Authentic Delights

Authentic Delights

by Janet Nicol

When Jordan Bayazit left Turkey almost 30 years ago, the most important item in his suitcase was a candy recipe. Soon after settling in Vancouver in 1981, Bayazit starting making his homeland’s popular bite-sized treats. And now Turkish delights have made Bayazit a sweet success.

“I always loved Turkish delight,” Bayazit says in an interview at his warehouse in Surrey. “When I came here, the Turkish delight I found was bad. It was hard candy.”

And so Bayazit began making his own softer and fresher jelly-like candies, the kind you would find if you visited Turkey and asked for lokoum.

Bayazit’s company, Bayco Confectionery, produces 2,500 pounds of authentic Turkish delight every day, and ships the candies all over Canada and the United States. Even Disney, producers of the movie The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, fell under the spell of these sugar-powdered cubes. As a result, Bayco manufactures a Narnia-themed box.

Bayazit stands in front of a large computerized machine as he talks. Above, squares of Turkish delight are moving along a conveyor belt, down a tube and into plastic pouches. As the machine seals each pouch, Bayazit retrieves and stacks them.

The friend who gave Bayazit the recipe, a trained Turkish candy maker, warned him making the world’s oldest known candy, dating back to the Ottoman Empire, would not be simple. “It takes years to make well,” Bayazit says. “It took me three to four years to make it acceptable.”

Turkish delight was originally made from ingredients such as dates, honey, roses and jasmine and then bound together by gum Arabic. When sugar was introduced to Turkey in the 1700s, the candy’s flavour became sweeter and more popular. The Turkish people continue to serve the candies after meals to sweeten the breath and alongside coffee to take away its bitter taste.

But making Turkish delight wasn’t how Bayazit had planned his life. He had travelled to England as a young man to study, graduating in engineering.

“I have never worked as an engineer,” Bayazit says with a smile.

After returning to Turkey, Bayazit decided to emigrate permanently. Arriving first to England, Bayazit said his friends suggested he move to Vancouver. “‘You look like a Vancouverite. It’s the best place to live,’ they told me.”

Once in Canada, Bayazit explored the import-export business, but encountered obstacles. His luck changed when he couldn’t find any fresh Turkish delights to eat. That’s when he pulled out his friend’s recipe. He realized he could offer the Canadian market something no one else was.

And so began Bayazit’s niche candy business in 1984, albeit on a much smaller scale, in Richmond. He also made chocolates for about six years, but decided it was not profitable so returned to making only Turkish delights.

Bayazit moved to his larger space in Surrey four years ago and invested in new equipment, as his business continued to grow. The spotlessly clean high-ceilinged room has a dusting of powered sugar on the floor — and even in the bathroom. At the back, two stainless steel pots contain the magical ingredients. Along a side wall, blocks of candy move on a conveyor belt and are cut into cubes by a razor sharp guillotine, as a female employee wearing a hair net stands by. Another female employee carefully packages cubes by hand, layer upon layer, into a large box.

“It’s no secret,” Bayazit says of his recipe. “Sugar, cornstarch, water and cream of tartar.
“I also use rose essence and pure fruit flavours,” he adds.

Besides fruit-flavoured Turkish delights, such as raspberry, lemon, orange, strawberry, peach and blueberry, Bayazit also combines pistachios into the mix.

Bayazit proudly says most of the ingredients are purchased in Canada.

He has a Canadian and American distributor to handle his many customers. “I have almost as many orders in the States as I do in Canada,” he says.

In Vancouver, you can find his candy in bulk food outlets, Purdy’s Chocolates and some Middle Eastern grocers. You can also order Bayco’s Turkish delights from the company website turkish-delight.com.

But Bayazit says he wants to keep the business small — and manageable. “You can’t find my business in the phone book,” he says. Even though Bayazit doesn’t advertise and has enough customers, he says he continuously looks at ways to improve the business. “These pouches are my idea, for example,” he says holding up a 300-gram resealable plastic bag. “Packaging candies in boxes is time-consuming and this is much faster. And the bags are recyclable, too.”

Fortunately, the current downturn in the economy hasn’t affected his business, adds Bayazit. “Candy is recession-proof,” says the husband and father of two adult children. “When times are hard, people want a simple reward.”

For Bayazit, it seems life in Canada is as delightful as his candies.

Reprinted from Canadian Immigrant magazine, May 2009

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