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How Ukraine’s best coffee, Vadym Granovskiy, joined the fight against Russia

Vadym Granovskiy was awakened by the sound of explosions. It was 5 a.m. in the picturesque village of Hnidyn, about 30 km southeast of Kyiv, where he had settled a month earlier with his wife and young daughter. After asking to check them, he went to see what was going on. In the street, the explosions sounded even louder. Helicopters and military planes flew overhead. Later, he would learn that Russian ballistic missiles were targeting Ukrainian air defenses at nearby Borispol International Airport.

“We knew the invasion was underway,” recalls Granovskiy, 43, meaning him and his wife, but also Ukrainians as a people. “We were all in a strange emotional state; waiting [it] happen while refusing to believe it would happen.

Smartphone updates have confirmed the situation. Granovskiy and his wife turned on the television and watched Russian President Vladimir Putin announce a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine. After weeks on the brink of invasion, the war was finally here.

Granovskiy knew the invasion was coming earlier than most. As the owner of Kyiv’s best specialty coffee shop, Coffee In Action (number one on Trip Advisor, FYI), his customers included military men, businessmen and politicians – many of whom were happy to give their favorite barista some insider information while waiting for their flat whites.

“My cafe is well known in Ukraine. Many people from different walks of life are our clients, including high-ranking military personnel,” says Granovskiy. “I was warned several times by different people who had different levels of access to information. They were all talking about an inevitable invasion.

Granovskiy shared this information with his friends and family, but, he says, they continued to live their lives as normal, hoping it would somehow protect them. Nevertheless, he decides to put his family away and goes to the countryside.

Born in Cherkasy, central Ukraine, in 1979, Granovskiy had long been used to dealing with his country’s large and unpredictable neighbour. “I grew up in the 1990s,” he says. “It was a very volatile time in Ukraine. Much of the wealth was redistributed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. For a few years, it was chaos. Things belonged to the government; now the government was gone. Independent Ukraine was born on paper, but a few generations still lived in the past, in the Soviet Union.

Granovskiy says he was too young to be involved in any of the crimes committed at the time. Instead, inspired by reading Oliver Twist As a child, he went to London at the age of 21 after studying economics and management at university in Ukraine. There he worked for a publishing house before becoming fascinated with the burgeoning specialty coffee industry. Over the next few years, places like Prufrock in Farringdon and Flat White in Soho captured Granovskiy’s imagination.

Feeling exhausted after a decade in business, Granovskiy decided coffee was his true passion. He quit his job and spent the next two years living in Bali, learning all he could from the coffee growers there. At the same time, he fell in love with the Turkish method of brewing coffee using a cezve – a long-handled brass or copper tool that uses finely ground beans to produce a strong cup of coffee without filtering. .