Kanat Kutluk, a former executive at a chemical company, talks about his own Turkish coffee shop and his passion to spread the word about Turkey.
Sweetness on the side with java Turkish style
Kanat Kutluk, a former regional manager of the US chemical company Ecolab, opened his Dubai-based Turkish coffee shop, Selamlique Istanbul, in March. Mr Kutluk, 39, who is also studying for an executive MBA, talks about his passion to represent Turkey and its coffee.
You worked for Ecolab for 14 years. Why did you leave in February?
I was thinking of doing something on my own along with my Emirati friend Mansoor Al Bastaki. The idea [for the cafe] came from not being able to find good quality Turkish coffee.
Why choose the Selamlique brand, which was launched in Turkey only three years ago?
There are old coffee shops in Turkey but Selamlique has no real competition. It wanted to be a worldwide brand with an elegant look with side ingredients like silver spoons, gift items and coffee cups. It imports Arabica beans from Brazil, and has a small factory in Izmir, Turkey, which is also where I come from.
What are your plans for Selamlique?
We started supplying Selamlique coffee to hotels and by the time we opened the retail store, we were supplying to 10 hotels in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Our first customer was Jumeirah Zabeel Saray. Then we moved to other Jumeirah hotels, Ritz-Carlton, Sofitel, Anantara Eastern Mangroves in Abu Dhabi, Rocco Forte and Etihad Towers. We plan to open a store in a hotel in Abu Dhabi by the end of this year and, by the first quarter of 2014, a store in Qatar. We are also in talks to open a store in Bahrain.
How much did you invest in the store?
We invested US$200,000 in decorations and materials alone. It's in a stand-alone villa, and everything from the floor tiles to carpets and furniture are from Turkey. A 20cm by 20cm tile with Ottoman-era designs weighs three kilograms, and for a 50-square metre space we shipped in two tonnes of tiles. It also has a small bookstore.
What differentiates you from other Turkish coffee shops in town?
Before we had only traditional Turkish coffee, which is widely taken, sometimes with cardamom. We added four flavours: cinnamon, chocolate, dark roast double blend and mastic, which is a gum that comes from trees in Greece and Turkey. The store also has Turkish delight, some with gold crust and other delicacies such as almonds covered with chocolate. Turkish coffee is traditionally taken without sugar but we have Turkish delight on the side to balance out the bitterness and a glass of water. When we started supplying to hotels, we trained the staff, who were from, say, China, Nepal and India, in the methodology on how the coffee is [prepared] and served. The foam of the coffee after boiling it for three to five minutes, for instance, is the most important part of coffee. In three months, we will introduce decaf Turkish coffee.