Girne Con Coffee’s journey from past to present

The story of Con Coffee begins with Hüseyin Remzi Efendi from Nicosia…

Our story begins with Hüseyin Remzi, a Turkish Cypriot who graduated from the Naval War Academy in Istanbul in the early 1900s but failed to pursue a military career due to the political troubles of the era. The public, enjoying the atmosphere of freedom that prevailed in Istanbul at the time, socialized at coffee houses. In addition to debates regarding political and daily life, it was in the city’s popular cafes and coffee shops where the heart of social life beat.

Mr. Hüseyin Remzi who had abandoned a career in the military found himself embedded in the daily social life of Istanbul, finding the opportunity and expressing a key interest in coffee and coffee shops.

It was during this time that Mr. Hüseyin Remzi first came across the idea of pursuing a profession in coffee roasting. How could it be possible to modernize the process of roasting coffee in Cyprus which already had a widespread and popular coffee culture? How could he persuade coffee shop owners, who roasted their own coffee beans in their coffeehouses, to use ground coffee sealed in packages? These questions constantly occupied Hüseyin Remzi’s mind during the time he spent in Istanbul.

Following his years as a student in İstanbul, Mr. Hüseyin Remzi gave in to his father’s persistent demands and returned home to Cyprus to his city of birth, Nicosia. Here he took work at the family grocery store, helping his father run the business. However, Hüseyin Remzi Hüseyin had never forgotten the rich culture of coffee he been exposed to and acquired a taste for during his time in Istanbul. More importantly Remzi had come to realize that the production and sale of roasted and ground coffee beans was a business which had a future. He decided that he would pursue this dream alongside his profession as a grocer. It was 1961 when the seeds sown in Istanbul had blossomed.

The history of Turkish Cypriot coffee culture and the arrival of coffee on the island

A culture of coffee existed in Nicosia and amongst Turkish Cypriots long before Hüseyin Remzi’s youth. In fact the island’s Greek Cypriot inhabitants had been acquainted with coffee culture with the arrival of Ottoman rule 1571. The island’s Turkish rulers had carried roasted coffee to all corners of their Empire.

At first, coffee was a unique drink, afforded and consumed by the elite, such as high ranking generals and members of the court. In time the culture spread to the city of Nicosia and port cities of the island, becoming popular even in the remotest of the island’s villages. Even the Greek Cypriots, who were more accustomed to drinking wine, adopted the habit of drinking coffee.

The production of coffee in Cyprus in the 1900s

Until the beginning of the 1900s, almost all roast coffee producers’ imported coffee beans from either Istanbul or the Arab Peninsula. They would roast the green coffee beans in galvanized steel bowls in a corner of their coffee shops before grinding them using a mortar.

Hüseyin Remzi Bey was determined to systemize and mechanize this process. He would transport the bags of coffee beans he imported from Istanbul from Kyrenia harbor to his grocery shop in Nicosia using a horse cart. Here in an appropriate corner of his shop he would roast the beans. However he had succeeded in using an advanced method to produce the ground coffee.

How did he do this?

He succeeded in transforming huge barrels in cauldrons where he roasted the beans under a wood fire, using a combination of modern and old methods. In addition to the arduous task of roasting the beans was the agonizing work of grinding the coffee. An alternative method had yet to be discovered for this process dating to early times. As a result, stone and marble mortars were used to pound and grind the roasted coffee.

Starting from the 1930s, with the growing popularity of coffee in Cyprus, Hüseyin Remzi Bey started producing and selling packaged coffee to coffee shops and houses across the island. Since roasting and grinding coffee in coffee shop corners while brewing the drink at the same time was a painstaking task, demand for Hüseyin Remzi Bey’s packed ground coffee started to grow in Nicosia and neighboring villages.

Mehmet-SadiMehmet Hüseyin Con, the father of the CON brand

Following the death of Hüseyin Remzi Bey in 1951, Mehmet Hüseyin, who earned the nickname Con (John) for his English looks took over the coffee business. However Hüseyin Con who had no children of his own passed over the business and trade mark name “Con” to the children of his two brothers before his death in 1979. Since then Con Coffees has been operating as two separate businesses, Lefkoşa Con and Girne Con.

The story of Kıymet Hanım and Mustafa Shadi Bey, the pioneers of Girne Con Coffee

The son of Hüseyin Remzi, Mustafa Shadi Efendi, orginally from Lefkoşa or Nicosia was clerk in the state tax department in Kyrenia. Kıymet Hanım, on the other hand was the middle child of Sami Kaptan, one of Kyrenia’s most prominent families. The two married, settling in Kyrenia. Mustafa Shadi Efendi kept his family profession running, opening up his own ground coffee shop in the small port city. As of the 1950s Kıymet Hanım was roasting and selling ground coffee.

The person behind Girne Con’s current success; Çetin Shadi

Çetin Shadi, the younger son of Mustafa Shadi and Kıymet Shadi grew up in the family business of ground coffee. The young Shadi was practically raised in the store, the scent of roasted coffee absorbed into his heart and soul. He was personally trained in the profession by Mehmet Tahmis Efendi, a skilled coffee roaster from Nicosia.

Çetin Shadi, was one of the cousins who inherited the brand name “CON” from his uncle in 1979. He is responsible for bringing Girne Con coffee to where it stands today. Eager to learn the profession from scratch, he travelled and worked on coffee plantations in Brazil, researching and learning the details of harvesting and growing coffee beans. For him, it is all about learning something completely or not learning at all.

Girne Con Coffees has been importing coffee beans from Brazil since 1983 and all current production is carried out at modern facilities using the latest technology without human touch.

In short, coffee production is long and old tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation within the Con family. It is our ultimate goal to pass on this 100 year old tradition to future generations