My interview with Ozan (Ozzy) Emre Yerlikaya for Melanie Winter of Coffee Magazine was such a fun one to do. I have such admiration for his passion, work ethic and desire to please all he meets with his true Turkish hospitality, part of which involves coffee making. This is a look at five of the wildest places to drink coffee, and the work he does at Travel Designer and with his Cape Town Legends.
Five of the Wildest Places to Drink Coffee
1. The world is your oyster
Being based in Cape Town with the ocean and mountains as my playground, I love nothing more than finding the perfect vantage point, parking my beloved Landover defender with its mobile brewing bar, laying down a Turkish carpet and setting up some Melvill and Moon safari furniture. While my guests relax into the scenery I go to work making them my coffee.
My setup includes an alternative Thule box that is attached to my tow bar and holds the coffee making equipment in a specially crafted wooden case. I grind the select African beans with my pre-charged electric drill, always causing a laugh, before brewing it and serving it steaming hot in specially designed glasses so that the colour and flavour can be equally appreciated.
The whole idea of being able to make quality coffee whenever and wherever I want to and sharing it with friends and clients gives a great sense of freedom. Seeing the delight and appreciation in their eyes when I surprise them with this kind of coffee tasting experience on the side of the road or next to the ocean, is immensely satisfying.
It’s in my nature to look after people. Serving them good coffee is one of the ways I do so.
2. The Sacred Cup
One of the most amazing places I have ever made coffee was at the Deyrulzafaran monastery in Mardin. Set in southeastern Turkey, Mardin is known for the Artuqid architecture of its old city, and was a strategic trading spot on the silk route many years ago. Built in 493 AD for Syriac Orthodox Christians, the monastery is also known as Mor Hananyo or Saffron monastery and was the patriarch seat for the church until 1932. It is an incredibly spiritual place to visit.
Here the father of the monastery allowed me to show them how to make coffee with alternative brewing technics. The opportunity was part of a 3 months travel experience in my own country a couple of years ago. I made a list of the places I had never been to in Turkey and travelled nonstop like a backpacker. I carried my alternative brewing bar concept “Just in Case” and always set it up where I could meet the local people and make them free coffee in exchange for a chat. I must have met 100’s of people this way, while collecting amazing memories.
The coffee beans I was serving were African and from Cape Town’s Origin Coffee Shop, but I also tried traditional coffee beans for making Turkish coffee, using a simple aero press and blending my coffee with their coffee. The result was exceptional. This was another way for me to focus on experimental travel that allowed me to meet people, coffee being the bond that brought us together.
3. Coffee is Art
On a personal level, back home in Cape Town, being able to make coffee for renowned artist Lionel Smit in his Strand studio, surrounded by his massive sculptures, meeting him and learning about his incredible work, was a treasured moment for me.
While I set up my coffee station and went about brewing and making him coffee, my passion and chosen art form, we talked about his life, the inspiration for his work and how growing up with artist parents defined his destiny. Sensing the curiosity of a well-known artist in my coffee making brought me true happiness and I could feel us connecting on a deeper level as a friendship was formed.
Lionel Smit is considered one of South Africa’s most talented artists and is best known for his contemporary portraits that he creates on canvas, as well as his evocative series of sculptures with their shades of blue and bronze, touches of red and grey, each face he works on revered for its unique beauty and characteristics. I love visiting with him.
4. Of Mountains and Men
In the beginning of the year I was approached by local tour operator Rhino Africa to design a four-day itinerary for European travel journalists that would be visiting, and writing about, Cape Town. On one of the days, the focus was specifically on experiencing the city with locals. Picking them up from Ellerman House, they were accompanied by one of my Cape Town legends Doug and his dog Stout. We proceeded to hike to Wally’s Cave on Lions Head, a rather unknown and treasured spot on the landmark mountain that visitors need to be guided to.
Here we were met by 2012 and 2016 Barista Champion of South Africa Wayne Oberholzer for a coffee tasting and in-depth lesson in the history, value and appreciation of coffee. Settled in the ancient cave, with a view of the city below, it was an exceptional moment for me, and for those, I was hosting.
From here we headed to the Oranjezicht organic market for breakfast before joining Master Chef SA Jade De Waal at her home for coffee with famed cartoonist Zapiro, and a casual lunch by Jade. It truly was a day to remember.
