. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Shop Gives Moscow Jolt of Coffee Culture

Along with the distinction of being the most expensive city in the world, Moscow is acquiring a few accoutrements of a more civilized life: Witness the opening of the city's first Western-style coffee shop, the Coffee Bean, in the once-fashionable precincts of Kuznetsky Most.

By the crowded metro station, tucked behind dirty kiosks offering cheap vodka and sausages, and guarded by a long line of babushki selling everything from dried fish to hand-knitted socks, the tiny shop stands as an oasis of laid-back repose, with aromatic wares to delight every coffee-lover.

The shop was opened late last month by Jerry Ruditser, a Russian-born American from Elizabeth, New Jersey. Ruditser said he wanted to bring Russia a taste of the "coffee culture" that had developed around the phenomenal growth of gourmet coffee shops in the United States from the mid-1980s to today. Although American "coffee culture" harks back to the smoky dives made famous in the 1950s by the Beat poets and their acolytes, the modern version is a bit more commercial, a bit less exclusive, and centered more on coffee, not cachet.

"I'd been in Russia for five years, and I noticed that there was no place in Moscow to have decent coffee," Ruditser said. "In Russia, there is no coffee culture yet."

Ruditser aims to change all that with the Coffee Bean. The cozy shop, which was once a kitchen and then a pizzeria, has no windows and a low ceiling -- a perfect setting for reading Kerouac and Ginsberg, perhaps -- but the close quarters means the aroma of fresh coffee hangs deliciously thick. Although there are a couple of tables, and there is coffee to be had by the cup, the place is envisioned more as a shop for vending high-quality brands than as a hang-out.

From this setting, Ruditser hopes to turn Russians' tastes from their habitual Brazilian instants and canned Indian blends, by offering 32 different types of fresh coffee from around the world, plus exotic blends and flavored coffees.

Beans from South and Central America, Africa and Hawaii are featured, along with a coffee rarity: "elephant" beans -- Maragogype, from Mexico -- which are twice as large as regular beans. Elephant bean coffee, by the way, has a very balanced, slightly fruity taste with no bitterness, and a light acidity.

The prices range from 13,000 rubles ($2.70) for 100 grams of Brazilian Santos, to 14,000 rubles for flavored almond, cinnamon or Irish Cream, to Tanzania Peaberry at 15,500 rubles. The most expensive, Hawaii Kona Extra Fancy, goes for 25,000 rubles for 100 grams. According to Ruditser, the most popular coffees by far are the flavored brands: almond, roasted almond, chocolate and praline.

The shop's staff is well-versed in coffee lore and can offer advice and recipes along with cups of espresso or American coffee. The price for a cup is 5,000 rubles, or 6,000 rubles for cappuccino.

The heart of great coffee is in the roasting, Ruditser said. "Roasting coffee is an art," he insisted, and said he buys his coffee from a dynasty of American roasters who have practiced the art for more than a century. The Coffee Bean offers light, medium and dark French roast.

The shop has several grinders, and can grind the original beans or a blend of your choice. A coarse grind is good for regular coffee in a coffee-maker, while a finer, pulverized grind is best for espresso and Turkish coffee, he said.

Ruditser warned that ground coffee loses its freshness after about a week. If you have your own grinder, he recommends buying only a small amount of beans at one time and grinding them immediately before you make the coffee.

The Coffee Bean will be adding iced coffee and ice cream to its offerings this summer, Ruditser said.

The Coffee Bean is located at 9 Pushechnya Ulitsa, in the archway from Kuznetsky Most metro station to Detsky Mir and the Savoy Hotel. The shop is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. No telephone. Rubles only.