Coffee is not endemic to Russian culture. Latte and cappuccino have trickled their way here from Italy, while the pour-over and Hario – the choice of coffee connoisseurs — come from the land of the rising sun. But what few people know is that raf coffee — simply known as raf — is a concoction straight out of Moscow.

The raf was conceived in the late 90’s at Coffee Bean, one of the first American-type coffee shops to be opened in Moscow, and named after one the coffee shop’s regular guests Rafael. The recipe has remained unchanged since then. Raf is a heated and steamed mixture of espresso, cream and vanilla sugar.

The key difference is that while the dairy ingredients and sweeteners in other espresso-based drinks are prepared separately and added to the coffee at the very end, all the ingredients for the raf (coffee, cream and sugar) are first mixed all together in a pitcher and then steamed using the espresso machine. That is what gives the raf its delectable creamy texture.

Professional baristas’ attitudes towards the raf vary. Some uncompromisingly refuse to make it, firm in the belief that each ingredient should speak for itself. Others try to work their own magic on the recipe, such as replacing vanilla sugar with lavender sugar (containing dry lavender flowers), citrus sugar (with orange or lime zest) or even honey and cinnamon.

Today the raf can be found in almost every coffee shop — so don’t miss out on the opportunity to try a genuine Russian coffee.