At the crossroads of East and West, Ukraine is reinventing itself after the the Euromaidan events that lead to the loss of Crimea and war in the Eastern Provinces. And specialty coffee roasters in Ukraine have a main role in this transformation.
Coffee culture is emerging as a central and defining element of the new strong and vibrant generation of young internationally-oriented Ukrainians. Coffee is about to transform Ukraine.
Third Wave Coffee Shops In Ukraine
In the last five years tens of third-wave coffee shops have mushroomed around the country. For example in Kiev with Svit Kavy, Kachorovska, Right Coffee, etc. Why is that?
One major reason is the desire to join the modern Western wagon. Ukraine shops a strong Soviet past, and tries to get away from its painful socialist history with tech and innovation as its new defining identity.
How is that related to coffee culture? Well, for the price of a coffee, the new generation gets to enjoy the taste of freedom and luxury.
And coffee roasting captivated many as an affordable way to success. Some tried to go into coffee roasting, but failed, for example the fancy Fairfinch Coffee Roasters in Kiev.
Specialty coffee is indeed a very tough business that requires a deep understanding of coffee. From production, logistics, and markets to the roasting process, specialty coffee shops additionally need to defend their higher price tag.
Ukraine’s Main Specialty Coffee Roasters
Svit Kavy was born in Lviv, a western city with a strong Ukrainian personality. It now has a coffee shop in Kiev’s trendy Podil as well.
A pioneer in the Ukrainian specialty coffee industry, Svit Kavy delivers quality product, usually north of 350UAH.
FUNT / The Brew Bros coffee roasters are located in Dnipro and deliver decent quality coffee beans at a fair price (~280UAH).
Foundation / High Five
Foundation is a well-known coffee roaster from Odessa, producing mostly on consumer-grade roasted coffee (Santos, Excelso, etc), and some lines of better quality.
A couple of years ago it ventured into premium quasi-specialty coffee with its line of better coffee named High Five, popular among many specialty cafes in Ukraine such as Right Coffee.
However, High Five beans are good but not great. I’m hesitant myself about whether it qualifies as specialty coffee. For the same reason, its head roaster recently quit to pursue his own specialty venture: Mad Heads.
Mad heads is a refreshing Ukrainian coffee roaster producing very interesting beans at a competitive price (usually around 250UAH)
One of the fastest-growing roasters in Ukraine, Mad Heads is probably gonna emerge in the coming years as the best Ukrainian specialty roaster.
Founded by coffee enthusiast Artem Vradiy, former head roaster at Foundation, Mad Heads has created a distinct branding and roasting style and usually produces excellent coffee.
A fancy cafe in Lviv, it roasts and distributes coffee beans all around country, but is less popular than other players in the space.
While technically not a specialty coffee roaster, Cafe Boutique is more of coffee parafernalia retailer and mass-market roaster.
Cafe Boutique is quite popular around the country and offers sharp prices.
However, their roasting skill is fairly limited; many of their beans are too lightly roasted trying to offer a very aromatic product, but then turn out suboptimal given the mediocre quality of the beans.
Finally, just to give you an idea, their coffee shops don’t even have toilets or wifi. It’s not about the coffee experience.
A small coffee shop in Lviv, Black Honey occasionally delivers excellent coffee.
Their head barista knows a thing or two about coffee and roasting yet admittedly they lack the scale to produce high-quality coffee sustainably.
Black coffee partners seem now more interested in growing as a franchise coffee store. This would, in turn, allow them to distribute more of their own roasted coffee.
The specialty coffee culture in Ukraine is just getting started. Some high-quality roasters such as Mad Heads will likely emerge as the winner, and start exporting abroad soon enough.
In the meanwhile, it’s worthwhile to travel to Ukraine just for the coffee industry – or if you fancy Motherland statues.