Coffee Under Communism: A First-Hand Account from Poland
Coffee Krave reader and accomplished photographer Marek Lubacz got in touch with me last week and agreed to write a guest post about coffee in Poland under communism. It wasn’t until the formation of a new government in 1989 that Poland could begin to recover from communist rule. Today, the coffee culture is thriving, but Marek’s first-hand account of the state of coffee under communism made me realize how much I take freshly roasted beans for granted.
You can see what a beautiful country Poland is here and learn more about the history of Poland from 1945 to 1989 here. We greatly appreciate Marek’s contribution! He currently works at Coffee Desk, a Polish coffee store carrying a wide range of fine coffees.
Coffee Under Communism
by Marek Lubacz
Communism was a hard time in almost every aspect in Poland. There was almost nothing available in grocery stores, and coffee was an exclusive good. It was common to give coffee as a birthday gift, as a “thank you” gift or even a bribe in government offices and hospitals. The availability of coffee didn’t improve until 1964, when coffee imports finally returned to “pre-war” levels. Some sources say that the consumption of coffee increased in the sixties because of a new government regulation which said that working day must start at 6:00AM. People thus needed to drink coffee just to get out of bed.
Although coffee consumption was high, there was no centralized market for it and product quality was very poor. People used to simply drink ground coffee poured with hot water straight from cups, even in restaurants! It was mainly caused by a lack of professional coffee machines or even a simple pour over machines, not to mention pro-baristas and inadequate coffee training.
If is this doesn’t sound bad enough, I should mention more about coffee quality. Because Poland could only import a small amount of coffee, the government decided to make a regulation which prohibited selling and production of 100% coffee products and ordered to mix pure coffee with succory or cereals. Some official sources also recommended to save grounds after brewing coffee, place it in fridge and re-use it once again to make coffee (ugh!).
The most popular brands of coffee were Santana, Inka, Turek, Dobrzynka, Extra Selekt, Santana Prima, Amino and Marago. Inka and Dobrzynk. These were 100% coffee substitute. The others were mixed with cereals or in grains. Coffee grinders (see above) became very popular in communism and were present in almost every home. Brewed coffee was mainly served in big glasses (220-250ml) or in ceramic mugs. In clubs and restaurants it was common to serve glass of coffee with “WZ” pie, a type of chocolate cake with cream (see picture below)
Even though times were hard people got used to drink coffee on daily basis as a good sociable way for all kind of meetings, such as celebrations and formal situations.
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