Solid grounds - The pick of St. Petersburg's coffee shops

Traditionally, it wasn't coffee but tea (and vodka, obviously) that kept Russia's social wheels greased and its great creative minds invigorated. Nowadays, however, you won't have to go far in St. Petersburg to find a great cup of coffee.

It took a while for the coffee revolution to reach St. Petersburg, with the first Starbucks arriving in the city less than a decade ago, and only a handful of specialty coffee shops plying their trade at the time.

In the past few years, however, coffee has really arrived in the city, with innovative baristas, enthusiastic bloggers, and ardent amateur aficionados all contributing to a rich local culture that offers plenty for the visitor to explore and discover. The result is a host of varied and vibrant local coffee bars, our favorites among which are listed below.

Selected coffee shops:

Rudy's Coffee to Go
Coffee, Desserts $
The cream of St. Petersburg's take-out coffee bars, Rudy's has a convenient central location and a connoisseur's approach to coffee that keeps quality high despite the tiny premises and swift service.
Coffee, Desserts $
Conveniently located for sightseers a few steps from Palace Square, Bonch is a bar-restaurant that's well worth visiting for lunch, but also takes its coffee very seriously, with a great range of specialty brews.
Surf Coffee
Coffee, Tea, Desserts $
A downtown coffee bar with a surf-and-skate theme and appropriately laidback atmosphere, Surf Coffee offers a huge range of specialty coffees, some of which make novel use of coconut.
Coffee, Desserts $
Located along the eastern stretch of Nevsky Prospekt among a rash of chain outlets, Pitcher is a tiny haven for serious coffee-lovers, with the emphasis on quality over exotic choice.
Pif Paf Coffee
Coffee $
A full-service bar with a special corner reserved for coffee-lovers, Pif Paf is the exclusive outlet for renowned local roaster Coffee Owl, ensuring all its wide-ranging coffee menu is brewed to a high standard.
Radosti Kofe
Coffee $
The "Joys of Coffee" is a sleek, Scandi-style coffee bar with a great riverside location on Vasilevskiy Island, offering a fantastic range of housemade desserts as well as a fine range of coffees and teas.
Double B
Coffee, Tea, Desserts $
It may be a chain, but Double B has a hard-earned reputation for the quality of its brews, especially its enticing signature drinks, made with an exotic range of fruits, herbs and spices.
Kofe na Kukhne
Coffee, Desserts $
This bright and friendly coffee shop by the Fontanka River is a well-established favorite among local coffee-lovers, combining a homely atmosphere with expertly prepared coffee and other hot drinks.
Znakomtes Joe
Coffee, Desserts $
A coffee shop in one of St. Petersburg's most popular bookstores, Znakomtes Joe is a great place to soak up atmosphere and pick up some original souvenirs, as well as enjoying excellent coffee.
Espresso Bike
Coffee, Desserts $
What was once the most basic of street outlets is now a cozy coffee shop in a charming downtown space, with the accent on a sophisticated range of brewing and filtering methods.