There was a time when drinking coffee in the FSU was almost a rarity of sorts. Tea reigned supreme, and any coffee consumed was typically a “Turkish” brew which was incredibly strong. Instead of a morning staple, coffee was a dessert beverage, usually after dinner, if at all.
The times, they are a changin’ it seems.
McCafe made the first inroads, adding upscale dessert shops that served both coffee and tea, usually located next door to a McDonalds. Then came CoffeeHouse, Costa Coffee, several others, and then late-comer Starbucks entered the market after a protracted legal battle with a home-grown cafe that had already latched onto the Starbucks name.
Today the most popular coffee in the FSU is instant coffee, and Russia is near the top of the world rankings for consumption of the instant variety. Coffee suppliers recognize this and have developed high quality options not sold in most Western nations.
One possible explanation for the popularity of instant coffee is the set up of the typical FSU kitchen. In Western homes it is common to find a “coffee maker” in the kitchen. Not so much in the FSU, instead one is much more likely to find a “chai-nik”, a hot water kettle used for brewing hot water for tea. That same hot water can be used for instant coffee without the need to purchase another appliance–or try to find room for it in kitchens that are generally much smaller than in the West.
It isn’t just instant coffee that has caught on, and one might reasonably argue that the coffee house concept has driven popularity, especially among younger consumers. Most coffee houses offer high quality desserts, and some have limited entrees, but the idea of free WiFi packaged with good coffee in a hip meeting place has taken off. You can thank McCafe for that, although McDonalds McCafe market share has shrunk while others is exploding.
What seems to be the most popular coffee brew ordered in Coffee Shops as of late? Despite all the anti-American rhetoric often heard these days, the most popular brew is “Amerikano”, American.
Here is a handy chart to help you navigate your coffee options the next time you are in the FSU:
This primer on coffee choices may have come just in time. Next month, the newest player to get into the coffee business will be the Moscow Metro System. Sometime in October, coffee vending machines will begin to appear in the Metro subway system stations. Vending machines for cold drinks have been appearing in various pedestrian spots, but coffee on the Metro will be a whole new experience.
So, what is your choice – Чай или кофе?