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Coffee is big, big, big in Russia. In this, one of the world’s largest countries, the massive turnout of coffee pros who gathered for the Russian Barista Championship held in Moscow tells its own story. Over the course of the three-day event held late last month, the best baristas Russia has to offer competed in a series of World Coffee Events-certified contests, vying for the right to represent their home country in multiple coffee championships on the world stage. Four champions—in the Brewer’s Cup, Latte Art, Cup Tasters, and Coffee in Good Spirits competitions—will head to  Gothenburg, Sweden, this June, while the winner of the Russian Barista Championship shall be traveling to Seattle to compete at the World Barista Championships in exactly a month.

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The 2015 Russian National Barista Champion title was awarded to Alexei Kugayenko, who repeated the success of last year’s win and his coach. Both Kugayenko and his coach, Dmitriy Koriukin, work for Omni-Coffee, a roastery and training center based in the sunny city of Krasnodar, in southern Russia. Second place went to Liliya Gadelshina of Double B Coffee & Tea, while Arseniy Kuznetsov of Traveler’s Coffee finished in third.

In his James-Bond-like routine (both super-technical and precise), the new champion used two naturally processed Geisha varieties. For his espressos he served a Panama Geisha from the Peterson family, with a smooth medium body, bright acidity of kiwi and blackcurrant, and a delicate milk chocolate finish.

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As his espresso base for cappuccinos, Kugayenko chose a Geisha from the Pacas family of El Salvador. According to Kugayenko, when paired with milk, this coffee brings out a velvety and smooth texture that makes for a phenomenal cappuccino, as hints of cream-filled pastry gradually give way to the grapefruit notes in the aftertaste.

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For his signature beverage, Kugayenko decided to throw himself into a challenge of mixing two unique coffees, each with its own individual character. To tame and bring together the two varieties, he used the components of the cup’s distinguishing flavors (raspberry juice, grapefruit juice, and cane sugar), which he added to six espresso shots (two El Salvador shots and four Panama shots). Aiming to keep the taste crisp and clear, Kugayenko filtered his espresso through a Chemex to get rid of the crema. The aromatic drink revealed subtle floral notes reminiscent of a violet flower.

Kugayenko says there isn’t any magic behind his success. According to him, it’s all about passion for coffee and a lot of hard work. Kugayenko aims to work even harder for the 2015 World Barista Championship, taking place April 9th–12th in Seattle. Since there is not much time left, the preparations are already in full swing: Kugayenko is planning to add some unexpected twists to the original performance. We are intrigued.

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Winners of the other four WCE contests will have much more time to polish their skills before SCAE’s World of Coffee which will take place June 16th–18th in Gothenburg, Sweden. Those representing Russia will include: Russian Brewers Cup Champion Ruslan Shulga (competing from Omni-Coffee), Russian Latte Art Champion Alexey Ivanov (Coffeemania), Coffee in Good Spirits Champion Kirill Sharapov (Department Coffee) and Russian Cup Tasters Champion Vladimir Nenashev (Liberica Coffee Roasters) who will try to repeat his cupping records at the 2015 world competition. Follow all of them on the world stage, as well as here on Sprudge and SprudgeLive, in the coming months.

Darya Afanasyeva is a coffee professional based in Moscow. This is her first feature for 

Photos by Biba. 

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