MILAN – Vadym Granovskiy has finally arrived to Italy from a war torn Ukraine after driving for two days through peaceful European countries. A journey that he described as “a warm sensation, that reminded me how important it is to preserve peace.” His love for coffee started in London, where he lived for many years, but now he’s based in Ukraine and
supplies coffee and brewing equiment to Ukrainian soldiers. Now, he’s in Italy for World of Coffee Milan and a visit to Victoria Arduino HQ and uses every opportunity to tell the story of Ukraine.
Granovskiy confesses: “I used to drink coffee in Starbucks.”
“At some stage I tried specialty coffee, fresh roasted, and it changed my perception of coffee beyond taste. I was keen to understand why it was so different. I lived in Bali for 2 years where I had the chance to meet local coffee farmers. I stayed at coffee plantations
days and weeks, seeing all processes. It was there that the emotional connection with coffee was born: not with the bevarage as consumer, but as a discovering of total different world.
Being personally involved with this very different dimension of coffee, gave me another perception of what coffee business and cultures really mean. Coming back to London, I developed some baristas skills and I won a United Kingdom Cezve/Ibrik Championship in 2014.
By then I could serve a good espresso or hand brewed coffee, but with cezve being a popular brewing method in Ukraine from the XVII century I had to improve it. It was my favourite home brewing method and I worked on the best ways to deliver it. Sure, the espresso I was making was tasty, balanced, but I wanted to apply the same rules to prepare a perfect cezve. Winning that championship officially began my professional carrer.
Once you have the right to put a “champion” in front of your name, it serves as an indication of your skills and gives you a chance to build a business based on that. I started my own company Coffee in Action and our coffeeshop reached #1 on Tripadvisor Tea & Coffee category in Kiyv, with multiple Travelers Choice awards. It’s a great goal to achive. “
The specialty coffee scene exploded in Ukraine after 2014, but what changed again with the arrival of the Covid and the war?
“Ukrainian specialty coffee scene was booming for five years prior to pandemic , with more and more independent coffee being opened across Ukraine. Ukranian cousine, reataurants, hospitality industry were also growing, becoming more sofisticated and attracting more visitors than ever. One of the reasons why Coffee in Action achieved success is our creativity. We created new signature coffee drinks, fusing different brewing techniques, ingredients, storytelling.
We had a lot of creative coffee solutions to represent our values and history. For instance we created a signature drink called Flat Red, with espresso and pomagranate juice for Lexus presentation. Flat Red soon became a destination drink with many visitors coming to our coffee shop just to experience a new coffee.
I have even became a Lexus Brand Ambassador and face of Ideal Taste advertising campaign. Freedom andf creativity became a trademark for Ukraine and Ukrainian baristas.
But then obviously pandemic changed everything: the industry probably lost around 40% of coffee shops in Ukraine. Pandemic changed coffee landscape: for instance coffee shops based in a business centres lost clientelle and regulars. People started to work from home which gave a chance to grwo online sales, delivery and open coffee shops in residental developments.
War changed everything but a few good coffee are open even now, because Ukrainians want to drink a good coffee. Cup of coffee became a ritual to establish the sensation of being still alive. I would say that Ukrainians acquired taste for quality coffee. At home people prepare cezve coffee, as Italians do with moka pot.
But if you go into a coffeeshop, you find a good barista that can prepare silky flat white or capuccino and tasty balanced espresso. To satisfay that taste for a specilaty coffee, industry needs to be supported by the right equipment, so Victoria Arduino presence is growing in Ukraine.”
Speaking about it: you have a unique Victoria Arduino White Eagle: can you tell us this particular choice?
Granovskyi laughs: “I love Victoria Arduino lever espresso machines. I have a collection actually of different colours Victoria Arduino Athena lever machines. I chose that because I started as a cezve champion and cezve is a truly had crafted coffee. It takes time,
skills and passion and when people look at brewing process it becomes a ritual that built an emotional connection between barista and costumer.
I wanted to preserve that human dimesion in coffee, that sense of hospitality, when I make espresso: and the hand crafted coffee concept is mantained by the lever machines.
Gwilym Davies, World Barista Champion 2009 introduced me to Athena lever machine in 2014. I find a deep connection with this kind of equipment. It became a magnet for customers, thanks to its design, people come to us to see it. It’s unique, and you can produce the best espresso too.”
Granovskyi what are the main difficulties that you have to face during the conflict?
“As main business we especially roast and sell coffee to companies. We supply car showrooms, corporate clients, beauty salons etc. This part of business is still going. But the coffeeshop is closed now. We were meant to open in March a new coffeeshop, based inside a Lexus showroom: I wanted to combine the premium quality coffee and hospitality with and japanese premium cars clientelle. We were planning to do that, but in february the war began, so it’s still close.
