There are no Starbucks in Ukraine. There are no Starbucks in Ukraine and there’s no need to be. Kind of like Almaty.
Kiev has to be the coffee capital of the world. The streets are literally lined with places to get decent, cheap coffee. You can get coffee in cafes, restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores, street stalls, as well as cars and trucks, which have full barista set ups hanging out of their rears. I would bet that on each block of Kyiv there’s an average of five to ten places to get coffee — oftentimes they are right next to each other, lined up for customers to chose from (apparently at random). 60 cents to $1 per cup — the appropriate price for coffee — is the cost, and there’s a full range of options, from expressos to cappuccinos. And everybody is drinking coffee, everywhere.
I asked a local woman why this was, thinking that there may have been some kind of old and deeply seeded coffee drinking tradition here.
“I really don’t know,” she said. “It is kind of a new thing in the past few years. It never used to be like that.”
Me: “What is your favorite kind of coffee to make?”
Kyiv barista: “My favorite drink to make is the … cappuccino.”
“Because when you give someone a cappuccino they smile.”
Kyiv’s coffee culture works well for me. When I’m in a place that I can afford it, I am always either drinking a coffee or a beer. Which one it is often doesn’t really matter. I go from one to the other throughout the day, walking around, writing, watching the world move by. I like to think that their respective effects cancel each other out.
That said, beer too is cheap and ubiquitous in Ukraine. Really, this is my kind of place.