It may go back to the 1980s, when Vilnius earned a reputation in Moscow and St Petersburg for having cafés that served the finest cups of coffee this side of Berlin. Visitors would ‘go west’ to Lithuania just to enjoy the best coffee they could possibly find in those restrictive times.
Whatever the reasons were that lay behind such claims, several years ago the passion took off again – this time mainly among younger people, who began to care about the traceability of the beans they were drinking from.
Were the coffee beans engineered and distributed by large-scale corporations, they asked, or were they grown with care on family-owned farms in regions with the ideal soil, rainfall, shade level and altitude, deploying the right pickers, processing equipment and drying method?
Go to neighbouring Warsaw and you’ll be hard pressed to find spots that demonstrate the same passion and precision as those in Vilnius like, for example, Huracán, Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories, Elska and other places where you take a sip, indulge in the aroma and feel that exquisite, awakening tingling all over your body.
The most responsible café owners personally visit small-scale farms in the best regions of Central and South America to take part in direct trade, bidding for lots that avoid the all-powerful distributors. Through experience they know that quality varies in different regions every year – Nicaragua being excellent in 2017, for instance, as it wasn’t in 2014. Bolivian coffee is highly sought after but mired in corruption, yet Huracán managed to get there recently. Now coffee drinkers can expect these prized beans to be available at the chain’s five coffee shops and espresso bars in Vilnius this spring.
Taking Huracán as an example among Vilnius’ many great cafés, it roasts its beans at a facility in Nemenčinė, 25 kilometres from Vilnius, using technology that roasts beans equally on the inside as well as the outside, resulting in a lighter, brighter roast. More and more cafés now have the option of different brewing tools you can choose for your coffee, but a couple of cafés also have the rare new Alpha Dominche Steampunk craft brewing tech whose precise app-based control guarantees the perfect brew.
Coffee has come a long way since visitors and locals alike had no other choice but to endure a hissing old machine spitting out stuff from the same beans as yesterday. Vilnius is once again the go-to city in the region for stunning cups of java.