This is Sergey Blinnikov’s coffee story.
Most of us grow up surrounded by coffee and are unaware of its incredible power to unite and bring people closer.
This, of course, first happens at home with family. Who among us does not remember either his mother or father early in the morning putting on some water to boil or getting some sort of filter machine ready to make that delicious first cup of coffee? I know I do. And even though we get used to this ritual and don’t think anything of it, sometimes, some of us end up all grown up and want to take this ritual further. In this particular case, this World Champion’s brewing method of choice just so happens to be the most popular method in his home country: Cezve.
You could think of Sergey as a wonder child, having started his love affair with coffee at the age of 16. Six years later he’s a Head Barista and trainer for the Cezve Coffee chain of coffee shops in Russia, as well as World Cezve Champion of 2019.
His first job was in a small pop-up coffee place at his university. In the beginning, it was only meant to bring a bit of extra income to help with his daily student lifestyle, but half a year in it, he realised the product he was working with was so complex and he still lacked a lot of knowledge. “And that’s when my journey started”, Sergey told us. “ I’ve worked in different coffee shops, from local cafés to international brands. It was quite a ride!”
For the past three years, his commitment has been to this very unique style of preparing coffee: the cezve. Working in a coffee shop where cezve was the main product (Cezve Coffee, Moscow) might have helped a bit.
Before the virus appeared and disrupted life as we know it, Sergey told us he worked as the Head Barista there and trainer of the new staff. “I worked at the bar most of the time, as well as checking the quality of the work of my fellow baristas, helping them to perfect their skills. Training new people was the best part for me. It is very inspiring when a young barista makes his first great cup of coffee and enjoys it himself. I am very happy that some of them are tied to coffee now and have started their own journey.”
In Russia, Cezve is still one of the most popular devices for home use. And although many people and coffee professionals don’t seem to recognise it as a specialty method, Sergey told us that when they try a well-prepared cezve for the first time, the look on their faces changes: “they understand that they hold in their hands a sweet, clean, and balanced beverage, and they like it! They always come back for more! It means that my role as an ambassador of cezve is fulfilled”.
But what we asked what success looks like for him, Sergey has a harder time answering this question:
“It is a difficult one! In different aspects of our job success looks different. It can be winning the championship and having happy customers alike. But in general, we end up with great coffee! We can prepare it, present it or cup it!”
Remembering his first time drinking a really good cup of coffee became two different memories as one involved his first encounter with specialty coffee and the other enjoying a delicious cezve:
“The first specialty coffee I tried was a natural El Salvador at DoubleB. They weren’t kidding about bright sweet caramel in the cup profile. It was then when I realized that coffee can be sweet and have juicy acidity! I also remember my first Costa Rica honey in a cezve. I understood that I had never tried something so complex and sweet before! Since then cezve is my best friend!”
Emotionally, Sergey remembers he was in a state of awe, as if something had snapped in his head and now there was no going back, he wanted more: “Try more, know more and do more so more people feel the same way you do!”. And we all know sharing is caring, right?!
There was another memory that stood out for him, however, and that was his first cupping to select which coffee he’d present at the championships:
“Every time your heart starts beating faster and you just know that this is your cup. They were very different coffees, but I fell in love with each of them. Sometimes we need to look beyond our cupping scoresheets”.
But what about an achievement or contribution that he’s most proud of?
Sergey was completely honest in admitting it can’t be anything other than winning the World Cezve Championship. And we love him for his honesty!
“I didn’t expect to reach that title in just 2 years but I worked hard to get it. I am so happy that my ideas were heard by the judges and by the community. It gave me the opportunity to show more people just how complex and different coffee can be, help them understand the uniqueness of cezve and that it has every right to be recognised by the specialty coffee community”. We could not agree more.
We also asked about his current life now, and what the #brewathome movement means to him. We found out that he is a very positive person and believes in the human power of adaptability and progress:
“Life is ever flowing, nothing can stop it. We change and adapt. I see all the current situations as a chance to do everything you couldn’t before due to daily routines. #brewathome offers everyone a chance for growth and improving your skills. And brew coffee at home, of course! I am really happy that I can help a lot of people to achieve better results with cezve, because now it is so hard to do! For me, this is the perfect opportunity to show people a way to have a great cup at home, not only at the coffee shop”.
But what if we don’t talk about coffee? Who is Sergey Blinnikov when we talk hobbies, favourite book, music, and what does he like?
Apparently Sergey has always dreamed of becoming a chef; ever since he was a child and spent a lot of time preparing tasty dishes for his family and friends at home.
“The complexity of many products has always intrigued me, so I was always into crazy experiments with flavours and combinations! Everything while listening to some modern violin music! I chose it for the championships, I choose it for daily life!”.
Sergey believes that meeting new people is a great advantage of this community, so he’s more than happy to get to know more people and make new connections: “Some of my best friends come from our side of the bar, so let’s meet each other!”.
Looking forward to it, Sergey!
This story is edited by coffee writer Ronita Dragomir.