Caffeinated Russia

drink coffee hot.jpgThis summer I was invited to Russia. A fascinating journey to the land of vodka, bears and Putin. That’s what everybody thinks.

I was on a mission to discover something else but vodka. Coffee!

I got a few bags of coffee from five different roasters from Australia and head to Russia to visit some of the biggest coffee houses and Russian Barista Association. What did I expect? Not much, because I even didn’t know whether a coffee culture existed there. Well, here is one big snobby thought of mine.

In Melbourne you don’t hear a lot about Russian baristas. Hmmm, not me at least.

But according to BusinesStart analysis the volume of the Russian coffee market reached more than $3 billon US dollars. It is one of the big markets in the world! The supply of coffee in Russia has increased by almost 80% in the last 5 years with 30% of the volume consumed in two main cities, Moscow and St Petersburg. Definitely something to look at.

I arrived in St.Petersburg at midday. My thirty hours journey added up to one very long day in the most beautiful city in Russia. I just had time to get a shower and run to my first cupping.

So many questions raced through my mind: Is the water good here? Can you drink it from the tap? How do they choose a water supplier if they buy potable water? How do they prepare coffee? Which tools do they use? I was also curious to find out whether our coffee tasted anything like it does back home. And on top of this I wanted to find out how established this market is and what growth potential they have.

I was on a mission with the Australian coffee flag in my hand!

Now imagine! A Scandinavian style café inside of an old Baroque building. Sounds like a mad mixture? It is! Mad coffee espresso sits behind the main city streets. Here I met Irina, a Barista trainer and International coffee judge, who was leaving to Budapest the next day where the World Coffee expo 2017 was just about to open. It is 6 o’clock in the evening and the café is full. St.Petersburg doesn’t sleep, it is celebrating White Nights which means that the sun never disappears, so you can drink coffee at any time of the day, especially if you are not planning to go to bed. Definitely not in my case today.

mad coffee.jpgI noticed that the majority of coffee here is from Ethiopia and Colombia. We started cupping. I caught myself thinking that our coffee tasted good, but not as good as back home. I missed the vibrant note and the depth of a beautiful floral bouquet of my favourite Australian roaster. In comparison, their coffee was a bit darker but roasted to suit the quality of the local water. I was slightly disappointed of the performance of our coffee but decided to try their espresso. Well, after a drink I certainly felt better. Espresso in Russia is something not many people drink and I, probably, know why.

After the cupping I asked Irina what did she think about coffee. She seemed to be positively surprised by the variety of beans although I just brought coffee from Indonesia, Tanzania, Colombia and Ethiopia. The Russian coffee market is swamped by Ethiopian, Kenyan and Colombian coffee, so not often she would have an opportunity to try coffee from Sulawesi or Java. She mentioned, that as a judge she would be impressed to see coffee from Indonesia or Tanzania. But, Ethiopian Geisha took the first prize in today’s cupping.

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My second cupping was with one of the first and most interesting coffee houses “Bolshe coffee” – an unusual name with an unusual interior and one very friendly and professional owner, Nicolay. They do public cupping every Thursday which usually attracts around 15 people or more. The cupping with coffee from Melbourne was announced on their Facebook page and brought in 35 people or so. Not bad for a midweek event.

Nicolay went on to show me “his” St.Petersburg by visiting some amazing coffee places. It was so fascinating to see many alternative brews on every café’s menu and it costs less than the “standard” machine coffee. The main reason behind that idea is to attract the attention of alternative brewing methods and single origins. Some sort of a Marketing tool that promotes additional education. I have to say, it works. Here I saw more people drinking coffee from Chemex or V60 than in Melbourne.

A few days later I had a meeting at the North-West Coffee Company (NWCC) and Russian Barista Association (RBA). Lost somewhere in a forest of warehouses, the North-West Coffee Company shares an office with the RBA. And what an office it is! Run by an immigrant from England – Chris – NWCC is the biggest roaster in St.Petersburg. I brought a few samples in order to try their coffee with our Melbourne water. I call it “Revenge cupping”.

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I have to say, I tried their coffee in a café and was pleasantly surprised. To be honest, even their baristas don’t look much different to ours: tattoos, beards, shaved heads and snobby looks.

We set up for a cupping on the workbench next to the Mahlkönig grinder and Hario scales. I caught myself in a déja vu image. That’s how I know it from Melbourne. We talked about the industry, it’s difficulties and the necessity of education and investment into barista’s training, coffee supplies, the lack of International workshops and about water quality. Unfortunately, no one drinks water from the tap in Russia and it made my life so much more difficult. I was struggling to throw one plastic bottle after another in the bins.

