In 2022, three Ukrainians in San Diego embarked on a journey to share their love for coffee and the Cossack spirit of freedom with the world. Oleksandr Lugovskiy, Andriy Proshchenko, and Viktoriia Vlasenko founded a coffee brand called Mamai Coffee, named after the well-known Cossack figure, Mamai.
The team targeted a diverse audience, including recently arrived Ukrainians, those who had immigrated 20 years ago, the wider diaspora, hipsters, and people traveling and looking for something unique.
They sell their roasted coffee on their website, www.mamaicoffee.com, aiming to introduce the Ukrainian and European tradition of roasting coffee to the United States. Mamai Coffee beans are sourced from Ethiopia, Colombia, Honduras, and Brazil. The company focuses on a non-commercial, more niche, and well-thought-out method of roasting.
Viktoriia Vlasenko, a seasoned coffee expert from Kharkiv, had represented Ukraine at the World Coffee Championships. She was responsible for roasting and creating the taste of their coffee, using programming systems to control the roasting process and ensure the perfect flavor.
Oleksandr Lugovskiy, another co-founder and coffee expert, had been involved in the coffee business in Ukraine for over 20 years and had taken second place in the Ukrainian Barista Championship. He moved to the United States a year before the war to open a coffee business and showcase high-quality Ukrainian coffee products to Americans.
“The quality of the final product is very important to us,” Оleksandr explains. “We order green coffee samples and roast them in the sample roaster to understand what the final product will be. We have a trusted supplier who procures coffee from different places around the world. We choose samples that interest us, taking into account our experience and the supplier’s recommendations.”
After roasting the samples, they conduct the first cupping according to SCA (The Specialty Coffee Association) protocols. After discussions, they decide what to order. Coffee beans arrive in jute bags of 60 or 70 kg. After each factory roasting session, the roasted coffee is packed into appropriately sized packs.
Oleksandr Lugovskiy’s dream is to open a chain of coffee shops, starting in San Diego and expanding to Los Angeles and San Francisco.