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Moscow catches coffee buzz

Moscow's coffee shops have names like Coffee Mania and Zen Coffee  

By CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- They have names like Coffee Mania, Coffee Bean, Coffee In and Zen Coffee.

The coffee shop craze has hit Moscow like a jolt of caffeine.

"One or two years ago there was just maybe two coffee shops in the neighborhood," says coffee shop customer Andrew. "Now, we have five and they're all different. And in the evening they're just like packed."

Less than five years ago you couldn't find places like these in Moscow.

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Now there are some 40 coffee shops in the capital, serving an estimated 10,000 customers a day -- Russians, many of them young professionals, who can afford to spend the equivalent of $1 to $5 for a cappuccino.

"I just come here to relax," says another customer, Liza. "You know, forget about your problems. and just have a good time."

Even if you don't speak Russian, you'll understand the menu, with items such as espresso, cappuccino and latte.

Russia traditionally is a tea-drinking country. And while embracing the coffee culture, Russians are turning it into something their own.

"The expression, 'Let's have a cup of coffee' doesn't mean 'let's drink coffee," says Gleb Nevekin of Coffee Mania. "People don't come here just to drink coffee, they come for the atmosphere, to be with other people."

They also come for dates, or to study.

Russians are enjoying coffee shops for the chance to relax, meet friends or study  

"We don't have that many places where you can just sit and talk," says coffee-shop patron Nikolai. "And that's what you can do here."

One thing that hasn't become popular in Moscow is take-out coffee.

Russians like to linger over a cup of coffee, and they also like to drink it at night. At Coffee Mania, for instance, the peak hours are from 5 to 8 p.m.

Opening a coffee shop in Moscow isn't cheap: The equipment is imported, and at Coffee Mania they also import their beans from the United States. Russia doesn't have coffee-roasting facilities.

With a population of 10 million, Moscow has enormous potential for growth, say the owners of Coffee Mania. And the rest of Russia is almost an untapped market.

There's no doubt about it, they say -- Russia's coffee business has the sweet smell of success.




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