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A few days later I head down to Moscow which was such a different experience.

After visiting a few cafés, the famous and biggest chain Double B, Drinkit and a few others, I had a clear understanding that coffee culture here is definitely on a rise and people are prepared to pay premium for a better quality, cup of coffee in Russia costs around 300 Rubble, what’s equivalent almost to $8 AUD.

Water in Moscow was closer to Melbourne’s, yet in Terrefacto – one of the biggest roasters in town – they took a decision to buy a potable water in big 19 litres bottles. It gives them consistency and provides filtered, good quality water.

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I definitely was expected in Moscow. In the office of Terrefacto we had one of the biggest blind cupping sessions together with the whole team plus some International guests. Australian roasted coffee was on offer directly next to the coffee from Copenhagen and coffee roasted in Moscow, some of the samples were even from the same region. It was a great experience where I got to know not just new talented people but passionate coffee professionals from different countries.

You might wonder, what does coffee in Moscow taste like? Great! Our coffee tasted better in Moscow too, it was fruitier and rounder than in St.Petersburg, though slightly “tired” from travelling. During the blind cupping we were guessing the origin and the roaster of the coffee, and to be fair few times I was confused where was our coffee and where was a coffee from Moscow. Light roasts, juicy, mouthful coffees from Ethiopia and Kenia were a few of my favourites. But for home I took Moscow roasted coffee from Yemen. That’s something I look forward to cup in Melbourne soon.

I spent more than 3 hours there and we were sharing news from the coffee industry, deciding to keep in touch and, hopefully, make this an annual experience.

Overall, this Russian experience was very positive. There is a lot to improve and develop as Russia is a vast land of opportunities. But as it happens in any young market, it’s often starts with a few passionate fanatics and that means curiosity and fast development. Next year, it might be a completely different story. Hopefully, I will be back soon with a news from a Russian Coffee Forum.

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The morning rise

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There is one small town in Europe I visit every year. Almost always I drive through the same shady streets. And every year I try to notice a little differences on the face of that old town. EUROPE is conservative, they don’t like to change things. They repair, remake or redo thing again if they are old. But If something is taken down most likely for a restoration.

Once I noticed that one of the iconic bakeries took their store symbol off the roof. The bakery was sold to a bigger chain and a new contemporary design was introduced to the neighbourhood.

Shortly after I witnessed that the store symbol was put back in its place. The new, shiny and fresh Baker (the roof symbol) offered a bread and suggests a little more to the citizens of the town.

I don’t know if it is on purpose or not, but this baker has a bread sticking out from his basket as he promoting a men’s health together with a freshly backed rolls. Hot bread, hot guys – I guess, now I understand, why people loved him. Back in place above everybody else’s heads he is like a Cupid reminding everyone about the early morning rise.

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Day number 3

20170629_105634 (2)Today we are at almost 3000m altitude. My bum is on fire and the rest of the muscles are on strike. That path with a steel wire wasn’t quite straight (photo).

Reaching the peak I see…snow. Some sort of a Christmas in July. It certainly feels that way for me and I’m celebrating every second. Mainly because there is no more walking for today. But Champagne wouldn’t hurt. I’m sweaty, standing in snow in my short pants. Hot and cold «feelings» mixed together.

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Tonight we are staying in a hut on top of the mountain. It is busy here and we are too early. Bedtime is a few hours away and to be honest I’m looking forward to sleep, especially knowing that I gonna share a room with 11 other hikers. What could be better than a room of farting and snoring people? Oh dear! I find this thought is too disturbing to keep in my head. I need a help.

No book in my bag, only a phone with empty battery, so we decided to play cards for the rest of the day. It is not that kind of reward you are waiting for after a long and painful climb. But I quickly change my mind when I look at the snow and wind greeting newcomers. Anything is better in comparison. My mind, body and spirit are getting numb at that point. I’m reaching my summit. Looks like in altitude the air does become thin and less concentrated so do my thoughts. But there is always a reward when you least expect it.

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Clouds are gone and we can see that we are on the top of the world with a breathtaking view over Dolomites. The sun is visiting the peaks for the last time today to kiss and say “Good night”. It always does this way. Every day. For million of years and nothing changed. Time stopped. This feeling is worth millions. At this point nothing else matters, even not a few snorers.

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A cold invitation

20170701_111007 (2)Cold skin. Very cold. I touch my cheek again and to experience this feeling once more. It doesn’t feel like mine anymore. Rain and hail kissed my cheeks million times within the last hour.

Now it’s time to dive into a cloud.