5. Coffee in the presence of Greatness
In all my years I never imagined that I would make coffee in the company of 15 elephants in the middle of the African bush, but that is exactly what happened when I travelled to Zimbabwe and Zambia earlier this year to visit some African Bush Camps.
I always carry my “just in case” mobile alternative coffee brewing bar with me and this time the focus was on demonstrating that you may be in the middle of nowhere, but that does not mean a compromise in the quality of your coffee when you stop for a break. All it takes is a hand grinder, an Aeropress station and the will to do things right, and you have it.
My coffee date with the elephants came about when I was set up next to a watering hole at one of the camps, facing the guests and talking them through my passion for this black liquid gold. As I was serving them, the elephants approached quietly from behind for a drink of water. I never even knew they were there at first, until one of the guests whispered that I should turn around.
My heart was beating at the privilege that just two meters away from me were these majestic gentle giants. They may have been there for the water and not for my coffee, but for me it was a moment that marked my love for coffee making in the wild, and of course for all things Africa.
How did you end up in Cape Town, South Africa?
Born in Istanbul Turkey, I started working and travelling as a scuba diving instructor, spending time at many of the top dive sites in Turkey, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. While I was living on a beautiful tropical island in Malaysia, I was offered a job at a Johannesburg based Turkish travel agency. Giving up island life and the ocean for an office job in a large metropolis did not really appeal to me, but I wanted to use the opportunity to come to South Africa. The transition was a huge culture and emotional shock to me and I struggled to settle at first.
I thanked them for the opportunity and left with the intention of returning to Malaysia, but decided to do a three-month trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town, including Swaziland and Mozambique, travelling up as far as to Tofo, before leaving. At the time I did not know that this decision would change my life. When I’d finished the trip that had led me to meet hundreds of people and fall in love with the Southern African landscape, I arrived in Cape Town.
It was the first time I’d been truly wowed by a city and it made me instantly want to live here. I cancelled my flight back to the Malaysian island and resumed work in Johannesburg, knowing that in time Cape Town would become my home. In 2009 I was able to make that dream come true and settled in the Mother City. Three years later, motivated by a burning desire to offer the very best travel experiences I could, Travel Designer was formed.
Travel Designer is a pretty ambitious way of conducting tours, tell us what inspired you to start this business and what exactly people can expect?
Travel Designer is a human-inspired travel concept that was born when the people living in Cape Town who have become my best friends, encouraged me to turn this lifestyle of mine into a business. I love meeting people. It is something I have to do daily. If I can’t meet a new person every day I literally cannot sleep.
I realised that when I travel I prefer to sit in a coffee shop in a small town run by the person who knows everybody in town, having long conversations with them and finding out the daily routines of the residents there, rather than visiting a museum or famous tourist attraction. That is how I choose to travel, surrounding myself with new and interesting people to meet, and I wanted to offer this style of travel to others.
Travel designer is a personal transformative travel concept based on the that. I think coming to Cape Town, having the best meals at the best restaurants, visiting the best coffee shops, wine estates and beautiful areas and meeting only your tour guide and waiter, is not cool. You need to meet the barista who makes your tasty Americano. Don’t be shy to say hello, go to the counter and open a conversation with him. Meet him, and the chef who prepares the amazing meal you just had. It will make your time here.
I believe in the quote by Pittacus Lore: “A place is only as good as the people you know in it. It’s the people that make the place”. That’s why I created the ‘Cape Town Legends’ series in the beginning of 2017, which allows you to not only experience Cape Town like a local, but also with a local, ensuring an in-depth exploration of the Mother City.
We have got amazing people on our list of legends and when I’m asked to design a holiday my guests can prepare for a somewhat unusual itinerary. They must know that they will meet a lot of people and gain a better understanding of the heart of Cape Town. They must also be aware that there could be a spontaneous experience added at any time, they might even end up going to a friend of mine’s dress up house party or meeting part of my family.
Who are your favourite Legends to visit?
It is hard to pick a favourite as I love all of my legends, but these are most popular. Meeting famous cartoonist Zapiro in his studio for a political conversation while I make coffee with freshly ground African beans, or high tea with former Miss South Africa Amy Kleinhans in Franschhoek and listening to her amazing story and the memories she has of her relationship with the late Nelson Mandela.
