• zürich creators: shem leupin

    November 27th, 2017

    At consumer-level, Zurich is not a trend-setting place. The Swiss have built a world class reputation perfecting products of enduring quality, not flash fads. In my opinion that’s a good thing. In such a culture, innovating profitable products, or commodities, especially those that already work so well and satisfy so many, without apparent reason, can hardly be seen as a worthwhile venture. Unlike hugely populated markets hungry for the next big thing – places where creating novelty is a relentless thirst, here in established Zurich it’s a difficult proposition. Yet Zurich doesn’t lack for creativity. In fact, the creativity that succeeds here might just be the kind that matters.

    For instance: coffee. An essential, mostly overlooked daily ritual, your cup of joe is what it is, and as long as it performs and tastes in the manner expected, who cares? A perfectly valid viewpoint. Food and beverage snobbery is often tiresome, borderline offensive, in a world where there isn’t currently enough nutrition, let alone quality, to go around.

    However, for creative people who work in F&B, something as mundane as a cup of java is also an unexplored opportunity for creativity. This isn’t simply about ego or one-upmanship, it’s about enhancing a daily experience and improving one’s handiwork. Also, responsible trade as well as individuality in the end product, created in partnership with growers, can better the good fortune of those undervalued but essential people who cultivate and collect our daily sustenance. Moreover, smaller outlets and producers offer an alternative to the massive bargaining power (hegemony) of corporations that can crush small growers and producers.

    To Shem Leupin, the affable, approachable, creative mind working with Swiss heritage brand, STOLL KAFFEE, coffee seems an opportunity for a welcome change. A conversation with Shem, whether it’s about your morning cup, finding the right brew for your customers, the supply chain, or developing yourself as a barista, is refreshing. His enthusiastic, unpretentious view of what goes into a daily habit, is as eye-opening as the strongest diner coffee, without the bitter aftertaste. There’s a transparency about Shem and Stoll demonstrated by the fact that you can walk right into the roastery to pick up your coffee. A visit I highly recommend. You can choose from a whole range of different coffees for both espresso and pour-over methods and see where the magic is made. Perhaps I’ll bump into you there.

    The Stoll roastery at Austrasse 38, 8045 Zürich, is open for walk-in sales from 08:00-17:00 Monday to Friday.  If you’re curious about coffee, it’s a great place to start. Shem is also responsible for an ace coffee shop, simply called COFFEE at Grüngasse 4, 8004 Zürich, open 08:00-18:00 Monday to Friday and 09:00-17:00 Saturdays.

  • Mastic

    September 27th, 2015


    mastica trees-elisabeth



    Early every morning in the village of Vouno, Elisabeth (pictured above) rises and sorts through what looks, at a distance, like a pile of rocks and twigs. Working in a shed beside her village home, her deft hands, gnarled like the trunks of the trees from which she harvests her treasure, meticulously plucking the sticky resin that drips like angels’ tears from the other detritus that carpets the ground of Chios. Reputed to be the birthplace of Homer, Chios is largely overlooked by the hordes of tourists from continental Europe who descend upon Greece each year. But despite the island’s literary pedigree it is the Pistacia lentiscus variety of gum tree unique to Chios that makes the island famous.

    After scraping and scoring the bark, the tree releases resin which subsequently falls to the levelled ground around the tree trunks and is collected by people such as Elisabeth. This local industry is an important part of Chios’ cultural heritage and helps supplement and support earnings. I was told that one kilo of the pure resin can fetch up to 80 Euros. Mastic is used in everything from Mastica liquor, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics as well as instrument and furniture manufacture.

    Mastic smuggling also features in Amin Maalouf’s entertaining and erudite novel, Balthasar’s Odyssey in which the “… Turkish authorities only allow it to be used in the Sultan’s harem, where it’s fashionable for the noble ladies to chew it from morn till night to whiten their teeth and perfume their breath. The farmers on the island who grow the precious tree (Pistachio lentiscus), which is very like the pistachio tree we have in Aleppo, have to hand the mastic over for a fixed price, but those who produce a surplus try to sell it on their own account, though if they’re found out they may spend a long time in prison or in the galleys or even be put to death.”