Uncertainty disturbs. Especially on 2000 meters above the sea level on a sharp rocks.

I feel a brush of cold air on my lips, hairs and arms. Finally this milky universe swallowed me and there is no way back any longer. I even don’t know where is that «way back». Everything is white. Everything is the same.

Don’t stop.

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Now I can’t efford this luxury. I just look straight ahead and follow the marks on the track while I still can see something.

Fear. Joy. And curiosity. All mixed in a cocktail that I’m drinking now.

But the thought that I’m walking with a cloud makes me smile. A scarf of thick wet air thrown around me to protect from the cold.

I’m feeling strange here. I feel like I got invited for an event by mistakes.

This experience is impossible to forget. What a treat!

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Cost of recruitment or a Price for being nice

IMG_4192 (2)Once I met a boutique shop Manager. She just left a high end store to work for a local designer. On my question: “Why did you leave that place?”. She answered: “… they didn’t look after me. I was their best sales person, but I had no incentives, no “thank you” at the end of a working period, no appreciation, only plans to meet. Felt like they were using me.”

And I thought “why would people want to leave their employer if they got paid for what they did? Isn’t the whole point of work to get money you agreed on for a service you agreed to provide?”

I started to think and did my research.

It is not a secret that happy workers are 12% more productive than unhappy and more willing to stay after hours; they do extra work too. Unfortunately there are only 30-33 per cent of such happy workers. So 70% of workers are working on their 88% of capacity. That’s too much money to loose.

Find a new employee is an expensive exercise. Not only that their’s cost involved in the process of recruitment alone: advertisement, time of the internal recruiter, time of the person conducting interview, background checks and various pre-employment assessment tests. Studies show that “an average cost to replace an $8 per hour employee, determining an average cost from $5505.08 to $9444.47 per turnover.” “Chartcourse estimates it costs $40 000 on average to replace a nurse, while technology companies can run replacement costs of more than $125 000 per vacancy,”-says Financial Review. Studies like SHMR predict that it costs 6 to 9 months salary on average. That is a cost of training and speed and quality of performance.

What if an employee doesn’t need to leave? The other option is an internal promotion, which costs almost nothing to a company and brings more benefits not just for customers, but for other employees too. But sometimes it might be not an option at all. People have to or should leave a place and new blood has to enter the veins time to time, but holding on to a right person is a very necessary exercise, because it cuts costs for a company and gives stimulation for others. I’m not even mentioning the appreciation from employees, new ideas, faster up to speed performance and extra effort too.

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And here I remember another story from another industry. A Company didn’t want to employ anyone to fill up a position, they decided to wait for a the right person. When that person came in, they checked him in every possible way. He got offered a position as Sales Rep. A few days later he got to know, that he had to undergo a surgery which he might not survive after all. Besides, it might lead to complications and long recovery. He notified the company and said that he is sorry that they went through all that trouble. This company decided to leave the offer open and wait for the result of that operation. Kind? Wait a bit…

A day or two before the operation he was invited into the office where the director arranged a welcome lunch for him and gave that guy not only a signed contract which would cover his sick leave, but also a premium insurance for every occasion and family support.

Nice story? You would say that a right person deserves it? Surely, he deserves it even if they don’t know yet his performance, KPI and communication style? What do you think, does a person who has been working for a company successfully deserve acknowledgement too then? Yes? And even that person, who leaves after 3-4 years of employment deserves a “thank you” gift for all the money saved and the progression of a company? After all, knowing that average job change in Australia is 1,5 years, 4 years of employment history saved a company at least 6 to 12 salaries.

6 to 12 salaries? Well, in my case it was an email saying, that I was “one of the best employees they have” and that I  “will be truly missed” plus an offer to catch up if I want.

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Bright and empty book or The Ausday

img_3206-2Australia Day today. But some people call it the “Invasion Day”.

Demonstrations and protests about the date of celebration of Australia Day are combined with happy walks with a colourful palette of all nationalities. Today is the day. The Prime Minister is holding a speech about our diversity calling it “the most successful multicultural society in the world” and acknowledging Aboriginal Australians as “the oldest continuous human culture on Earth which enriches us all”. May be.

But somewhere in hot Queensland sits a not so cool Pauline Hanson with her “One Nation” party and cooks a soup of a sterile community with only one ingredient. I hope her meal will be so plain and disgusting, that she will be thrown out of the professional kitchen or at least return to her dirty dishes. But at the moment she is quiet and locked herself in the kitchen with a witch book. Help us multicultural wizard, make this book same as her head!

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Сегодня День Австралии или День Вторжения, как называют другие.

