From: Exit Staff
Albanian Coffee Culture Latest Casualty of Inflation

In some parts of Tirana, up to half of all cafes are closing due to rising costs, including energy, products used, and decreased spending as Albanians tighten their purse strings, according to the Association of Bars and Restaurants.

Albania is a nation of coffee drinkers, and it is home to the highest number of coffee shops per capita- an impressive 654 per 100,000 inhabitants. Or at least, it was.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw the whole country plunged into lockdown for almost two months with a raft of restrictions, including curfews, table spacing requirements, and mandatory mask-wearing, taking a toll on the sector. Following the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis has seen inflation soar while wages remain some of the lowest in Europe, and a third is at risk of slipping below the poverty line.

Enri Jahaj, a representative of the Association of Bars and Restaurants, told Monitor that due to the drop in turnover in the capital, many service structures are being rented out, as it is unprofitable for the owners to keep the business.

“In the Kinostudio area, almost half of the premises are rented. The situation is similar in other areas, in the centre or Kombinat. Not only the businesses of bars and bars but also restaurants, lounges, night clubs are in a state of shock from the drop in consumption.”

“Albanians have no more money to spend. On the other hand, with the high prices for the owners, it isn’t easy to keep the business open. The closure of businesses will continue not only this year but also for 2023,” he asserted.

Coffee imports from January to June 2022 decreased by 7% when compared to the same period the year before, according to data from the Ministry of Finance and Economy. However, they are higher than in the first year of the pandemic.

The current drop in imports is primarily attributed to the closure of cafes throughout the country. But it is not just high prices putting cafe culture at risk. Mass emigration means a shortage of workers, including baristas and waiters.

A walk through Tirana shows many empty cafe shops with signs in the window looking for staff. Yet, with thousands of Albanians leaving the country every month, filling vacancies is becoming increasingly hard.