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Food Critic: Coffee shops with soul on Artema

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May 10, 2012, 10:59 p.m. | Food & Nightclubs — by James Marson

Coffeetut proves that there’s no need to overcomplicate things
© Kyiv Post/Kostyantyn Chernichkin

The enjoyment of coffee depends not only on the beans, but also the atmosphere of the cafe where it is drunk. In Kyiv, both of these ingredients are often absent.

The city suffers from a glut of wannabe Starbucks cafes that are all imitations of each other. Coffee House, Coffee Time, Coffee Life – all have similar names, rubbery desserts and soulless interiors.

Two cafes that recently opened on Artema Street just off Lvivska Square are a welcome break from the trend, Coffeetut and Esperanto.

Coffeetut, or “Coffeehere,” is a stylish cafe offering great coffee and a cool, relaxed atmosphere. It has a light and spacious sitting area with high seats, leading to a counter at the back.

The cafe is chic without being pretentious. There are a pile of books and magazines (Esquire, Snob), only one of the usually ubiquitous plasma screens, and the choice of music is funky but relaxed.

The menu is simple – drinks including coffee and freshly squeezed juices, as well as some desserts – but the execution is spot on. Coffeetut proves that there’s no need to overcomplicate things.

The coffee comes from Julius Meinl, an Austrian coffee company with a 150-year history. It’s well-presented in a cup and saucer, and the taste is among the best in Kyiv. A cappuccino sets you back Hr 22, tea costs Hr 25 and fresh juices are Hr 26. Takeouts get a discount.

There are a few tasty desserts on offer, including tiramisu. They are fresh, rich and not sickly sweet, avoiding the manufactured taste that ruins many coffeehouse desserts in Kyiv.
This is a place for coffee lovers: You can also buy coffee and coffee machines here.

Next door is Esperanto. Unfortunately, the owners have decided to mimic the Starbucks sign. This is inexplicable given that it tries to create a niche for itself as a cafe that also offers takeout sandwiches and salads, as well as cold meat cuts and cheese.

The coffee here is cheaper – Hr 17 for a cappuccino. There’s also a 50-percent discount on takeouts from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. It’s not quite as good as next door and it’s served in cardboard cups.

There are also a variety of cakes, from Viennese Sachertorte to cheesecake.

The seating is in a back room, where a poor choice of furniture and a lack of space make everything more crammed than you would like it to be. It’s still quite cozy, though.

The deli offerings are a mixed bag. The Parma ham and Parmesan cheese are the real deal and reasonably priced (by Kyiv standards). The sandwiches are not fresh, as they claim to be, with brown lettuce and cardboard bread.

My favorite is Coffeetut – it wins on taste, simplicity and style. That said, Esperanto is still better than most other coffeehouses in Kyiv.

Kyiv Post editor James Marson can be reached at marson@kyivpost.com.
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Mykhayl May 18, 2012, 6:50 a.m.    

Воистину Bоскрес !

Refreshingly fluid article. I would have thought Byzantine intrigue entwining Kyivan roots of the kahveh coffee tree would have developed a long established elitist social activity.

First recorded public coffee shop was Kiva Han in Istanbul the Turkish employment of Constantinople in 1475. Sultan Suleiman (Lawgiver) the Magnificent defied social custom pampering his Hurrem (Queen) Roxelana, (Roshanak / "starry” or “luminous beauty") with nepotism. Born Alexandra or Anastasia diminutive Nastya Lisowska, whose name gave way in Ukraine to "Roksolana". This daughter of a Ruthenian (Ukrainian Christian) priest (educated gentry) was reared to think in Trinitarian votive repetitions. Despite being a kidnapped slave her influential status allowed her to manage the serving of the controversial caffeine libation in Suleiman’s court. It is whispered the cooking of the liquid three times was seasoned in heterodox mysticism as Roxelana multitasked seasoning gossiping intrigue manipulating the court ladies and embassy wives. Coffee was so important during this period a Turkey woman could file divorce if her husband did not supply her with a sufficient cache of coffee.

Turkish coffee is served strong, black and unfiltered brewed with substantial sugar in an ibrik or beaker brought to an almost boil (simmer) thrice. The English idiom "coffee" is derived from the Ottoman word “kahveh” as does the Ukrainian. Coffee snobs often argue the best "java" is concocted at small local cafes where each cup is painstakingly simmered three times crafting delights.

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