We moved into different direction: I opened a charity fund and we started to support Ukranian army with Coffee Care project. Supplying coffee and drewing equipment complimenary. We created a very strong coffee blend for soldiers. With partners from Turkey we designed and started to produce a heavy duty professional grade cezve that was built for the army.
It is pretty much indestructible – 1.5 thick copper, tin plated with heat treated military grade carbon steel handle. And laser cut Ukrainian
trident. You can brew coffee with any heat source -open fire, charcoal, gas burner, portable cooker etc.
I want soldiers to enjoy hight quality coffee. This is a ritual, something that can help to connect a people around coffee. This is my way to help our army.”
How is the industry reacting?
“Every Ukrainian soul is fighting now. Many businesses help the military, bringing supplies, food, clothes. Right now the challenge is to substain and to lead to the victory and end of the war. Everyone is doing their best to help army. If people continue to work economy has a chance to stay alive.
After the victory, I think Ukraine could be a interesting destination, for coffee as well. We will have a lot of people coming, to reveal them the country and its hospitality. I have started looking through the real history, based on culture and coffee. Ukraine since XVII century was one of the first European countries where this bevearage became widely consumed. It has become quite genetic. Once ukranians re-discover the taste of a really quality coffee, they’re going to drink it more every year. Specialty exploded for that
reason. This is a huge culture.”
What are the future trends in Ukraine?
“I think that’s what is going to happen is that classical drinks will stay, as espresso and cappuccino. But we’re going to have new signature drinks in the menus. As a competitor I realised that you need to create something new, unique. Eventually you have to produce new recepies, using new references to try different flavours. And one other trend will be chosing local ingredients. Cold brew and cold brew based drinks are more consumed, above all we sell them during summer.
You could find specialty coffees in supermakets too in Ukraine. I’ve done consultancy for some of them to introduce this kind of products. They buy, they roast and they put their coffee in their shelves. Not everywhere, but there are a few chains that put specialty in their selling points. The price is an issue also here, but there is an evolution in coffee colture: Ukranians are looking for a better quality. Instant coffee is now degrading. In Ukraine supermarkets, petrol stations, fast food chains like McDonald’s are approaching different coffee products. I worked with McDonalds Ukraine, to change the water preparation standards, coffee beans, serving temperature, equipments, based on specialty coffee standards. It took us three months to get a better result.
This is a significant indication of how the Ukranian coffee market is changing gradually: if this movement involves also big fast food chains, petrol station, than it will have a great impact on massive population. Every Ukranian could buy a decent coffee in a petrol station: the future seems bright, but most of that involves commercial coffee. And it’s fine: this is where the world is moving towards. More food is becoming food-tech. We change the way to drink coffee, with less hospitality perhups, but we’re going to drink more
Granovskyi, do you like italian espresso?
“Love it. This is what I drink everyday. Doppio espresso. Occasionally mixing espresso with cezve in one cup. Strong coffee. Strong country. That’s the way our soldiers like coffee. We call it Ukrainer: strong, intence, rich in flavours. We even started an information campaign with National Academy of the Security Service of Ukraine to popularize this coffee as signature drink to represent Ukraine.
By combining two very different coffees – for example chocolatty and nutty Brasilian espresso with floral Ethiopan coffee in cezve you could find a real sinergy between this two brewing methods and taste profiles. And create a drink that represents Ukraine. Well, why don’t I tell you a story of this coffee. Competing and winning at international level requires creating a signature coffee drink to tell your story.
So Ukrainer is a strong coffee to represent strong country. The recepie is pretty simple – you have to mix cezve coffee with espresso in one big cup. It reflect on our cultural heritage and strong ties with Ottoman Empire and our booming espresso culture, but most importantly creating a new tasty coffee recepie to fuel our resistance.
Cezve is one of the most popular ways to brew coffee in Ukraine. For generations Ukrainan people enjoyed it after acquiring it from Ottoman Empire in XVII century. Cezve coffee is mainly enjoyed in Turkey, Greece and Middle East and brewed in cezve/ibrik – long-handled pot made from copper.
We have teamed up with a craftsmen from Turkish manufacturer Soy to produce a special Ukrainer cezve bearing Ukrainian coat of arms. Very finely ground coffee is needed to make it. To create Ukrainer coffee you pull a shot of double espresso into a big cup then add a freshly brewed cezve coffee on a top. It’s best to wait 1-2 minutes to let it settle and this way all the grounds will be gathered at the bottom, not bothering you when drinking.
This coffee is a very unique with distinctive characteristics, combining rich and strong cezve coffee with intence espresso flavours. It can be sweetened with honey if required. Enjoy the coffee, energize yourself and think of Ukraine.”