    Thankfully for kind and generous Chians like Elisabeth, such penalties no longer exist and mastic can now be enjoyed by a much wider audience than the Sultan’s harem.


  • the blessing

    May 24th, 2014




    Open a newspaper or turn on the television and you’ll probably get a pretty troubling picture of things in Turkey these days. Sometimes it’s enough to make an outsider want to switch off entirely. Fortunately, peppered in amongst the drama, life still presents many moments of genuine hope here on a daily basis. One such was a couple of weekends ago in Yeniköy. Over the last couple of years I’ve been truly fortunate to attend and enjoy the welcome of the local Rum (Byzantine Greek) community at various events and ceremonies. It’s something that grounds you. And witnessing the baptism of one small but treasured member of their community was a highpoint in my nine years in Turkey, moreover since it was something my family was welcomed in to share.



    Until a couple of Sundays ago, I had never been fortunate enough to attend such a ceremony. It was truly interesting to watch. Religion gets a lot of bad press these days, but when you are part of such an event, it’s much easier to understand the contribution that belief and spirituality makes for a community. Especially in such a small and tightly knit community. Read More…

  • cherry-coloured thanks

    January 31st, 2014

    portrait of a cherry branch

    Picked these branches up after a visit to Cup of Joy in Bebek today. My taxi driver asked if they were for him — Hadi Canim! Anyway these branches are kind of reminiscent of calligraphy to me, rather like a floral love note from a Geisha, or at the very least a dog-eared postcard from a long lost girlfriend in Japan in spring when the streets are carpeted with petals.  Ahh … spring. Wish I could take you all there. In any case, think of this as an early Valentine to all of MYPHILOSOFIA’s faithful followers. Thank you for sticking with me over the last two years. You’re every bit as beautiful to me.



    blossom detail

    Posted in People | | 2 Comments
  • best friends

    October 24th, 2013



    As a parent, few things give me the same pleasure as to see my daughter delight in the company of animals. Anyone who follows this page already knows that animals make regular appearances on this blog as I somehow have greater hope for humanity when I see acts of kindness towards pets, strays or beasts of burden. Perhaps it’s that small recognition of just how much more they add to our lives, and how bereft some of us would feel without them.



    Posted in People | | No Comments
  • my favourite photo

    August 27th, 2013


    This might well be my favourite photo of the year. While there’s still time left to take more, I can’t help but enjoy this one which shows your more pensive, considered side, Sofia. There’s so much going on behind those big brown eyes of yours, and I like the fact that you aren’t afraid to take the time to consider things so deeply. Except, perhaps, the other day at the hotel swimming pool when you shouted out: “Daddy! Look at that man’s boobies!”

    Posted in People | | No Comments
  • time out

    July 12th, 2013



    It’s hot. There’s no small amount of turmoil in the land and everybody I know is a little unsure of where they stand right at the moment. You probably won’t remember any of this by the time you can read it, but if it wasn’t for one three-year old person, called Sofia, I don’t know what I’d do. Your view of the world is the only thing keeping me sane, little girl. Thanks for being my reality check and giving me the time out I need from some very real darkness.

    Posted in People | | 1 Comment
  • an international conspiracy

    June 28th, 2013




    I have withheld my documentary evidence of certain events that took place a couple of weeks ago in the midst of Turkey’s turmoil for fear that it was not the time for transparency. I apologize for my cowardice. However, I must now add my voice to those others claiming that there are international interests trying to steal Turkey’s beauty away from it. Two Saturdays ago I witnessed an Italian man marry a Turkish woman. To my shame, I stood by and enjoyed the spectacle of two people formalizing the decision to share their love, lives and differing cultures in order to join in a union that will echo through the years, influencing generations to come.




    I’m sorry if I let you down, Turkey. In addition to taking one of your great beauties as my wife, years later I stood silent witness as another foreigner did the same. Yet I was not alone. In addition to being a foreign interest at this event, there were also bankers and financiers there too. In fact there were people from all sorts of backgrounds. How could I succumb? Quite simply, these people — Turks and Italians, Spanish, East Indian, Japanese and a host of other nationalities —  were just too good looking and charming. They really knew how to party, too.










