Unique places for coffee break in Moscow.
January 1, 1970
by Alexandra Shvyrkova
Moscow is not a capital known for coffee, though it started to crawl into Russian lifestyle back in the 18th century when the Peter the Great returned from his trip to the Netherlands. Of course, coffee nowadays is known as “energy drink,” and it isn’t something new to Russian people, but the purpose of taking it was still far from simply wanting to taste it or wanting to have, for example, a cup of caramel latte as a sweet treat after a walk on a cold winter day. In historical chronicles, you’ll find out that Russians used coffee for medicinal purposes like treating headaches and other types of illness. Well, it worked, so I can’t disagree with the healing power of a coffee bean.
During the visit to Amsterdam, Russian “Tsar” not only gained practical experience in shipbuilding with mayor Nicolae Witsen but also brought part of European lifestyle to Russia. Like my Russian history teacher used to say back in my university days – your morning routine – having a cup of coffee while reading a fresh newspaper (as well as starting your workday at a specific hour) – was brought to you by Peter the Great.
Coffee points for a new generation
Nowadays Moscow, like every big city, has many places to treat yourself with sweet spoils and various types of cocoa beans.
If you are a die-hard fan of franchised coffeehouses, then you can satisfy your needs in “Starbucks” whose coffeehouses started to invade Moscow since 2007 and now have become an indispensable part of the city landscape and life of Moscovites too.
My advice for foreigners would be simply – put aside all that you are used to knowing, open your mind, and charge up your appetite for something completely new.
The first coffee shop after the Soviet Union – “Coffee Bean”
To be honest I only discovered coffee originally invented in Moscow just a few months ago, although the history of the drink goes way back to 1997. A year earlier (1996), the first coffee shop which was managed in American style was opened in the city center. The shop was called “Coffee Bean” and it was the first place where one could buy elite coffee during the post-soviet period. The shop had a twist to it – guests could try the coffee before deciding what type they want to buy. This was the birth of the first Russian franchised coffeehouse.
Russian style in coffee making
After the place became popular, the shop owners were faced with a challenge that led to a life-changing solution and invention. The shop had a regular customer whose name was Rafael (not a typical Russian name), he didn’t like any type of drink served by the shop and was always unsatisfied. Noticing this, the owners, who wanted to satisfy Rafael so much, invented a brand new drink made from cocoa beans mixed with cream and vanilla sugar. This recipe was simple and had a unique taste. Rafael’s friend started to order the same coffee the barista was making for him and the later more customers were coming to taste the brand, new drink until it took off and became popular. The drink was later gifted with a name which was a short form of Rafael – Raf.
Sad news for those of you who are curious enough to explore the original “Coffee Bean” in the heart of Moscow. The original cafe place was closed, but many others have been opened not only in different parts of the capital but also in different Russian cities. Probably you won’t have goosebumps entering the first elite coffee shop in Moscow, but you will definitely feel something, sitting in one of the original Russian coffeehouses with their unique old-fashioned atmosphere.
One of the most popular coffee place in Moscow – “Double B”
Nowadays you can try Raf in various coffee shops in Moscow, it’s no longer something exceptional.
My first acquaintance with Raf happened in another popular Russian franchise – “Double B”. “Double B” is an international coffee shop chain based in Russia. The first café was opened in Moscow in 2012, later the chain spread around and more cafes were open in other cities like Prague, Minsk, Barcelona, Riga, and Tbilisi.
If you are looking for homelike, relaxing and quiet place to work with your laptop or spend time with loved ones – there is no better place than Double B. A touch of Scandinavian Hygge – simple, but cozy design, warm blankets, and pillows will make you feel like you’re spending an evening at friend’s apartment. Baristas, in most cases, are young, open and friendly. At the end of the day, if you have been working hard unaware of the time and happen to be there until the place is closing, you can be treated with a fresh pastry for free. The croissants themselves are the only offer for guests to fight hunger in the café, you won’t find various biscuits and sandwiches here.
Talking about coffee – My favorite would be Lavender Raf. And I dare you to try it!
European coffee in the heart of Russia – “Le Pain Quotidien”
The third and last one on my list of unique coffee places which I advise you to visit while in Moscow is not a Russian one, but Belgian, “Le Pain Quotidien”. It remains one of the best places with good coffee and their own philosophy of hospitality and service. The story of Belgian franchise started in the 1990’s with a childhood dream that was kept in the heart of a grown-up chief in one of the restaurants in Brussels. The aim for Mr. Alan Coumon was rustic bread cooked according to traditions that he was introduced to when he was a little boy. Dreams always coming true when you put your heart into it – that’s exactly what Mr. Coumon did with Le Pain Quotidien.
Raf, as you’ve probably guessed, is also on the menu. My personal favorite is Raf made on coconut milk – which is, in my opinion, the best and healthiest Raf among those two (Original “Coffee Bean” Raf and Lavander Raf from “Double B”). They also can make a coffee with low fat or soy milk (for those who has some problems with lactose or trying to go veggie), less sweet and sugary, with a tender taste of coconut. What can be more perfect?
These days “Starbucks” remains the most international coffee place in Moscow but “La Pain Quotidien” follows the American franchise. They serve European guests who have been longing for homelike atmosphere and I invite you to be part of it as well.