What is Russian Coffee Culture Like?
Russian coffee culture has developed rapidly during the past decade: numbers of third wave coffee shops and specialty coffee roasters appeared all over the country. Still Russian coffee culture is underdeveloped and it has a lot of potential to grow. Let's see how is Russian coffee culture like!
I remember from my childhood that magic aroma from the kitchen when my aunt was brewing cezve coffee and it always attracted me. Grinding fresh beans on a beautiful hand grinder made it like a special ritual. Everyone gathered around for a cup of coffee and a chat as the kitchen is the favourite place of every Russian family to spend time. Maybe those memories can explain my passion for this drink. Nowadays it's becoming more and more common that coffee is the drink when people gather for those long conversations.
Although coffee consumption is still lower than in some European countries for many reasons but in fact, coffee is not a new entrant in Russia, tradition of its drinking was carefully developed by Peter the Great I, but only rich could afford it. In the 19th century coffee culture in Russia fell into a decay due to social and political crisis. During the Soviet Union period, coffee was in shortage and it was really hard to get your hands on it. It was common that people turned into substitutes such as chicory roots and barley. Coffee was usually brewed in cezve or how we call it in Russia “turka”.
Strong “turka” traditions still dominate among consumers. The simplicity of the device and its “magic” makes cezve the king of Russian home brewing methods. It also affects specialty coffee industry: Sergey Blinnikov, head barista of popular chain of coffee shops Cezve Coffee the World Cezve/Ibric Champion in 2019! The idea of his signature drink was to reconstruct the coffee cherry in the drink, using cascara, silverskin and dried coffee flowers.
Cezve gives a lot of opportunities to bring unique flavors to coffee and besides is a great way to combine different coffee tastes with spices, flowers or juices. Developing coffee traditions of a particular country is a great way to express the identity and bring passion to the local coffee scene.
Do Russians still prefer tea?
Russians are often associated as a tea drinking people and there are many reasons for this: 78% of the people say they drink at least one cup of a tea daily and I'm not an exception. We prefer to pair tea with some sweets or pastry and normally have a few “tea breaks” during daytime. However, coffee-based beverages are a huge trend and for the past few years coffee started to dominate among consumers, especially in big cities.
Coffee consumption in Russia is still lower than in some European countries: 0,4 kg per capita, compared to Finland: 10,2 kg per capita in 2020, according to Euromonitor.
Some numbers behind Russian coffee market
- 77% of people drink coffee daily
- 82% of people drink tea daily
- 90% of the people tell that they drink coffee
- Instant coffee is still the most common way to consume coffee but the consumption of "regular" coffee is steadily growing.
- More than 90% of the people drink hot tea daily or weekly compared to coffee - 85%
- Dark or espresso roasts are the most common types of coffee
- Russian coffee-focused café market grew last year 12,2%! (2500 outlets in 2018 vs. 2800 in 2019)
Special way of specialty coffee in Russia
Strong coffee professional community, great roasters, and economic growth made specialty coffee popular and affordable among young generations. Coffee isn't just an energy drink anymore, it's a new religion, beautiful ritual that brings flavor to life.
During PIR Coffee Expo (annual coffee event in Moscow) in 2019 I participated in a very interesting cupping, initiated by one of the most famous Russian specialty coffee roaster Dmitry Boroday. He raised the question of cinnamon-tasting anaerobic fermentation which was popular for the past years. For the experiment, he made post fermentation of green coffee beans by soaking them in cinnamon solution. During the cupping, we had to guess which coffee was “fake” flavored, and which one had a natural cinnamon flavor profile. It was tough task, especially when it came to a low percentage of cinnamon solution.
I also bought a pack of Ethiopia Guji Uraga, post fermented in oak barrel after craft beer and bourbon. Sounds crazy, tastes nice.
Besides fermentation methods, Russian coffee scene professionals experiment in brewing methods. Sergey Stepanchuk, Russian Brewers Cup 2018 winner, designed and 3D printed for the competition his own coffee dripper Octo Storm. It is made of heat-proof, carbon-filled food plastic and soon will be available in ceramic as well. “The unique shape makes brewing process and extraction speed easier” says the producer.
Russians have been doing well in the World Coffee Championships in recent years:
World Coffee Roasting Championships 2019 - Winner - Arseny Kuznetov
World Coffee Roasting Championships 2018 - Winner - Vladimir Nenashev
Cezve/Ibrik Championships 2019 - Winner - Sergey Blinnikov
Cezve/Ibrik Championships 2018 - 2nd place - Marina Khyuppenen
Russian coffee industry facing the new reality
Although Russian coffee scene demonstrated great potential for growth, it is hard to predict the developing of the situation in new reality after COVID-19. Most of the coffee shops were either closed or worked “to go” for months and it will definitely impact the whole industry.
Coffee shops went online, baristas turned into couriers, delivering freshly roasted beans directly to our kitchens. Instagram was full of home brew guides, recipes and live videos. Coffee professionals involved consumers into online cuppings, home brewing competitions, inventing new types of communications between roasters and coffee lovers, probably more intimate. Specialty coffee is now closer to consumer than ever before. Who knows what this global challenge brings to coffee industry, we shall see!