A year after bombs fell on Maksym Isakov’s Ukrainian community, he launched his coffee roasting business on the midcoast of Maine.
Camden-based Kavka is a new midcoast coffee roasting business selling its beans locally and across the country. The roasts — which are all bean blends instead of single origins — are different from American coffees in their nuanced flavors.
“In Ukraine we allow malt flavor [to develop],” Isakov said. “I think it’s something in the roasting process,” Isakov said.
Kavka offers two Ukrainian Craft Blend coffees. Mriya is a medium roast with citrus and berry notes and earthy undertones. Zori is a dark roast with a floral, citrusy aroma and a full smooth body. There’s also a decaf dark roast blend available as well. Each pound of coffee costs $15.99 and $1 from each bag is donated to humanitarian efforts in Ukraine through Zhytomyr Humanitarian Hub.
Already, the business is catching on. Isakov has been shipping coffee around the United States to customers in places including Texas and Florida.
He’s also aiming to deliver extra fresh coffee. He’s roasting and shipping beans on the same day ensuring the beans are as fresh as can be instead of being stored on shelves for months. It takes 24 hours for flavors in roasted coffee beans to fully develop, he said, but with the shipping time that works out fine.
This is Isakov’s second time in the coffee business. His first — a small Ukrainian chain — was inspired by something he experienced in the United States: Starbucks.
“Before that we didn’t have those kinds of coffee shops [in Ukraine] — you know, a cozy atmosphere and sweet drinks,” Isakov said.
The business was successful, growing to about 10 locations and selling franchises. Isakov eventually sold it, and reinvested his money in other businesses. He dreamed of buying land and growing grains and in the meantime he was running a car dealership.
“After the war started, you know, cars became a piece of metal,” Isakov said.
Leaving Ukraine over the summer with his young family, he lost money in that business but was happy to be welcomed back to the United States and Maine, specifically. This was his second time in Maine. In 2014 he lived in Lincolnville for about four months through an education program. During that time he also became engaged to his wife — he proposed with a ring bought in Bangor at the top of the Empire State Building in New York — who was also in the U.S. for a stay at the time.
“I never thought I would be back in Maine. Probably if we didn’t have a war it would have never happened,” Isakov said. But Maine was special to him and he now feels like his time here as a student was destiny — he found so much support in the Camden area.
Isakov and his family arrived in August from Vinnytsya, Ukraine, with the help of United for Ukraine program.
“I am grateful I am here. I am safe. My kids are safe. That’s the most important for me,” he said.
His older son, who attends a program at the local YMCA, is learning English. His younger son isn’t yet talking. Meanwhile, his wife is beginning to make friends as well, though the language barrier is tough. She speaks some English.
“I want Americans to know that Ukrainians are grateful and happy to have such friends,” he said. “Without all the support we’d never make it.”
Kavka coffee is available online and can be shipped nationally. It’s also available for free delivery from Belfast to Thomaston. Gypsy Rose Tavern in Camden is also both serving the coffee and can be used as a pick up location.