War or No War, Ukrainians Aren’t Giving Up Their Coffee

By John Mercury April 15, 2024

When Russian tanks first rolled into Ukraine more than two years ago, Artem Vradii was sure his business was bound to suffer.

“Who would think about coffee in this situation?” thought Mr. Vradii, the co-founder of a Kyiv coffee roastery named Mad Heads. “Nobody would care.”

But over the next few days after the invasion began, he started receiving messages from Ukrainian soldiers. One asked for bags of ground coffee because he could not stand the energy drinks supplied by the army. Another simply requested beans: He had taken his own grinder to the front.

“I was really shocked,” Mr. Vradii said in a recent interview at his roastery, a 40-foot-high brick building buzzing with the sound of grinding coffee and filled with the smell of freshly ground beans. “Despite the war, people were still thinking about coffee. They could leave their homes, their habits. But they could not live without coffee.”

The soldiers’ requests are just one facet of a little-known cornerstone of the Ukrainian lifestyle today: its vibrant coffee culture.

Over the past decade, coffee shops have proliferated across Ukraine, in cities large and small. That is particularly true in Kyiv, the capital, where small coffee kiosks staffed by trained baristas serving tasty mochas for less than $2 have become a fixture of the streetscape.

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