    What’s worse? I would take part in such a plot all over again. Not only am I guilty, I am unrepentant. Foreigners like me have a desire to see Turkish people happy and successful both at home and abroad among all the other kind people and great cultures of the world. Why? Because it makes some of us happy too. That’s why I sincerely hope that this lovely couple, Asli and Nevio, enjoy the fruits of such a joyful conspiracy for two very long, very magical lives. It was beautiful.

    Posted in People | | 6 Comments
  • last stand

    June 23rd, 2013


    This week Turkey and the world were inspired by one man’s silent, six-hour protest performed in Taksim Square. Standing Man was a truly beautiful statement made by choreographer Erdem Gunduz which went viral within hours of his performance. Better yet it has since inspired thousands of others around Turkey and the world like the woman above. I’ve been thinking a lot about why this protest resonated so powerfully, and I got my answer when I visited Taksim square the other day. Politics, especially in Turkey, is dominated by middle-aged, finger-pointing bullies. It’s less and less about the content of the argument, and more about how successfully you can shout down your opponent. This afternoon the Mayor of Ankara denounced a Turkish journalist working for the BBC as a spy and is attempting to conduct a Twitter campaign against her. One TV station composed a fake interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. Closer to my home things took a violent turn on Thursday night when thugs attacked a peaceful meeting, mostly of women and children. Some reports claim that the mob had been whipped up into a frenzy by an elected official who made false allegations about blasphemous actions taken against Muslims. So why are all these people shouting? Probably because if they stopped to think about what they were saying and doing, they’d understood how ridiculous they appeared.

    Still Erdem Gunduz silenced them for once. How could you shout down Standing Man? How can you denounce his actions? A counter protest in the following days by six men wearing “standing against standing man” t-shirts just looked feeble. Standing Man’s point was made, without threat, intimidation or disrespect for anyone else’s person, property or identity. He didn’t wave any flags or chant any alienating slogans. He simply stood his ground. Better yet he continues to inspire other people to demonstrate their disapproval in meaningful ways that don’t involve shouting or destroying public property. Unfortunately, the powers that be can’t “stand” to be opposed and show no signs that they will refrain from brutalizing their opponents with excessive police force and petty vendettas. Too bad they can’t learn to be a bit more stoic in the face of peaceful disobedience. Maybe if they did, they’d look a lot less old and tired.



    Posted in People | | No Comments
  • authority vs. creativity

    June 9th, 2013








    One of the many things that has been remarkable about this uprising is its ability to unite people from different backgrounds, interests and needs. The aspect that seems to run across the board and unite them too is the humour and creativity that they use in order to rise up and fight back. It’s probably not what’s said about the Prime Minister that really gets to him, but the fact that despite being tear-gassed and water-cannoned, many still won’t take him seriously. His victims find new ways to celebrate and laugh, to take the sting out of his vindictive anger and then share it across the internet. True creativity depends upon finding new ways to express a universal truth. While the story presented may or may not be factually accurate, a successful joke or story gives us a new way to connect with people by allowing us to feel the storyteller in a way that seems genuine. While Mr. Erdogan and his camp get very ‘creative’ with the facts of this uprising, he spouts such obvious untruths — involving Jewish conspiracies and foreign agents, for starters — that he simply makes himself look all the more ridiculous. Everything from his descriptions of the people involved in the uprising, that they are çapulcu (bums/louts/pillagers) to the number of trees he’s planted while in office, and his ideas on democracy, creates more weapons that backfire on him and further damage his credibility. Everyday dozens of new songs, new pop-culture references (in Turkish, English and a variety of other languages) as well as performances and jokes are staged at the Prime Minister’s expense. The only person who certainly can’t be laughing or getting in on the fun is the Prime Minister. While he remains angry and defiant, the protestors stay good natured and friendly. While Erdogan insults them and their aims with stern warnings and grave disdain, they roll about on the grass laughing, finding new ways to channel the facts of their oppression into different forms of expression that resonate with the one thing he lacks: truth. Perhaps if Mr Erdogan understood the importance of creativity and fun, especially among the young, he wouldn’t have lost so many hearts in the first place.




    Posted in People | | No Comments