Coffee... In the morning its delicious aroma wafts through the air in the city. According to statistics some 760 billion cups of coffee are consumed every year by people from all over the world. Available to just a limited number of people one or two centuries ago – namely the well off –, today it is the pleasure of all of us and an integral part of our lives. In this article we will look at the history, customs and traditions of coffee drinking in Russia.
Coffee in Russia
The growing coffee culture in a large part of the world is influenced by specialist coffee shops and Russia is no exception. The coffee market in Russia has grown drastically since 2000; its great commercial potential makes it a country impossible to ignore in the global coffee scene: it is currently the sixth largest market in the world.
Tea was the dominant hot beverage
Like in most of markets where tea has historically been the dominant hot drink, freeze-dried coffee has played a key role in consolidating the Russian coffee culture, opening up the door for fresh coffee. However, the Russian market has particularities ranging from the quality of coffee that it demands to unique designs and functions that coffee shops must have.
The Russian empire: first coffee experience
As regards Russia, historically, the tradition of coffee-drinking there begins with the era of Peter the Great. He "discovered" coffee while in Holland, became fond of it, and brought the drink to Russia at the beginning of the 18th century. At first the court noblemen (or “boyare”) called this “outlandish pot” a “smut syrup”. The Tsar, though, urged them “not to cast aspersions on the praiseworthy drink”. So little by little coffee caught on in the country.
The first coffee house in Russia was opened in 1720 in St. Petersburg Peter and Paul Fortress and was called “Chetyre Fregata” (“Four Frigates”).
Modern Russia: coffee statistics
Despite the fact that the Russians were mainly “tea-drinkers”, coffee gained more and more favor as time went on.
Nowadays it is quite popular, and below there are some interesting coffee statistics in Russia as of 2012:
- 2/3 of all Russian coffee-drinkers are citizens of Moscow and St. Petersburg
- St. Petersburg citizens drink 1 or 2 cups of coffee daily and are jokingly called “coffee pots”. Moscow citizens are “tea pots”, as they tend to drink more tea
- about 85% of Russians prefer instant coffee to coffee beans
- every year the number of fresh coffee drinkers in Russia goes up, the number of instant coffee drinkers goes down
- cappuccino is the most popular drink in Russian coffee houses
- at home Russians mostly brew coffee in Turkish brewing pots called jezves, in Moka pots or coffee plungers and like to add some milk, cream, spices, chocolate, berries, lemon, liqueur, etc.
- up to 100% of coffee in Russia is imported. The main suppliers are Vietnam, Brazil, and Indonesia.
Coffee traditions in modern Russia
You may ask “so what are the traditions of coffee-drinking that are preserved in modern Russia? Is there something outstanding?” Let’s find out.
Many Moscow coffee houses roast and brew coffee in their own unique way. At the same time, the staff travels the world regularly to find best suppliers, drawing on the experience of their foreign colleagues. So today in the century of globalization, the coffee trends of many countries, including Russia, are becoming more and more similar. At the same time, they can widely differ even within one city.
A deeper study showed, though, that there is actually at least one different trait; while Western countries are big on coffee to-go, Russians have different reasons to come to their favorite coffee shops. As it goes with tea, Russians prefer either to spend time chatting over coffee, or to have a meal or snack along with their caffeine dose. Taking this into consideration, coffee companies have adapted to Russian habits, usually providing enough room to have a seat as well as various appetizers, proper meals, and other beverages.