In Germany it’s very common for people to buy coffee in bakeries, where the person behind the counter will put the paper cup in a “fully” automated coffee machine and press the right button, then hand it out in exchange for money. In terms of potential automation and self-service, it’s a silly process.
In contrast, in Varna in Bulgaria I’ve seen many street coffee vending machines. Sometimes they feature brands like Lavazza, but mostly they’re unbranded and give you different types or mixes of coffee for very little money. Like a double espresso of reasonable taste, surely no worse than the machines in German bakeries, for 60 stotinki – 30 Euro cents!
This one is maintained by Stefan (Стефан), from whom my father in law bought some kilograms of coffee for the mountain vacation. He operates 70 of these around Varna. I didn’t see any other of his, probably because there’s hundreds of them all around the city.
I didn’t learn where Stefan gets his coffee, but he’s got about 16 tons of it stored in the room behind the machine above.
A few days later we were in Vinarsko, a little village south of Aytos, around Burgas. There was no coffee in the house, so the need for coffee had to get satisfied by the vending machine in the village centre, located in front of the only store.
This machine has so many stories to tell! Look at all the scratches:
I guess an important part of coin-fed vending machines is “reading” the coins. Part of that experience is inserting the correct amount, but the machine then rejects it immediately. Another attempt might be accepted, or not. A countermeasure, whatever the mechanics are, seems to be to rub the side of the coin against the metal of the machine – as can be seen here, that has been done excessively!
Note the new metal plate on the right. It says търкай тук, “rub here”. I’m not sure if it’s really new, or has been there and ignored for a long time.
When coins get rejected or change gets returned, you get to pick them up a little below – if you dare touch this little hole from hell:
Since these machines sell something, they also need to pay taxes. For this machine, that’s the most recent looking part. I didn’t understand if it only keeps track of purchases or actually reports them remotely immediately. Given Bulgaria has very good mobile network coverage, I wouldn’t be surprised if this contains a mobile connection:
That’s all for now about Bulgarian street coffee.
Next up on this trip is Chepelare, in the Rhodope mountains. I’ll keep an eye out for more of these machines.