The growing call and allure of coffee continues around the globe, partially fueled by Starbucks and other coffee shop chains like Costa, Coffee House, Coffee Mania and Coffee Bean. Even though coffee has been a popular drink in Russia for a long time, more popular than in Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Egypt, most of it was drunk at home from instant varieties. Now Russia has its “coffee evangelists”, those who want to raise the bar in coffee culture for the Russian nation. The Times of Moscow reported this week on several such evangelist owners of recently developed coffee shop chains in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities. These highly competitive shop owners are working hard at making grandiose claims about the quality of their premium coffee in an attempt to corner the market of the 60% of Muscovites who visit coffee shops at least once a week. Koffein, the newcomer to the Russian coffee scene, is trying hard to surpass the more established shops. Its owner claims to be the only café using 100% Arabica beans and she also maintains that all of the other shops over-roast their beans. The most interesting war of claims focuses on the baristas. All of the shops give the position a very high importance and all provide training, from two months to a year. Koffein stresses its commitment to the year of training, stating that “If we have a school, the others have a kindergarten.” They prefer to grow more slowly than to sacrifice this in-depth preparation. Even though they realize the typical Russian coffee drinker doesn’t have a clue as to quality, they are striving for good taste and consistency. It’s their contention that even old veterans like Starbucks lack consistency. Is it all words or will the quality really be better at the newcomer’s shop? Time, and the Russian pocketbook, will be the judge. Many of us coffee culture watchers will be interested in observing what happens in the Russian coffee wars.
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