The rich sweetness of cardamom fills the air, a signature aroma associated with Turkish coffee. Approach Zaza Coffee in Anacortes and owner Leo Zaza warmly greets you as he brews up a cup. “Welcome friend!” is his salutation. As he pours each drink he explains an old Turkish saying, “A cup of coffee makes memories that last over 40 years.”
“We will be friends for a long time,” he says to one customer entering his small but cozy shop.
Zaza’s Journey To Anacortes
Zaza’s journey has been a long one, beginning in his small home village in southeast Turkey where his familial upbringing was as a shepherd and goat farmer. A tale he shares eagerly with customers and visitors.
After spending four years in New York, where he met and married his then wife, and four in Hollywood where he became interested in film and acting, he moved to Decatur Island where his wife had a second home. It was on Decator they decided to try their hand at running an Airbnb. In addition, at the urging of some friends, Zaza began serving Turkish coffee. Their businesses grew, becoming popular with locals and guests alike. They even ventured into having a hobby farm with goats!
When Zaza and his wife divorced, Zaza moved to Anacortes, where he began to make friends and connections quickly. Just like he seems to do now with such ease.
While he had setbacks, he never lost sight of his dreams and after three years of living out of his car to save money, Zaza was able to see a dream to fruition and open his coffee stand.
“I love this town!” he exclaims holding out his arms in a wide, encompassing gesture. “Wherever I go something always brings me back.”
The American Dream Is Alive in Anacortes
Besides his outgoing personality and charm, Zaza possess another secret weapon to success, tenacity. “Anyone can achieve their dream,” he says. “They just need tenacity. This is the key. This is the American Dream and anyone can do it.”
It’s not easy owning your own business. In fact, it requires a certain amount of grit and self-determination. There is no one else to take the garbage out, even when it is raining. “Yes,” he agrees, “one must really be dedicated to survive in this business.”
Zaza enjoys interacting with his customers coming into the shop. His uncanny ability to easily converse allows him to become an aid and a resource, sometimes acting as a guide pointing out cool places to see. Always with a warmth in his voice and a fondness for this island.
While his sweet Turkish coffee remains a hit the locals, Zaza recently introduced Anacortes to a new Turkish delight, a caffeine-free pistachio coffee. A rich and creamy drink derived from the fruit of the Mediterranean menengic tree which, according to Zaza, is quite similar to the pistachio. He is the only business to offer this native drink from his home village in Turkey.
Zaza Coffee opened during the pandemic, which may seem counterintuitive to do. Despite this, it has thrived. So much so, he has opened a food truck in addition to his coffee stand. The truck specializes in homemade Mediterranean foods with a hearty, red lentil soup, fantastic falafel and other offerings.
Zaza Looks To The Future
Bringing a little bit of Turkish culture through food and drink to the Skagit Valley is a delight for Zaza but he is not done dreaming. And if anyone can make his dreams come true, Zaza seems able too.
Last year he trekked home to Turkey to visit family. While there he began the process of obtaining the permits needed to make a film depicting the lives of village women picking the fruit of the Menengic tree. An autobiographical documentary sharing his life, his family’s life and their life journey.
A cup of coffee should be savored while enjoying conversation and at Zaza’s Coffee it creates lasting friends and memories. Stop in for a cup or take some home to keep the memories alive.