Slava Babych is the eminent Kyiv barista, the winner of many coffee-related championships, whose hands can make a true magic with coffee. He is sociable, but straightforward person about whom you can hear many different stories, truthful and not. He is intolerant of dilettantes and above all he appreciates professionalism in work and quality of the final product.
Being a brand-barista of Dima Borisov family restaurants, he became famous for newly invented unusual recipes of coffee, such as cappuorange – cappuccino with foam, beaten from orange juice instead of milk, and its variety - coffee with foam from grapefruit juice. But first of all he appreciates tasty simple recipes of this flavored drink. We met at Bessarabia restaurant for a cup of grape-fruit coffee and a nice talk about coffee culture in Ukraine.
Slava, now gastroculture and the culture of beverages consumption develops in Ukraine very dynamically. Today it is difficult to surprise the consumer. When you travel abroad, you see how people there drink coffee and you can compare this to Ukraine. Are we different from Europeans in the matter of coffee consumption and, if yes, in what way?
Our coffee is more delicious. The difference of the consumers is in financial possibilities. 90% of Kyiv coffee lovers drink Aroma Kava, which defeated McDonald's in terms of supply of coffee. Aroma Kava gave a very affordable price, they have a good quality of beans, and now they are going to improve it. A consumer who does not come to me because of the high price (I can offer a cup at least for UAH 35), will go to Aroma Kava.
But there is one more difference. Budapest recently hosted the world championship of coffee. During the championship I visited all the super coffee houses and I did not like coffee there. I told my friends: "It's good that we took our coffee with us." There was only one small coffee house, located in a small courtyard, like in Odesa, that I liked. There is a small kitchen, on the street there are tables covered with a layer of dust. But at the same time there is a full landing of clients there. People go there for a tasty product. In our country vise-a-verse, people go to trendy places only to show off.
In Ukraine there were coffee shops of the first, second, third waves. Now the fourth one is probably over. In the fifth wave the interior and entourage will play an important role. The new coffee house should be beautiful, cozy, offering the best coffee. Ukrainian consumer goes to fashionable places, it does not matter if the menu is delicious there or not.
In Europe, you take a cup of coffee and a sandwich and sit on the grass to grab a snack, and no one will think that you are weird. Here it is simply unacceptable. We have a different mentality in this sense.
Is there a difference between our client and a foreigner who comes to you for a coffee?
Oh sure. Our upbringing and taste preferences are different, if we are talking about customers who are over 40. Our young people are advanced, they are ready for new tastes, appreciate quality, but those over 40 say: "What is this you gave me, it is sour, prepare me a normal bitter and strong coffee". This is the influence of the post-Soviet period, when only very bitter coffee of Lavazza type was imported into the country, people got used to this taste.
But a foreigner of 40 years old drinks espresso with sour taste, and this is not bitter coffee. He likes it, he orders one more and says: "Well, tomorrow I'll come again."
What do you drink coffee with?
I drink just pure black coffee. If I drink coffee with a biscuit or a cake that means the coffee is not the one I'd like. I always say to the barista: "Just make it delicious". Of course, there are professional standards, but it seems to me, the most important thing is that the coffee has to be delicious. My clients very often just trust me and say: "Please prepare something at your own preference."
We have “old school” baristas (they say I am one of them) and the baristas of the new wave, who have slightly different approach to the client. Yes, young generation is modern, they make great coffee, they serve it right. But the adult client does not want that we impose the way how to drink coffee. He's a client, and he's right. It is important for me to communicate with the client, to hear him, to take into account his desires and tastes, and not just to offer what seems right to my own taste.
Is there a difference between a barista and a bartender?
There is no difference and should not be. But very often in our country it turned out that the bartender can’t make a good coffee The barman's task is to give the customer any drink, not just a cocktail. It was like this in Italy from the very beginning. And then Starbucks came up with baristas, they started to make coffee. But to be honest, barista is the one who works behind the bar, he should serve both - a cocktail and a coffee.
How can you surprise a modern customer and should you try to surprise him all the time? What is the most important for you, what can you offer for the client?
Do not try to surprise. Quality is important. I'm such a spoiled customer. For me, the most important thing is quality.
Is there at least one location on the streets of Kyiv with good coffee?
Yes, the tram in the Shevchenko Park close to Lva Tolstogo metro station. I do not usually try coffee on the street. But once I tried this coffee, when these guys were preparing it in “Take Away” the first class coffee house near TSUM. It was the heart of the coffee world. All top baristas were there. Then it burnt down. Now the tram in the Shevchenko park is their location. “Persha Kava” is also good one. They are trying to popularize hi-end coffee.
Where would you advise a foreigner to come for a tasty coffee in Kyiv?
First of all, in all Dima Borisov’ restaurants, and especially in “Bessarabia” where all alternative methods of making coffee are presented. In addition, TA KAVA, CoffeeDOOR at Ilinska 8, Coffee World (Svit Kavi) at Ihorivska 12A, Gemini will be opened near the Ocean Plaza in the business center.
What else would you like to try for yourself in the professional sphere?
I want to try roasting of coffee beans by myself. I want to understand how it is. And I really like confectionery, especially chocolate making. It's very cool and interesting.
Share please the recipe for tasty homemade coffee.
Buy freshly roasted coffee (in Coffee World or CoffeeDOOR, for example), ask them to grind it there. There you will pick up delicious coffee, depending on your preferences and the way of preparation. Pour the ground coffee with hot water of 95 degrees. Wait for 3-4 minutes and enjoy it. Tasty. As for me, this is the perfect homemade cup of coffee.
Interviewed and photos by Anna Vishtak