In Russia, Coffee Da, Vodka Nyet

What people drink tells a lot about their culture. Russians are well known for their love of vodka, and most brands in the US come from there, making Russia synonymous with this alcoholic beverage. This is changing now, as Russian society also changes. ETN, a travel newsletter, reported that a decade ago Russians drank vodka everywhere even on the buses; this was indicative of the hard time the country was experiencing. Now the people, at least those under 35, are much happier. The beer and vodka of the past is no longer desired by the 20 to 30-somethings. Rather, coffee is the preferred drink and coffee houses are the venue of choice. The demand is growing so fast that in 2010 the amount of unroasted coffee beans imported grew 10% over 2009. Russia still has a little way to go to catch up to the coffee consumption level of Europe, but if the demand continues to grow at the current rate, they may soon reach that level. Advertising is being done to promote coffee’s goodness. "Coffee is a really good product. If you don't drink too much of it, it's healthy. I believe that coffee can change Russian culture,” commented a Russian roaster/producer. . "Young people are thinking in a new way. They don't want to be bandits. They want to be happy and they like new, modern products. Coffee to them is a symbol of enthusiasm, freedom and democracy. They really like it.….. They want to sit in the coffee shop and talk with each other; not go to a party, drink vodka, and then beat each other up." The coffee shop is a new phenomena in Russia, as the first modern one opened only ten years ago. Before that the restaurants that served the brew had only Turkish coffee or instant. That soon changed and now one trend-setting Russian coffee shop has opened a shop in India. This first Russian chain designed their shops based on the Seattle model, but Starbucks also entered Russia after that. Some Russian coffee shops also sell alcohol, thus enabling the older generation to mix with the younger. It’s not clear what changed first; Russian society or the embrace of coffee. Clearly the youth are the driving force behind coffee’s growing popularity, but the culture also changed to a less harsh influence. The growth of coffee shops indicates that life is more pleasant and modern in the Russia of today as compared to the Russia of fifteen years ago, a change that coffee has come to symbolize for the Russian young people.

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