While it is by no means a leading market, Lithuania’s specialty coffee scene started booming towards the end of the 2000s. For many people, it began with simple takeaway coffee, which brought people out of their homes and into coffee shops.
In 2007, Caffeine Roasters, the most popular coffee chain in Lithuania, was established and quickly took the domestic market by storm. A few years on, Lithuania’s SCA chapter was founded and began organising coffee competitions.
Today, the country is a growing specialty coffee consuming market, with its own coffee festival and plenty of coffee shops well worth visiting. As is the case with many European countries, however, specialty coffee has the strongest presence in the country’s capital: Vilnius.
To learn more about the coffee scene in Vilnius, I toured five specialty coffee shops in the Lithuanian capital. Read on to find out what I found.
You might also like our specialty coffee shop tour of Berlin, Germany.
Taste Map Coffee Roasters
The story of Taste Map Coffee Roasters began in 2011 with a 10kg roaster, a pallet of coffee, a lot of enthusiasm, and a goal of driving forward the Lithuanian specialty coffee scene.
Today, 11 years on, husband and wife Ieva Malijauskaitė and Domas Ivonis manage a roastery and four coffee shop locations in Vilnius.
Both owners have more than ten years of experience in the coffee industry. Between them, they have won numerous national championships, including the Barista Championship, Latte Art Championship, and Cup Tasters Championship.
With Taste Map, Domas says their aim was to highlight the unique flavours of coffee and guide the Lithuanian coffee community to find out what high-quality coffee can taste like.
“We only work with coffee sourcing companies we have built a trusting relationship with,” Domas says. “We also have a direct relationship with Daterra. We love their coffees and we participate in their Masterpieces auction every year.”
As for the ambience of their coffee shops, each one is different from the others. There are elements of wood, bricks, and clay combined with art, with the aim of creating a homely atmosphere.
|Where?||M.K.Čiurlionio g. 8, Antakalnio g. 17 (Vilnius Tech Park), Gynėjų g. 14|
|Espresso machines||Sanremo Cafe Racer Renegade, Dolomiti, Faema E71|
|Grinders||Mahlkonig EK43, Mahlkonig E65SGBW, Eureka Olympus, Helios, Simonelli Mythos I,II|
|Coffee menu||A classic menu with single origin coffees & Swiss Water decaf option|
|Retail||250g and 1kg bags of filter and espresso roasts, rotating constantly|
|Other menu items||Pastries, brunch menu, with everything freshly baked on site. At Antakalnio St. 17, you will also find gin tonics and a wine selection|
|Nearby sights||Sapiegos Park, Lukiškės Square, Cathedral Square, Gediminas Castle|
Strange Love Coffee Roasters
Strange Love Coffee Roasters opened its doors in July 2015, when specialty coffee in Lithuania was still very much emerging.
Eimantas Vilčinskas, the head roaster behind Strange Love, tells me that the company was founded to educate local coffee consumers and raise awareness about what high-quality coffee could taste like.
“We maintain a close relationship with several suppliers in order to have a great variety of coffees on offer,” he adds. “We are always curious and eager to discover more.”
Strange Love has a two-floor design with a balcony and a beautiful garden, which is a great place to relax and escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
|Where?||Barboros Radvilaites g. 6B|
|Espresso machines||Victoria Arduino Black Eagle|
|Grinders||Simonelli Mythos One and Mahlkonig EK43|
|Coffee menu||A range of single origins from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Brazil, and Honduras, plus a signature blend|
|Other menu items||Brunch, cocktails|
|Nearby sights||Hill of Three Crosses, Bernardin Park, Cathedral Square, Uzupis|
Italala Caffè welcomed customers for the first time in January 2018. Located in the heart of Vilnius, Italala is inspired by Italian coffee culture, and was voted the city’s best coffee spot in 2019.
At Italala Caffè, you’ll find coffee from Ditta Artigianale accompanied by a wide selection of herbal teas. There are also a range of desserts, pastries, and paninis, all of which are handmade in the shop.
Goda Pangonyte handles social media and communications at the café. She explains that the business is constantly driving up its standards for quality.
“We like to recognise the seasonality of all of our products,” she says. “This is why we make our own syrups and create seasonal drinks.
“These include a lavender latte during the summer, an apple pie latte during autumn, and a mimosa latte during spring.”
|Where?||Vokiečių street 1|
|Espresso machines||La Marzocco FB80|
|Grinders||Victoria Arduino Mythos One and Mahlkonig EK43|
|Coffee menu||Range of coffees from Ditta Artigianale|
|Other menu items||Matcha, herbal teas, and homemade hot chocolate; panini, focaccia, desserts, croissants|
|Nearby sights||Town hall, historic old town, Vilnius Cathedral|
Brothers Martynas and Aistis Normontai decided to open Kavos Reikalai back in 2018. Their goal was to create a coffee shop where people could both enjoy specialty coffee and find the biggest selection of retail coffee equipment and bags of coffee in the city.
