Eylül says, “We can find the right answers if we ask the right questions to ourselves.” and are we able to ask right questions to her to introduce the co-founder of İstanbul’s one and only tea cafe and shop’s co-founder Eylül.
What did you do before opening Dem? How did you get your start?
I graduated from Political Science and International Relations department at Boğaziçi University in 2010. After that, I worked at several PR agencies for 2,5 years. In that period, I realised that it’s not what I wanted to do with my life and if I didn’t make my dream come true at that point, I wouldn’t be able to get the guts up to do it later. Then I quit and started to work in order to launch Dem. I guess my starting point was saying, “This is not what I want”.
So how did Dem come about?
Actually Dem was born as a result of the following question we asked with my cousin and business partner Ömer: “What can we do to share our passion for tea with others?” Of course we designed it as a business enterprise but our main motivation was to share this enthusiasm with others, enhance it and create something that belongs to us. Tea is a giant world within itself; once you dive into it, it’s not easy to get out. So we let ourselves go with the rhythm of its universe.
Tell us about a typical workday?
Actually one of the greatest and most exciting sides of this job is no day’s being “typical”! And the freedom to organise your own time, of course… I usually save the mornings for myself; I do the activities I like doing on my own… I go to the movies, have breakfast somewhere, see the exhibitions I’d like to visit, I read stuff. Generally I go to Dem in the afternoons depending on my meetings and the crowdedness of the cafe. Contrary to most people’s schedules, weekends are our busy days… While everyone’s complaining about the syndrome of Monday morning, we relax on Mondays. Therefore I spend the most part of Saturdays and Sundays at the cafe to deal with the intense work. I usually spend the day supervising the service, chatting with our customers and receiving feedback.
What have been the best and worst parts of being a business owner?
The best part in my situation is being able to share what I love, believe in and feel passionate about with many others. For example, I really like talking about tea with our guests. Plus, having made your dream come true worth everything, no matter how tiring it is. It’s impossible to describe the ease I feel while locking the door of the cafe every night. The most difficult part is having too many decisions to make and the fact that all the initiatives you take affect you and the others directly, both in financial and sentimental terms. There is also the risk factor; after all, we are running a kind of business and we feel the pressure to make the right decision all the time.
Did you have a mentor figure that helped you figure everything out?
I don’t believe much in the concept of mentor. Of course there are many people I consult about many issues in my life. Certainly my mom and dad come first thanks to their incredible visions. Anyway, I believe that everyone has the background and power necessary to mentor themselves. We can find the right answers if we ask the right questions to ourselves. Self-improvement entirely depends on our power and the effort we make.
Your favourite tea blend?
Tea is very convenient for blending and being juxtaposed with many unexpected things. Its flexibility may well be the reason I like it. Therefore my preferences of tea depend heavily on my mood. Yet, tasting many different blends makes you turn towards simpler flavours. For instance, I’d never say no to a good spring harvest Darjeeling or a high-grade Gyokuro.
Your favourite cafe in the world besides Dem?
I usually like cafes with stories; I really like them. I feel overwhelmed with the spirit of the venue rather than the menu or service. Hence I was quite impressed by El Quatro Gats in Barcelona; it’s one of the places I’ve felt most happy to be inside ever. It was opened at the end of the 1800s and was a frequent destination for Picasso and most of the artists of the era; it takes you back to those days once you step inside.
Favourite restaurant in the world?
I prefer choosing according to the stories again. Even though I love trying new ones, I also love the classical atmosphere of some restaurants. So I’m going to name Allard in Paris. It’s an extremely classical typical French restaurant, not ostentatious at all. Still, it makes you experience a kind of time travel inside it. You don’t rediscover the space tasting their dishes but they’re always good.
Whats for dinner?
To tell the truth, nothing! I usually don’t have dinner, I’ve been having this habit for a long time; I love sleeping on empty stomach and waking up as fresh as a daisy in the morning. There’s one single thing I won’t get sick and tired of even if I eat it every evening: That’s artichoke. I’d eat any artichoke recipe.
What’s for breakfast?
Undoubtedly tea holds the first place! What I like most before breakfast is opening the tea drawer at home and choosing one specific tea for that morning. For me, breakfast stands for eggs – I’d be happy with any egg recipe. I have to consume some meal with eggs in it ranging from egg breads to tortilla. I don’t treat any breakfast with respect unless I eat eggs somehow.