Lviv – the Coffee Mecca of Ukraine
A short walk through the streets reveals coffee houses and terraces in every corner, nook and cranny, with the aromas of ancient ‘brahmas’ tempt the noses of passers-by. All your sense are stimulated in these microcosms of society where businessmen, artists, intellectuals – the whole city – meets to discuss life.
Our coffee traditions are steeped in history. It was actually a local who opened the first coffee house in Vienna. Emigrant to Austria, Yuri Kultschyzky. started up his venture with beans left behind by retreating Ottoman Turks. He called his cafe-‘under the blue bottle’ (See this month’s ‘Legendary Leopolitans’) .
In Lviv the largest coffee factory in Ukraine ‘Galka’ has been open since 1932 originally producing coffee and cereals. In 1971 it was renamed ‘Lviv Coffee Factory’. And modern ‘Niro Atomizer’ equipment for manufacture of instant coffee made it possible to succeed in export markets, pairing modern technology with historical tradition. Lviv Coffee Factory now enjoys an internationally recognised trademark. It entered its current name, Galca when it became a closed-stock company in 1993, and in 1995, a joint-venture with British ED & F Man Coffee Limited, formed ‘Galca Ltd.’ Now producing even ‘novelty coffees, such as ‘Eastern Way’, they have achieved considerable award success.
For time immemorial, Lviv has cooked and made coffee every way known on the planet. It is still true today. 24-hour cafes offer every kind of coffee you could possibly wish for. Ask for a Turkish coffee, ask for an Austrian; you will get the real deal. Lviv consumes three times more traditional ‘hot sand’ Turkish coffee than Istanbul!
The oldest cafe in Lviv is in a building built in 1829. The years have done nothing to diminish the imperial spirit of Austro-Hungary, and his, coupled with Polish charm, and Ukrainian hospitality, makes it a true representative of the tangled and fascinating history of Lviv. Visitors to Videnska Kavyarnya can take coffee in a number of ways, with Vienna style, honey and milk, and liquor being firm favourites. On the side, apple pie with almonds, pear with wine sauce, and grapes in champagne really stand out. Oh yes, cakes are a separate matter in Lviv: Locals have a very sweet-tooth and have had their fingers in many pies. This border city has been a melting pot of Austrian, Polish, Ukrainian, Jewish and Armenian traditions, which manifests not least in cakes and sweets. When part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Lviv made sure to inherit the secrets of apple strudel and sacha chocolate cake.
Western Ukrainian traditional cakes such as plyatsyk (home-made cakes) and syrnik (cheesecake baked from cottage cheese) are very special treats that have won many hearts and stomachs: people could be bribed with syrnik. Sweet making in Lviv goes far beyond the cakes and chocolate parlours.
Lviv is often called ‘Mini Paris of Eastern Europe’; as renowned and infamous for its coffee culture as is Paris. Whilst notables such as Toulouse Lautrec and Baudelaire immortalized certain Parisian cafes, Lviv has had its share of coffee house celebrities. Lviv born masochist Leopold Masoch springs to mind. Picture him drinking his daily java in the heyday of the Austria-Hungary Empire, composing ‘Venus in Furs’. Masoch cafe carries his name, with carefully restored 16th century walls, reminiscent of the days of the Empire.
Regardless of where you might be or with whom, coffee is a common and celebrated tradition. A coffee drinker is at home anywhere in the world, sitting in a coffee shop sipping on a familiar, yet exotic, tinto, espresso, cappacino, or cafeinho. The enjoyment of and delight in coffee is universal. Since 2007, Lviv has hosted an annual Coffee Festival in late September - the perfect antidote to the chills of autumn, and a great way to discover the snuggest coffee houses for Winter. Let’s see who wins ‘the best brew in town’.