Coffee Culture in Russia – from Peter I to Present

Last modified on 27 Jan 2016

Coffee... In the morning its flavour is in the air of the cities. According to statistics, some 760 billion cups of coffee every year are consumed by people from all over the world. Available to a limited number of people – the well off – one or two centuries ago, today it is pleasure of everyone and an integral part of our lives.

There is a wide range of ways to brew and serve coffee in the world, some of them exist more than nine centuries, and new ones are coming up. And of course, as a hot drink, coffee tends to be more popular during the colder period of the year. That’s why we decided to cover this topic now, when winter begins.


To choose one of the Coffee Shops in Moscow where the best coffee is served, please viewTop 8 Moscow Coffee Shops

The Russian Empire: First Coffee Experience

Peter the Great Portrait

As regards Russia, historically, the tradition of coffee-drinking there begins with the era of Peter the Great. He "discovered" coffee while in Holland, became fond of it and brought the drink to Russia in the beginning of XVIII century. At first the court noblemen (or “boyare”) called this “outlandish pot” a “smut syrup”. The Tsar, though, urged them “not to cast aspersions on the praiseworthy drink”. So little by little coffee caught on in the country. The first coffee house in Russia was opened in 1720 in St. Petersburg Peter and Paul Fortress and was called “Chetyre Fregata” (“Four Frigates”).

Modern Russia: Coffee Statistics

Despite the fact that the Russians were mainly “tea-drinkers”, coffee gained more and more favour as time went on.

Nowadays it is quite popular, and below there are some interesting coffee statistics in Russia as of 2012:

  • 2/3 of all Russian coffee-drinkers are citizens of Moscow and St. Petersburg
  • St. Petersburg citizens drink 1 or 2 cups of coffee daily and are jokingly called “coffee pots”. Moscow citizens are “tea pots”, as they tend to drink more tea
  • about 85% of Russians prefer instant coffee to coffee beans
  • every year the number of fresh coffee drinkers in Russia goes up, the number of instant coffee drinkers goes down
  • cappuccino is the most popular drink in Russian coffee houses
  • at home Russians mostly brew coffee in Turkish brewing pots called jezves, in Moka pots or coffee plungers and like to add some milk, cream, spices, chocolate, berries, lemon, liqueur, etc.
  • up to 100% of coffee in Russia is imported. The main suppliers are Vietnam, Brazil, Indonesia.


Coffee Traditions in Modern Russia

You may ask “so what are the traditions of coffee-drinking that are preserved in modern Russia? Is there something outstanding?”. Let’s find it out. In 2013 there was a meeting of 10 top coffee shop industry experts in Moscow. They discussed some burning issues, tendencies and summed up that when we talk about coffee traditions in Russia, there’s no way to refer to the country as a whole. It works for cities too. For example, many Moscow coffee houses roast and brew coffee in their own unique way. At the same time, the staff travels the world regularly to find best suppliers, drawing on the experience of their foreign colleagues. So today in the Globalisation Century, coffee trends of many countries, including Russia, become more and more similar. At the same time, they range even in one city.

A more deep research showed, though, that there is actually at least one different trait. While Western countries practice mostly coffee to-go, Russians have different reasons to come to their favourite coffee shops. As it goes with tea, Russians prefer either to spend time chatting over coffee, or to have a meal or snack along with their caffeine dose. Taking this into consideration, coffee companies have adapted to Russian habits, usually providing enough room to have a seat as well as various appetisers, dishes and beverages.

How About a Cup of Coffee?

For the ones who are curious about the places and features, which represent coffee culture in Russia, we prepared a handy list of Top Moscow Coffee Shops. Once you are aware what you will deal with online, you can check them on one of our Moscow St Petersburg tours. Our tour guide will gladly advise you a coffee shop to suit your tastes best and will not let you get lost in the menu!

About the author

Diana Zalenskaya, a travel professional and destination expert for Moscow, Russia.