What are your next programs?
Granovskyi: “The idea is to use coffee to tell people about Ukraine. We hopefully will arrange coffee workshops: in Italy we’re going to create an ukranian coffee menu, in day dedicated to ukranian culture. And all the selling would be donated to ukranians. Our story, particularly now, is important to share. I want to involve also ucranian embassy in some events to introduce the drink where you combine espresso and cevze with Victoria Arduino.
And speaking about machines: when the pandemic started, our coffee shops closed and many of our customers requested us a solution to improve their coffees at home. I went to their houses to trained them to use machines as Prima. They started to want the best equipment in their house and to be able to use them. To learn how to make espresso, to use grinder properly. People wants to show their coffee machines and their skills to their friends coming. It’s a trend that is developing.
Also capsules are many, because they’re affordable and very simple to use. But authomatic machines as Nuova Simonelli, Jura, for ground coffee and good quality espresso are very popular. Mainly in offices and occasionally in houses. At some stage, when they discover high quality espresso, people choose semi professional or professional equipment also for home consume. “
A final message from Vadym Granovskyi
“I’d like to remind to everyone that there’s war in Ukraine. We need all the possible support. I strong believe that ukranians are a part of the european family. It was a very hard choice and now we’re in war but hopefully we will win and get back to normal life. And once it happens, we’re going to need all the help to rebuilt Ukraine. It’s a country that is all to discover: it has a chance to become a food destination as well.
It has a great ospitality potential to explore. Ukraine has also started to produce a very good wine for exemple. And people will embrace in the future the ukranian identity. The pandemic and the war took us away the idea of changing minds and sharing different cultures: now it’s the moment to come back to meet each other and our unique aspects.”
Vadym Granovskiy is an entrepreneur, TEDx speaker, British champion and finalist of the World Cezve Coffee Championship
Lecturer at the “School of Restaurant Management” of the Kyiv-Mohyla Business School, brand ambassador of Jura in Ukraine and founder of Coffee in Action. A man of taste, a cosmopolitan and a traveller. He returned to Ukraine in 2013 after ten years in the UK and two years in Bali, Indonesia. In 2014, he organized the first national cezve championship, which was held in Lviv. In 2015, he held the second championship of Ukraine in cezve, in Kyiv. In 2016, he became a sensory judge at the World Cezve Championship in Dubai.
As part of consulting projects, he worked on a coffee card for London restaurants Hide, Russian entrepreneur Evgeny Chichvarkin and Babaji, British restaurateur Alan Yau. The Chichvarkin and Yau restaurants are Michelin-starred. In Ukraine, he conducted large-scale consulting projects with Fozzy and McDonald’s, collaborated with Good Wine.
Worked on corporate projects with Microsoft, Visa, Mastercard, Dell, Lexus, Toyota, Rolls-Royce, Honda, Audi, Wargaming, Philip Morris, Join Up, Ukrsibbank, Curaprox, Horizon Capital, British American Tobacco, Pernod Ricard and many others . Since 2015, Coffee in Action has been preparing coffee for guests of the VIP Lounge on the main stage of the most prestigious music festival in Ukraine, Leopolis Jazz Fest.
In 2017 and 2018, Vadim was a member of the jury of the national restaurant award “Salt”. In 2018, he became one of the headliners of the Premium Bankers Club held by Ukrsibbank. In 2019 and 2020, Vadim and Coffee in Action were invited to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland to provide the highest level of coffee for guests of the Ukrainian House in Davos.
In 2019, Coffee in Action prepared coffee for guests of the Ukraine Reform Conference in Toronto, Canada. In 2020, he conducted an international online master class at the Visa Cashless Forum. In August 2021, Coffee in Action prepared coffee for the honored guests of the First Ladies Summit, held at the initiative of the First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska. In 2021, he became the brand ambassador of the Swiss manufacturer of premium automatic coffee machines Jura in Ukraine.
Vadim is the creator of the author’s drink Flat Red, which has become a new coffee classic in Kyiv and the face of the Lexus “Perfect Taste” advertising campaign, created by the creative agency BBDO Ukraine. Coffee in Action tops the rating of Kyiv coffee houses and has two Travelers Choice awards from the TripAdvisor international resource.
The institution was twice nominated for the title of the best coffee house by the experts of the national restaurant award “Salt”. An interesting interlocutor and passionary of quality coffee, Vadim is a frequent guest on television, radio and magazines. He took part in the filming of the program “Master Chef”, the talk show “Speak Ukraine” and “Ukraine Today”. At various times, he led columns and wrote for L’Officiel Hommes Ukraine, Novoye Vremya, Liga and other popular media. He regularly conducts educational workshops, lectures and tastings. Working on a book.