MOSCOW: The atmosphere at Starbucks in Moscow differs from that in New York: the crowd in Moscow tends to be students or people in their 20s; they are generally quite fashionable, they seem to prefer lattes or other sweet drinks to filter coffee and they tend to sit for a long time rather than take their coffee to go. Starbucks is a meeting point for many of the customers. Rustam, 18, was leaving Starbucks with his girlfriend Yulia. It was there first visit ever to a Starbucks and I asked him about his impression. ''Very positive, you can enjoy your time there with pleasure by yourself or with friends.'' A chef student, Rustam already works part-time at an Italian restaurant while he finishes his studies. He enjoys cooking pasta and meat and is inspired by Scottish cook Gordan James Ramsay. Rustam and Yulia met two years ago at their college. He says they have similar character and taste for fashion. They do happen to be wearing the same sneakers.
MOSCOW: When I walked into Starbucks, I noticed friends and colleagues hugging Milana. She was dressed in a bright skirt and wearing a bow in her hair. I asked if there was some event. "It's my birthday," said Milana, who has been working at Starbucks the past five months. She turned 19. I asked how she was going to celebrate. She said she was going to hang out at Starbucks for a couple of hours. As I sat there drinking my coffee, I saw her walk by a few times carrying flowers given to her.
MOSCOW: Raised in a village on Sakhalin Island, Artem said he moved to Moscow in the early 1990s with this family after the collapse the Soviet Union. Following the 1998 default, he borrowed a $1,000 to buy a used computer, printer and scanner and started to make books and pamphlets. It wasn't initially easy as he had to learn the technology. But nearly 20 years later, his business is still in operation with about 40 people employed and printing books for major publishers. However, his passion is dancing. He started taking locking dance classes at the age of 33 after having downloaded videos that cost him $600 in Internet charges. Despite feeling like 'a tree' at his first few classes, Artem stuck with locking dance. Today, he teaches others and attends dance battles, juggling his passion with the responsibilities of being a business owner and father. Artem recently opened a cafe that is run by his wife, a former Starbucks barista. Artem said he wishes he could move back to Sakhalin as he prefers nature to city life. In the meantime, he is building a home outside Moscow near a forest and river.
MOSCOW: Alexei was standing in Starbucks and introduced himself as a Don Cossack. He was smoking a Belomorkanal cigarette, the most popular during the Soviet period. He said the factory that made the cigarettes was built in such a way that it could immediately start producing bullets if war broke out. Alexei said a lot of Russians don't like the US government, ''but I like Americans,'' he said with a smile. He then invited me to travel with him by car back to the Don to see the landscape. He offered to drop me off at the airport to fly back to Moscow.
”We believed we had a good idea,” Yana said from her coffee kiosk near a major metro station that opened at the end of October. ”The most difficult thing was to take the plunge and leave our comfortable jobs. Our business has now become our life. It occupies us 24 our a day, even when we sleep.”
Svetlana, 20, was sitting near the second floor window of the only Starbucks in Rostov-on-Don on a late Saturday morning. There was only one other person on the entire second floor. A public relations and media student, Svetlana said in very good English that she was waiting for a friend to arrive to practice conversational English. I asked if she had studied English abroad. She said no, but that she watches US TV serials, such as 'Friends' and '2 and 1/2 Men.' Svetlana said that is why she prefers US English to British English. She said its hard to improve her English in Rostov. ''I would love to travel a lot and use my English. You don't have any opportunity to use it here.''
SAMARA: Boris, 26, recently opened Blaser Cafe, a small coffee shop in the center of Samara with a friend. I asked Boris why they decided to start the business. “People here travel to Europe, such as Italy, where they experience the coffee culture and they want the same quality in Samara. The coffee culture is starting to take off.”
Ksusha (left) and Kristina, two Moscow high school students, were sitting in a packed Starbucks on Old Arbat street on a Sunday evening, snapping selfies in between drinking their hot chocolate. Ksushu said they haven’t seen each other in a while and decided to take a walk along Arbat. They stopped in to Starbucks to warm up with a hot drink.
As I have mentioned before, Starbucks in Moscow attracts an interesting crowd. These two young women were enjoying a salad and coffee as they played with their laptop, when I interrupted them. They said they were from Japan and had come to Moscow to study ballet. Russia is well known for its excellence in ballet, so not a surprise they would choose to study here. They said they were finishing their third and last year in Moscow and would like to dance in Europe.
As I mentioned in my last post, the Starbucks shops in Moscow attract a colorful crowd. Alina and Dasha were watching the American TV serial Fargo on their tablet as they drank their Lattes. Each shared one earphone to listen to the show. Alina, a journalism student, said after watching many serials, they can understand the peculiar jokes. I left shortly after taking their picture to run some errands. When I passed by the store about 75 minutes later, Alina and Dasha were still sitting their watching the serials.