Для одних – это вопрос перенесения праздника на другую дату, для других – это вопрос принятия и признания. В любом случае, есть только один человек, который сидит тихо в то время, когда вся Австралия празднует -Полин Хэнсон, лидер национальной партии Австралии.

Премьер Министр Австралии произнёс, что мы “самое удачливое мульти культурное общество в мире”, и что “каждый иммигрант – это ниточка, ткущая цветное одеяло Австралии”.., но кто-то всё-так сидит тихо в жарком штате Квинслэнд и даже по праздникам варит свой стерильный суп, замешенный на одном ингредиенте – ядовитой слюне гремучей змеи. Да расщепи ее (слюну) жара, пусть она превратится в безобидную воду, теплую и пустую, как повар, который над ней ворожит.

365 seconds and 100% guarantee

img_3817-2I had a look at my photos and realised that Hong Kong is much more interesting than just a phenomena of a dog’s public toilets. I ll try to write more about this megacity tomorrow.

Well, it is understandable that while we are travelling, we pay attention to the odd things. For example, in this trip I found the most unusual pizzeria ever. In this café pizza cooks just in 100 seconds and you even can eat it while standing. As advertisement said – if you are not happy -money back guarantee. Sounds like fun? To top it up I just add that this place is open 24/7, and you even can make a selfy, post it on Facebook and view it on the big tv screen in just a seconds.

I found this spot in Upper Austria: pizzamat with coffeemat and drinkomat… and tvmat – all in one spot. Automatic life. Kinda if you want to eat – “mat” yourself. But the most interesting thing is that in the rules of that empty serviceless café says: “No singing, No laud talking and No music making”. What is this life if I can’t even have fun in-between soulless machines? They want me to became one of them?!! Sounds like I should have a pizza in 100 seconds, eat it in 200, make a photo in 5, make a coffee in 10, drink it in 50 and be satisfied in 100 (%).

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Перечитав свой вчерашний пост, я хочу заметить, что Гонконг интересен не только (и не столько!) публичными туалетами для собак; Гонконг – это мега сити, о чём я постараюсь рассказать завтра.

Похоже, когда мы путешествуем наше внимание естественным образом задерживается на всём необычном. Вот, например, на этот раз мы увидели в Австрии самую нестандартную пиццерию. В ней пицца готовится всего за 100 секунд, её можно есть даже стоя. Ещё в этом кафе можно сделать фото на телевизоре и опубликовать его сразу же в фейсбуке и, плюс ко всему, это пиццерия работает 24 часа 7 дней в неделю. Звучит заманчиво? Если качество пиццы вас не устроет, то деньги обещают вернуть.

Пицца готовится в пиццемате, а закуски в автомате рядом, в кофемате выдаются чай и кофе, тогда как напитки в холодильнике напротив. В общем, жизненный автомат. Захотел есть – “отсамомать” себя по-австрийски: сготовь пиццу за 100 секунд, съешь за 200, сфотайся за 5, свари кофе за 10 и выпей его за 50. А главное, не забудь 100%-но порадоваться.

Art of being bad

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img_3634-2I know, I was writing about Krampus not long ago, but apparently there is one more tradition in Austria that helps to get rid of the bad spirits – Perchten. If Krampus was for kids, Perchten is for adults.

I don’t know why you need to scare people so much, but by the look of it we do something really bad throughout the year cause Perchten is way scarier than their friend the Krampus. If you are planning to sleep well before Christmas – don’t go out on “Rauch” night; cause those guys not just scare the shit out of you, they might even beat you up till a few drops of blood start dripping – especially if you are a member of a competitor’s group. Who would have thought that Perchten have many competitive groups? It is not just a competition, but also a big art. The art to be bad.

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Сегодня мы посетили Пехтн. Не так давно я писала про Крампуса – друга Николауса, пугающего детей.

Пехтн для взрослых. И, судя по всему, большие детки – большие бедки. Пехтн  в Австрии – это серьёзно. Они не только не дадут вам спать, но и выбьют из вас несколько капель крови, особенно если вы из группы Пехтн конкурентов. Кто мог бы подумать, что у Пехтн есть конкуренты. Конкуренты – это значит соревнование. Но Пехтн это не только соревнование, но и искусство одновременно, искусство быть плохим.

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Big ball from small words

_mg_0276Yesterday we had a dinner with friends and enjoyed a meal that’s good for your body and brain.

