Meet Ukraine’s best coffee maker who is using his craft as his weapon of war against Russian invaders
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“When I was holding the Kalashnikov rifle I felt helpless but when I’m holding my coffee equipment I feel empowered,” said Vadym Granovskiy.
The 43-year-old coffee entrepreneur from Kyiv discovered quite early on during the Russian invasion that he had his own unique role to play to help his country.
Granovskiy, who ran one of Kyiv’s most popular coffee shops, Coffee in Action, first signed up for one of his country’s self-defence units in February 2022.
But after being handed an old Kalashnikov AK rifle with just 20 bullets he felt there was a more effective way for him to serve Ukraine.
A month before the war started Granovskiy had taken his wife and infant daughter to Hnidyn, a village about 30km south-east of Kyiv.
“When this war started we refused to believe that it would happen,” Granovskiy told LondonWorld.
“A few days after the invasion began the Russian military approached the area where we lived.
“When I realised they were in close distance I drove my family to Poland. It took us four days.”
Knowing that his wife and child were now safe Granovskiy headed to a friend’s farmhouse close to Mykolaiv, in southern Ukraine.
It was there that he started to brainstorm ways to keep his business alive and support the Ukrainian army by using his skills in an area he knows best: coffee.
“The Ukrainian army didn’t want me so I knew that I needed to create a mission for myself,” he said.
“At this farm I started to build a system of communication with different military units and answering their demands for coffee.
“That’s how I started my Coffee Care project, I started to send ground coffee and brewing equipment to the soldiers.
“Occasionally I would take coffee to relatively safe army bases by myself.”
Along with his coffee deliveries Granovskiy also helped drive women and children to the Polish border.
“When I took my family to Poland I realised there were some other people I could help.”
In June 2022, Granovskiy left Ukraine to come to the UK to be with his wife and daughter.
Since arriving, Granovskiy has travelled the country as an ambassador for Ukraine delivering talks and coffee workshops.
Back in Kyiv his coffee shop was famous for its signature drink, the flat red, a double espresso with freshly squeezed orange and pomegranate juice.
“I tell people what is happening in Ukraine through coffee, through my personal history,” he said.
“Ukraine has a battleflag which is black and red as if you spill blood on our blue and yellow flag it becomes red and black.
“Red and black means the blood you spilled protecting your land so the flat red became quite a special symbol.
“I use this drink at lectures and talks to tell our story.”
He also works with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and General Staff Armed Forces of Ukraine and has started visiting Ukrainian soldiers training in British army bases.
“I come to visit the bases on their day off with a “coffee edutainment” programme.
“It has to be educational, I serve coffee, I give them a lecture.”
Granovskiy recently teamed up with Ukrainian food writer and chef Olia Hercules and Russian food writer and chef Alissa Timoshinka at their most recent Bake for Ukraine event in London raising over £10,000 for the Legacy of War Foundation.
He was joined by other key Ukrainian food and drink figures in London including Yurii Kovryzhenko, who recently opened Mryia, a Ukrainian restaurant in Earls Court and Dima Deinega, the founder of Dima’s vodka.
“Our national cuisine and culture is a way for us to promote our country beyond the battlefield,” Granovskiy continued.
“Ukraine needs to protect itself on the battlefield but we need to showcase how diverse and interesting our culture is.
“Now we need attention and we need help.”
Since its launch Coffee Care has sent over 3000kg of coffee to military units, medical units, and shelters across Ukraine.
The coffee care packs include a 1kg bag of coffee and a cezve, a small long-handled pot with a pouring lip, to allow the soldiers to make the most flavourful coffee possible.
“When a soldier makes the coffee he forgets about everything else for 15 minutes,” he said.
“It helps them forget the reality as the reality is pretty sad right now.
“My art is coffee, my language is coffee.”
Granovskiy’s shop, Coffee in Action, is currently closed but he hopes to return to Kyiv someday to continue his work as Ukraine’s finest coffee maker.
“I hope within a few years our country will be rebuilt but for now we must continue fighting.”
Granovskiy will be serving his signature flat red at the London Coffee Festival which is on at the Truman Brewery from April 20 to 23.
He will also appear in the line up at the National Georgaphic Food Festival at the Business Design Centre from July 15 to 16.
You can Support Coffee In Action here. For every cezve bought via their online store, a free one will be donated to the Ukrainian front lines.