An exclusive dinner at Ree Treweek’s home, a sculptor, painter, illustrator, animator and director, you will feel like you’ve been allowed access to a small sculptor museum as you listen to how she creates her parallel worlds, all the while young chef Johnny Hamman prepares the meal. The experience includes a screening of Ree’s animated works and some behind the scenes insight. Watching the whole process unfold in an artist’s home is very special and an opportunity not allowed many.
Spend time with female car collector Michelle Hambly-Grobler, who has an unrivalled knowledge and enthusiasm for cars. We meet her at Cape Town’s Crossley Webb showroom for coffee as she talks about her impressive collection of high-end cars, specifically Porsche. Walking in to the restoration warehouse to catch a glimpse of the skeletons of these vehicles, visiting engine rooms, learning about the origin of her interest and ultimately taking a ride with one of Michele’s cars, always blows people’s minds.
Street art is clouded with mystery and the prospect of meeting a famous graffiti artist is almost unheard of. Yet we bring you Mak1one, who will walk you through the streets and point out some of his work, and that by others expressing themselves through this medium. You will even have an opportunity to paint on the walls with him, leaving your own mark.
Then, of course, there must be coffee. I arrange for my guests to meet South African barista champions Wayne and Winston with the idea of turning a basic coffee break into a complete coffee appreciation session for travellers.
You have an amazing travelling coffee kit, tell us all the details.
I created my mobile alternative coffee brewing kit or bar a couple of years ago and called it “Just in Case”. The reason for the name is that I carry everything I need to make a quality coffee just in case we need one, whenever or wherever that may be. I travelled with my “Just in Case” set and end up serving quality coffee with African beans at impromptu moments all the time. I serve my coffee in stylish wine glasses; I love the feeling of those wine glasses and drinking my coffee out of it.
I have set up in the meeting rooms of big companies and at relaxed picnics with friends. Everything is crafted in wood. I dress up too with wooden sunglasses, a wooden bowtie, wooden designer watch, wooden ring, wooden earrings and an imprinted leather apron.
My coffee has come to break down boundaries; invite open conversation and these moments create a level playing field where the common denominator is passion and a love for coffee, whatever the mix. It has created endless opportunities to make other people feel special, and in turn, for me to connect with the world and make new friends and loyal client.
What do you think it is about coffee that inspires and brings people together?
Coffee in the morning; coffee and a catch up with old friends; going for coffee with your new hot date – we drink coffee with family, business associates and lovers. You only have to walk down the nearest high street to see the number of coffee chains to realise the extent of our love affair with this delicious caffeinated beverage. Whether you prefer espresso, Americanos, lattes or cappuccinos; iced, decaf, instant or filter – take time each day to savour and appreciate your beverage.
The origin of coffee beans can be sourced to Ethiopia, the story goes that a 9th century goat herder noticed their stimulating effects on his goats and began experimenting. I couldn’t be more grateful that he did. Coffee drinking was originally popularised in the Arab world from around the 15th century, spreading across Asia then to Italy and across Europe and to the Americas – and finally to your coffee cup. I think grinding the beans and brewing the hot drink as you chat, drinking it and inhaling the aroma, taste and full-bodied flavour breaks down barriers, relaxes and brings people together.
Which of your projects are inspiring you right now?
At the moment I am busy setting up the first alternative coffee brewing bars at a very good friend of mine Beks’ from African Bush Camps lodges in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. Beks is the founder of African bush camps and they have 12 lodges that offer amazing service in the middle of nowhere in the bush. We thought why don’t we serve the best quality coffee in the African bush? I have already been to three of the African bush camps and trained the people working there, as well as equipped them with alternative coffee brewing bar equipment.
I’m planning my second visit to set up the bars and to do more training. As you see coffee makes me travel too, another reason for me to love it.
The Essential Details
This interview was done in collaboration with Beks Ndlovu of African Bush Camps who ran a competition. If you weren’t lucky enough to win the competition, take a look at their incredible camps and be inspired to book an independent visit. Follow Ozzy on Instagram and Facebook to keep in touch with the work that he does, and read about where he’s currently making coffee.