best. These are two primary qualities that people are searching for in Turkish coffee, though they actually have nothing to do with good coffee. Although we have a world-famous coffee cooking method, we have not been able to achieve the required level of quality in the coffee industry.

How do we recognize good coffee?
Those who would like to drink good coffee should go to places where coffee is freshly roasted. If roasted coffee does not have a matte color and shines, it means it is too much or wrongly roasted and should not be consumed. The aroma you get from the coffee gets deeper when you brew it. At this point, the proficiency of the person brewing the coffee is important.

Is it true that Turkish coffee is made from the world’s worst beans?
Unfortunately, the Turkish coffee sold in supermarkets today is not at the desired standards. The reason is the “double roasting” method we use. In our country, we endanger our health by roasting bad Brazilian coffee until the degree of burning. When the coffee bean is roasted too much, it loses its oil and aroma. The profile of the coffee beans is also very important. The problem is that we are not using good quality beans in production Turkish coffee. The most delicious coffee I have tasted so far had been cooked in a coffee pot in Guatemala, in a city called Huehuetenango. In our country, few places properly roast and cook Turkish coffee. Coffee Manifesto and Kronotrop are leading the way at this new approach.

What do you miss most about Turkey?
What I miss most is the food. Although Latin American cuisines are rich, people cannot give up food habits where they are born and raised.

Three things you love about Guatemala?
Maya culture, coffee, the similarity of family ties to our country.

What is next?
In February, we are in the final weeks of the coffee harvest in Guatemala. This is the peak of the harvest that lasts for about 4-5 months, and the best beans are collected during this period. In the meantime, we have been doing our best to improve the Turkish coffee industry and initiated a new venture called Lomica Coffee Trading for green coffee trade. Lomica aims to provide specialty coffee to coffee lovers. Both businesses and individuals can supply coffee from us in bulks. If you happen to visit the city of Antigua in Guatemala, we can host you in Lomica Coffee & Bar from March, where you could enjoy coffee with Turkish desserts.

To follow the new venture of Orkun Çetin on Instagram: @lomicacoffee ve @lomicacoffeebar

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