Today, Kavos Reikalai has two locations in Vilnius, each offering two options for espresso and ten different filter coffees. They also have arguably the widest selection of coffee brewing accessories on offer in the city.
Samanta Sadauskytė is the manager at Kavos Reikalai. According to her, the ritual of brewing coffee is incredibly important to the business.
“We wanted to introduce people to the coffee ritual philosophy by giving them the chance to learn about all these different accessories,” she explains. “This is why we invite people to participate in our workshops and learn how to use all these tools that are so new to them.”
The equipment selection includes kettles, brewers, grinders, milk jugs, scales, and cleaning and maintenance supplies. It also stocks a wide selection of retail coffee beans from several Lithuanian roasters, as well as overseas options such as Rocket Bean from Latvia and Java Coffee from Poland.
|Where?||Šermukšnių g. 1; Aukštaičių g. 12|
|Espresso machines||La Marzocco Linea 2AV|
|Grinders||Eureka Atom 65E and Mahlkonig EK43|
|Coffee menu||Two espresso options and four filter options|
|Must-try||Beans, teas, brewing equipment|
|Other menu items||Desserts, pastries, snacks, tea, cocoa, kombucha|
|Nearby sights||Lukiškės Square, Gedimino Avenue|
Backstage Café & Roasters was founded in 2018 by two photographers, Ieva Markevičiūtė and Vytenis Petrošius, who knew nothing about coffee at the time. They picked a slightly unconventional spot down a side street, making it difficult to find for some.
Goda Gedvilaite, now a manager and barista at Backstage, says that she couldn’t even find the shop when it first opened.
“I wondered why someone would open it there,” she says. “It was brave, but I was not sure it was going to work.”
It did, and four years and three locations later, Backstage is now well-established in Vilnius’ specialty coffee scene.
In spite of its name, Backstage didn’t actually start life as a roastery. Today, however, it sources coffee from the Vinhal family farm in Brazil and Beanspire Coffee in Thailand, roasted by head roaster Robertas Muravskij and his team.
|Where?||T. Ševčenkos str. 16H; T. Ševčenkos g. 16A; Vokiečių g. 6 (city center)|
|Espresso machines||La Marzocco Linea AV|
|Grinders||Mahlkonig K30 Twin and Mahlkonig EK43|
|Coffee menu||Espresso, milk-based beverages, filter coffee, pour over|
|Retail||Mint cold drip (summer)|
|Must-try||Beans, brewing equipment|
|Other menu items||Lunch & brunch menu with Middle Eastern influences and flavours, wide selection of desserts|
|Nearby sights||Unique district filled with lofts and industrial buildings|
How is Vilnius’ coffee scene evolving?
As we’ve mentioned, the emergence of these coffee shops in the last ten to 15 years alone is indicative of the explosive growth in Vilnius’ specialty coffee scene.
As part of this, we’ve also seen the development of the Vilnius Coffee Festival, which originally began life as Vilnius Coffee Days some 12 years ago. This event celebrates Lithuania’s specialty coffee scene and its hospitality community, and is the stage for its three national SCA competitions: the Barista Championship, the Latte Art Championship, and the Cup Tasters Championship.
Laurynas Arlauskas is the events coordinator for the Lithuanian chapter of the SCA. He says that coffee is very much at the heart of the event.
“Baristas take the centre stage,” he explains. “We wish to highlight their craftsmanship and want them to feel proud about their role in our community.”
Looking at the rapid growth and expansion of several of the coffee shops on the list, it’s clear that Vilnius has a thriving specialty coffee scene that is growing year-on-year.
With the recent emergence of its SCA chapter and the proliferation of these specialty coffee shops through the 2010s, it seems set to grow throughout this decade and beyond. Many of these chains are already household names in the city. The hope will be that, in the future, they can drive the city’s presence on the international stage.
However, whether this explosive growth will continue remains to be seen. It’s clear that there is space for innovation and expansion in Vilnius, and what comes next is sure to be interesting.
Enjoyed this? Then try our specialty coffee shop tour of Spain’s Basque Country.
Photo credits: Goda Gedvilaitė, Laurynas Arlauskas, Samanta Sadauskytė, Goda Pangonytė, Eimantas Vilčinskas, Domas Ivonis
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