Moscowabunga!

(While the sun sets on Red Square…)

As the Spasskaya Tower Festival rolls on, bringing with it no end to the oddity, opportunity and ostentation of this grand Muscovite spectacle, it should be noted the degree to which the Soyuz Coffee Roasters portion of this event has been a resounding success. People have glowing smiles on their faces as they’re admitted to the pop-up, while the Euro-Techno bumps and the MC, a local Moscow radio DJ, intones in Russian “Give it up for ALEJANDRO MENDEZ, Barista Champion OF THE WORLD!

Waiting patiently for a cappuccino is an entirely foreign concept in Russia, but they’re making the best of it at the Soyuz pop-up. Once inside the tent, you put in your order and bob your head to the pounding bump-bump of the danceclub bass beat, as Generals crowd the table next to you alongside an out of place toothless babushka-clad Grandma knocking back cappuccinos. Four Kazakh trombonists nurse their espressos, soaking in the scene. The passion of the crew is unmistakable – cheers, dancing, laughing, all while churning out a truly remarkable amount of coffee to the demanding masses. The goal of this event was always to plant the seed in the minds of the Russian public, to get them to think of specialty coffee as something wonderful and the barista as an craftsman, and one need only stand in a corner of this bustling pop-up for but a moment to see that this goal has been well met.

Our service teams shuffle duties every night, and last night they broke down thusly: Stefanos, Javier and Drago serving Soyuz Coffee Roaster’s Barista blend; Pete Licata and Francesco Sanapo serving the Mon Ami blend; and Alejandro Mendez and Olga Melik-Karakozova serving the Paretto blend, each team ensconced in a service-station-turned-war-bunker. Meanwhile, Monika Palova and Andrew Hetzel hand the post-pork fat rush in the VIP tent. It’s worth mentioning the mutual respect and friendship of this international team of baristas; winning your country’s barista championship is no small feat, and the comaraderie amongst this group has a kind of war buddy foxhole quality to it. It’s truly a delight to observe.

No one underdressed at the Spasskaya Tower Festival , which, to my American mind, feels like some kind of combination of the Boston Pops 4th of July Spectacular and Lollapalooza circa 1995, but with marching bands instead of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and full military dress in place of baggy jeans and rastaman dreadlock caps. The delegation from Mexico goes thundering past, all tubas and bass drums, while Russian Network TV conducts interviews and an immensely coordinated horseman rides four stallions at once, from a standing position, at a full gait around Red Square.

Back in the VIP tent, a thousand and one exclamation marks mingle together in a scene strange enough to jostle James Bond. Generals! Rock stars! Tartan-wrapped sheiks! Super models! The Honorable Delegation from Pakistan! Medals! Epaulets! Badges of honor! Lovely servant girls waiting, waiting for the even to end, so they can clamor down into the subway palace and catch a 2am Metro home from Komsomol’skaya to Prospekt Mira! Flannel-clad hunky dories! 6 foot Russkie bombshell barbarellas! Incongruous, improbable New York Yankees fans! (Always, everywhere, literally in every corner of the earth, there are fucking New York Yankees fans.) Vodka! Jack-booted generalissimos! Pork fat! VIPs in 3-piece suits! Mustachioed continental types! Uniformed cadet crew jazz bands!

You couldn’t make this up if you tried, and even if I did, it would be less fun.

The Greek delegation just arrived to enjoy coffees and anise seeds from 5-time Greek national champion Stefanos Domatiotis, bringing with them a team of bouzouki balladeers, and well, at some point one has to stop writing so as to not miss the next layer of spectacle.

More coming soon! Opa!

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