Saturday, June 13, 2015

Coffee to go: The independent coffee shop scene in Moscow

One of the many changes I've noticed in Moscow in the past few years is the rise of the independent coffee shop. While I remember local and independent coffee shops being popular in the U.S. since the 1990s, it's only in the last year that I've seen these outfits popping up in Moscow. Although some of them tend to be rather pricey ($5 for a cup of cocoa, for example), they're a welcome relief to the Starbucks, CoffeeShop, Shokoladnitsa, and Coffee House chains peppered throughout the city. Because, really, if you're traveling all the way to Moscow, why would you want to go to Starbucks??

Double B Coffee and Tea is a Russian chain of coffee shops with an independent vibe. We visited one of their cute little coffee shops, which was tucked on a small street in the Kitay Gorod neighborhood of Moscow. When you walk in, you are immediately greeted by a tall, wall-to-ceiling bookshelf. The shop serves all sorts of coffee, and you can also get hot cocoa (Kakao) if it's late at night and you don't want caffeine-related jitters keeping you up. There is also a loft-style space on the second floor, where you can stretch out and relax with your cup of joe. (As you can see from this picture, it looks like someone is doing just that!) There's also a sketchpad and pencil provided for each table, so you and your friends can entertain yourselves if conversation fails.

LES is a short uphill walk from Trubnaya Place (between Tzvetnoy Boulevard and Lubyanka metro stations), but it's worth it. The shop's decor plays on the theme of woods and forests ('les' means 'forest' in Russian), and they have free wi-fi, so if you're a location-independent worker bee who's staying over in Moscow, it's a nice and pleasant place to spend a few hours working. Bonus: they also have four different kinds of lemonade, in addition to coffee.

Visitors to Moscow have most likely seen Russian designer Art Lebedev's work in the form of the Moscow subway map, but in Russia, Lebedev is known for much more: web design, industrial design, travel programs, etc. He was also arguably a pioneer in the independent coffee shop movement: I remember first visited one of his cafés in 2010, way before any other independent coffee shops showed up in Moscow.  Both cafés are located in the center of Moscow; the one pictured is at Bolshaya Nikitskaya Boulevard, a short walk from the Arbatskaya metro station. Downstairs, you will find a store that sells Lebedev's products; I bought a set of Tetris magnets for my sister from there two years ago.

Last of all, if you order a cup of coffee to go, you get this cute little sleeve. The text reads: Я пойду с тобой! / I'm coming with you!

These are the coffee shops we've visited while here, but there are many more in Moscow. Have a favorite? Let us know in the comments!

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