Caffeine Crazy: Drinking Coffee in St. Petersburg

When one thinks ‘Russia’, gastronomic delights along the likes of vodka, caviar and borscht – lots of borscht – spring to mind. What you, the discerning reader, may be surprised to know is there’s another something brewing in Russia’s food & beverage scene – coffee.

Russia’s tea drinking culture throws back hundreds of years. But over the past two decades or so, the country’s coffee culture has seen a big boom, from hipster af coffee shops springing up like toadstools to micro-roasteries featuring artisanal brews. I noticed this more so in St. Petersburg, which is touted as Russia’s cultural (and imo, hipster) capital.

While I’m in no way a coffee connoisseur, I can’t get through the day without multiple cups of coffee. Think: Less is not more; more is better. Here’s a look at my java jaunts in St. Petersburg.

BUDU COFFEE

This little shop, whose name translates to “We’ll have coffee”, has just one branch and that too, is located in an out-of-the-blue outlet village near St. Petersburg Pulkovo Airport. Before you ask why I found myself in said random outlet village, you’ll be thrilled to know that it was our first stop after landing in Mother Russia, and where we waited for over 5 hours to collect our delegate badges for the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

BUDU is home to what I’ve crowned the world’s most luscious coconut hot chocolate. It was a tough choice to make given it shared msnu space with the likes of blueberry cappuccinos and black cherry lattes, but my love for the coco persevered and wasn’t disappointed. Winning! This is also where I was introduced to Russia’s very own, much loved coffee concoction – Raf coffee.

Raf coffee was born in the ’90s, by virtue of a barista who rose to the occasion and created for a Raphael Timerbaev a “good cup of coffee with milk.” What was it, you ask? A shot of espresso with cream and sugar, all steamed together. Or so, legend has it. Over time, the recipe has seen permutations and combinations and today stands as one shot of espresso, cream, one tablespoon of plain sugar, and one tablespoon of vanilla sugar. All steamed together.

I think it’s time I recreate a Raf at home.

SURF COFFEE

My place de resistance if there ever was one … Surf Coffee isn’t a coffee shop. It’s a lifestyle. Before you ask, I came up with that – not them. Fangirl alert. I found refuge from all-day rains and a chilly grey St. Petersburg in this unassuming tropical paradise-esque coffee shop, in the city’s most hipster district. I entered a whole new world, an ‘Alooohaaaaa’ near-escaping my lips, when I entered through the surfboard-handled door. There were hammocks, surf and skate boards and plants galore. Good bye, St. Petey. Hello, Hawaii. With the nasty weather behind me and an iced pineapple latte in my hand, Surf Coffee felt like a warm hug.

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