Opening a specialty coffee shop in Bucharest is not like opening one in Portland, or Melbourne, or Copenhagen. The third wave is a newcomer here, and many consumers are experiencing it for the first time.
But we believe our beautiful country has as much room for great coffee as any other country. And so we’ve persevered, travelling to experience new coffees, making connections, and – most importantly – sharing what we’ve learned with customers.
Specialty coffee is all about the details. Credit: Dan Gecui, DAG Media
Traditional Romanian Coffee Culture
Romanians are born to drink coffee and gossip. And we include ourselves in that description.
The coffee, however, is just an excuse for the gossip. We grow up knowing that this drink is more about chit-chat, less about taste. It’s something to hydrate us when our throat dries out from talking too much, but not necessarily something to savor in its own right.
You’ll still find instant coffee sold in many places in Romania. But we’re pleased to say that there’s a growing trend of specialty cafés and espresso bars here too. Ones like Origo, Steam, Orygyns, and more. And our own coffee shop: Dose Cafe.
We recently opened Dose Café. And along the way, we’ve learned a lot about what specialty coffee means. More importantly, we’ve learned about how to serve coffee we’re passionate about, while also reaching second wave consumers.
Dose Cafe, a third wave coffee shop in Bucharest. Credit: Dan Gecui, DAG Media
Romania’s Growing Third Wave Industry
Our country’s third wave scene is young but enthusiastic. In Bucharest, we have a variety of specialty coffee shops. Some offer locally roasted beans, while others work with well-known roasters from across Europe. Passionate consumers travel all the way across the city for a cup of coffee they know they will enjoy.
But unfortunately, the market is still dominated by big brands and vending machines. For now, specialty coffee is just a small niche.
That’s why we believe in consumer education. It’s a long-term investment, but it’s worth it. Free cupping sessions are, for us, an important part of this. These bring coffee enthusiasts, third wave and also second wave, to the café. You can then share the coffee experience with them, satisfying their curiosity and helping them better understand what’s in the cup.
When we hear someone say, “Oh, this is different!”, that is an opportunity for us. A barista should be there to explain why the coffee tastes the way it does, in a friendly and accessible way. This is how we help people to understand that coffee shouldn’t be bitter, but that rather it has a wide range of different tastes.
Baristas are critical for customer education. Credit: Dan Gecui, DAG Media
We need to customers to try a wide range of beans brewed in different ways, so they can discover their favorites. Of course, the espresso-based drinks are the most popular, with milk-based options leading the way. But we should always try to explain that there is a great diversity in coffee – because sometimes, when we do that, we succeed.
When customers find out that coffee tastes different from how they are used to, in a good way, they become passionate about it. They want to try different origins, farms, and infusions. They discover the third wave.
When we set up our café, we wanted to create a hybrid space, where customers can enjoy their coffee, relax, and take a break from the everyday life. As we said, in Romania coffee and gossip go together. This tradition is important. And we want to interact more with people, so we can talk about coffee even if we will prepare it “to-go.”
Dose Specialty Coffee. Credit: Dan Gecui, DAG Media
Customer education: it’s the most difficult thing in the specialty coffee business, but it’s also the most rewarding one. We are in charge of doing it right.
Because that’s how we encourage the specialty industry to grow, even in a city where most people choose second wave coffee. That’s how we introduce customers to the idea of different brewing methods, origins, and more. And that’s how we help people to fall in love with coffee.
Written by Frosin Alexandru and Raduca Alexandru of Dose Cafe.
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