Anybody who’s been there once knows it’s unlikely to be a one-off trip, and I certainly got the bug to make it a regular destination for work and pleasure over the years. My last trip was specifically to look more closely into the specialty coffee movement and to visit what may be the heart of the Ukrainian specialty coffee movement from an entrepreneurial standpoint.
At least four cities have thriving specialty coffee communities: Odessa, in the southeast, has award-winning coffee entrepreneurs thriving in and around the beautiful and historic port city, but it’s Lviv, to the west, that’s known as the coffee and chocolate cultural capital. Lviv’s coffee history reaches further back than the others – a legend links Lviv nobleman Yuriy Frants Kulchytsky with the founding of one of Vienna’s first coffee houses, the Blue Bottle, playing an important role in the European history of coffee as a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Kyiv, the capital, and where I’ve spent the most time, plays host to two major coffee events, each drawing suppliers from around Europe and Turkey. Attended by thousands, it’s certainly worth a trip to explore the dedicated roaster’s exhibition at Kyiv Coffee Fest. You’d be hard-pressed to keep track of the cafés and roasteries blossoming around Kyiv, so leave plenty of extra time to explore.
While Kyiv undoubtedly has the largest café and roastery offering available in Ukraine, I’d argue that Kharkov – a smaller but major city to the northeast – is the commercial heart of the specialty coffee movement in Ukraine, if not a very close second to Kyiv. It was on my most recent trip that I went there to meet Tatyana Paramzina, an incredible female entrepreneur who has built a specialty coffee empire of sorts under the brands of Dom Kofe (“House of Coffee”) and Coffee Laktika, both of which function as cafés as well as coffee equipment showrooms.
Her headquarters for both businesses are nothing short of a coffee ecosystem, housing an interactive coffee educational center for children, several roasting machines, a bakery, fondue bar, and corporate offices for their 200- plus ventures and franchises. The children’s area, located above the main entrance, is filled with interactive exhibits about coffee to promote sustainability and awareness of coffee as a special treat from nature not to be abused.
This headquarters oversees nearly 200 locations, a full online e-commerce platform, proprietary software for managing specialty coffee shops, an import office for green and roasted coffees, and a large range (upwards of 50!) European and Asian coffee machines, which they service from three certified repair centers. To top it off, they even make a home roaster and their own cleaning products, given the large number of clients they service!
So, if you’re looking for a new coffee scene to explore, don’t leave Ukraine off your list! Kyiv, Lviv, Odessa, and Kharkov all have plenty to offer coffee lovers and – if you’re in Europe – they’re within easy reach for a weekend coffee getaway.
TOM RUDDY is the CEO and Founder of Kava-Zone Ltd., a start-up focused on the development of new coffee micro-roasting equipment and services.
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