We were talking about democracy and nationalism. How much are we allowed to say and how much do we want to hear? One of us insisted that democracy means right of speech and we have a right to express our “right wing” feelings in public, including Pauline Hanson who allows herself to say comments such as: “Do you want to see terrorism in our streets here? Do you want to see our Australians murdered? And if I’m so wrong and Muslims feel that way, why don’t I have them standing beside me saying, “Yes, we value the Australian way of life. We’re against Islam, against all this.” They don’t come out strong because they can’t do it.”. Or another example about the freedom speech from a representative of Australia (!) in Parliament: “…we feel we have been swamped by Asians”. Interesting….

The second opinion was that democracy does not allow to say abusive words to someone and should not allow to use nationalistic topics, religion, skin colour and similar as part of identification, measurements of citizenship and humanity or political aggression.

One of us felt that any limitation to the right for freedom of speech takes away everybody’s freedom and promotion of democracy. The other felt like such limitation is taking away another person’s freedom in general and is therefore the end of democracy itself.

Well, I’m worried that we once already experienced a Supreme nation in the 1930-40’s which was united by the thought of another nation not deserving to live in their country of Supreme’s. It showed how such a minor fear in the back of the mind of a few loud people can escalate to becoming a general and public opinion; one person’s  opinion becomes a political key point.

Simple pleasures never generate a positive momentum. Once a big ball is rolling, it is hard to stop it.

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Этот пост про простой спор, спор друзей дома за званным ужином.

Один из нас настаивал на свободе слова, как первой и самой важной черте демократии. Второй, говорил, что свобода слова замечательна, покуда она не затрагивает свободу жизни, интересов и вероисповедания другого.

В первом варианте – есть возможность высказать свое мнение, даже если оно ультра националистическое, во втором – страхи одного, необязательно являются легитимными(желания убить соседа не должны промоутироваться,  в первую очередь потому, что это ограничивает “соседскую” свободу, а потом это желание настолько незаконно и стыдно, что об этом даже нельзя подумать).

Но вот здесь и центр всего спора: кто-то всё же разрешил себе подумать, что, скажем, азиаты заполонили двор/штат/Австралию/мир, и сказал об этом громко. Теперь, это стало даже нормальным. А “нормальное” перетекло в политическое. И эта защищено свободой слова, той, что держит демократию. Её нельзя отменить, так как автоматически отмениться вся демократия.  Другому из нас демократия представляется не в виде обнажёнки, а в виде прикрывшейся местами девы.

Мне же видится, что мы этот урок проходили лет 60-70 назад и, однажды, позволив себе высказать свои скрытые страхи, так тяжело остановить ком, несущийся по склону демократической горы вниз.

Can I help you?

img_4416-3Can I help you? – Hoping he might ask me about my tractors.

His head turns wondering about my European accent.

He stands in front of me in his small grey shorts, big oily leather hat and his half-length “dry as a bone” coat. Hat, dirty. Boots are too. He always dresses like this, only his warm green socks might experience a rare change. Change is something he does not like, because, for him, it is unnecessary. All his life, every single morning this big Aussie man looks outside of his weatherboard house, drinks his instant coffee, stares out of his window at his thirsty paddock, and walks slowly to his rustic, run down shed. So did his father.

I have never seen such a big dry guy anywhere else. He kicks dust as though he can’t lift his heavy legs high enough, or maybe he just wants to look dirty, trying to justify his day. At the end of a day “dirty” means that some work has been done.

On farm-days everyone calls him “big Nat”, or maybe big “Nad”, I couldn’t understand, indeed I couldn’t understand much at all apart from the sound they make when they pronounce the ‘…at’ or the ‘…ad’ after the capital ‘N’ which starts his name. All I hear is a fat jammed “aaaaa”. The twang. When I look, I notice a net of wrinkles running from the corner of his eyes. Dry riverbeds. These wrinkles, are they channels for water or just rays of warmth from his two suns, his two eyes? His eyes are empty, but smile kindly.

I only wanted to shake his rough hand and feel the strength of this guy, feel how his brushy cracked skin touches mine. I’m looking at his meaty hands. I can’t help it. Big, dirty and brown they are an indication of hardship. Hardship and careless life.

Work is his only hobby, his only thing, his only business, his only everything. All he ever did. The same as his only father ever did. It has nothing to do with money. Because if he even decides to change one wheel on his car it would run 25% better, but why would he? Change is something he doesn’t like, because it’s unnecessary. His father did the same. And that is the way.

Today Nat/d is shopping for a tractor. He’s not planning to buy one, just to shop, shop around. He actually doesn’t need one. I’m standing on the other side of my tent, where I’m waiting for him to respond. I’m thinking to myself “another tyre kicker”, but you have to ask.

Can I help you? – Hoping he might ask me about my tractors.

How r ya? – He drops on his way out of my tent.