My initial research into the Minsk coffee scene didn’t reveal much. Most articles on Minsk discuss the average food, bold Soviet architecture and clean streets, but little about coffee. It wasn’t until I was on the ground that I could appreciate the reality of cafe culture in Minsk. Thankfully that realty involves a surprising number of high end and hipster specialty coffee shops in amongst Minsk’s drab Soviet-era apartment blocks.
Walking into some cafes felt like I could have been in hipster Berlin or inner city Melbourne. The coffee was mostly good and sometimes great. Communication was not always easy, I don’t speak Russian and few locals seem confident speaking English, but with the universal language of coffee and open-minded baristas, I never went wrong.
Minsk’s coffee scene is obviously not as developed as what you’d find in similar size cities like Vienna or Budapest, but the best cafes are bustling with coffee lovers willing to pay a bit extra for a quality brew. Considering the economic situation and the relatively closed off society, the Belarusians are making great coffee in some very cool settings. You’ll find coffee made with a diverse range of beans, high spec coffee machines, and a strong emphasis on alternative brewing methods.
A few things to note before you drop into Minsk’s cafes. Most cafes do not have menus in English and only half had English speaking staff. Ordering is not really a problem though as most of the regular types of coffee are available. You can ask for a cappuccino, Americano, flat white or latte and be understood. Ordering filter coffee is easy too and in most places you can get V60, Chemex or Aeropress filter coffee.
My usual coffee of choice is a piccolo when in Australia or cortado when in Europe. Neither of these seem to be a thing in Minsk and I didn’t come across any cold brew coffee either. However, when the barista spoke English I would ask for a cortado and after a quick explanation they were happy to make it for me. Otherwise I would just get what Europeans call a flat white, a double espresso with frothed milk, quite unlike the original flat white you get in Australia but still excellent.
The other thing I’d like to point out about coffee in Minsk is the milk. Belarusian milk is a little strange tasting. I was never able to figure out the odd taste and with the language difficulties I wasn’t able to ask about it. I don’t think the local milk is appealing and in my opinion it ruins the coffee. After my first few coffees I switched to ordering black filter coffee. You might want to do the same if the milk isn’t to your liking.
The Best Coffee in Minsk
I tried seven cafes in Minsk known for their coffee. With the exception of Why Knot Coffee, I only visited each cafe on a single occasion so your experience may differ from mine depending on the barista and the beans that day.
All the cafes I reviewed are in central Minsk. I heard of some other places a bit further out but with only five days in Minsk, I didn’t get the chance to visit. The following are the best places I found for specialty coffee in Minsk.
For me the one cafe that stands ahead of the rest is Why Knot? If you don’t want to mess around trying different cafes and just want the best coffee then go there.
If you would prefer to try a different cafe each day then the following is my top five, taking into account the vibe and friendliness, not just the quality of the coffee.
Why Knot? has better coffee, a better atmosphere and better design than any other cafe in Minsk. They make their espresso with a very fancy Victoria Arduino Black Eagle coffee machine and also offer V60, Chemex and Aeropress filter coffee. They have a small range of cakes and sandwiches, magazines to flip through, and enough space if you’re looking for a place to work for a couple of hours. As a bonus, this cafe is one of the cleanest cafes I came across in Minsk. The barista didn’t know what I cortado was when I asked but she happily made one for me.
Mesto easily beats out Zerno, their very popular competition located across the road, thanks to the cleaner and quieter space and excellent coffee. Along with espresso and filter coffee made with ever-changing beans, they sell healthy sandwiches, snacks, matcha latte, and iced coffee and teas.
Manufactura roast their own coffee and sell it around Belarus which explains why this is a very coffee focused cafe. They have upgraded their coffee machine since I was there and are one of the few cafes in Minsk where you can order your coffee with plant-based milk (currently soy and coconut milk). Manufactura source their cakes from Ananda Sweets, a local producer who make handmade desserts without added colouring or preservatives and include some vegan options.
Stories promotes itself as the place for ‘croissants and coffee’. It’s popular with a younger, predominantly female crowd and has the warmest and friendliest vibe of all the places I visited. It helps that they have an English language menu and the staff speak a little English too. You can also get freshly squeezed juice, smoothies, handmade lemonade, and wine in the evening.
Stories is located in one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Minsk, an area where you’ll find many cafes, bars and restaurants. This would actually be a great neighbourhood to stay in if you’re looking for somewhere central and lively in Minsk. I would say the coffee isn’t quite as good as other places but they don’t have the weird tasting milk I found elsewhere and the atmosphere makes it a worthwhile visit.
Zerno was one of the first third wave coffee shops to open in Minsk and their two locations are hugely popular. This is the only cafe where I found the baristas to speak perfect English which seemed to be appreciated by the international crowd. The coffee at Zerno is excellent but the seating is little cramped and it’s unfortunately not the cleanest of cafes. They do have some vegetarian food options and good breakfasts if that’s what you’re looking for.
Other cafes you might like to try while in Minsk:
Vulitsa Svyardlova 26
A quiet cafe located close to the main train station.
Seadog & Friends
Vulica Zalataja Horka 1
Moby Dick Caffe
Vulica Kastrycnickaja 16
Vulica Kastrycnickaja 23