Some people believe that all things are predetermined. Others just go with the flow, giving way to whatever events or people life throws at them. Either way, the greatest stories often begin with a meeting—and Vivina Café’s fairy tale is one that proves just that.
Until a few years ago, Vivien Viszneki was someone who had no connection with coffee. She preferred to drink tea when she could, and it was only during her university years, that she started to get drawn into the world of coffee. A native of the town of Gyula, Vivien started drinking coffee because that was what everyone else did. She drank coffee to get through the exams and the long hours of student work, and because it gave her energy and motivation. In the process, she slowly abandoned flavored and capsule coffees and became a fan of arabica. After completing her degree in economics, she started working with a family relative—Ilona Csattos, a self-study lecturer—as an assistant. Her tasks included both event management and communication, and slowly she overcame her shyness and found herself.
She was managing the affairs of a self-awareness camp in 2017 when she and one of the participants became mutually interested in each other. Haddad Nassim had come to the event because he was at a pathfinding stage in his life. The young man from Hódmezővásárhely is of Algerian descent on his father’s side and his family runs a prosperous business in his hometown, but he wanted to find new opportunities. Yet instead of a new profession, he found love, moved in with Vivi, and they started to shape their life together. As both of them loved coffee, enjoying the drink became a ritual for them, so much so that for their first Christmas together, Nassim’s gift was a hand grinder. Soon, things started to get serious and they became a sort of at-home baristas. Still thinking of it as a hobby, but with true passion, they devoted themselves to the subject, and their moka was slowly replaced by more complex tools.
They met János Hámori on a sailing holiday, and quickly befriended the man, who was deeply impressed by their dedication—after all, who arrives on holiday with a full barista kit? During one of their conversations over steaming cups of coffee, it occurred to János, why don’t they open their own café? The question stuck with the couple, but even they didn’t think at the time that such a venture could become reality. However, a few days after the holiday ended, Nassim’s phone rang and it was John on the line. As it turned out, he was so intent on the matter that when he came across a shop to rent on Szerb Street in Budapest, he immediately thought of them. János had previously worked as a businessman and investor in multiple countries, so he was already familiar with the setting up and running of businesses.
With the mentoring of János, and with a bit of their own capital, Vivien and Nassim decided to give it a go. Vivina Café opened quietly in December 2019, almost under the radar, but with all the more love. They had no big ambitions, just wanted to see if their dream stood a chance. Things were just getting started, but then Covid came along and they had to close the shop. However, Vivi, leveraging her previous experience in marketing, was quick to adapt. Sticking to the rules, they organized various campaigns, held events and prize games, created their own coffee brand, launched a webshop, and even developed a capsule coffee. In short: they were present. Their lovable duo and unquestionable expertise yielded a strong fan base, so they persevered, even though there were days when not a single coffee was sold. The secret may have been that they both wanted it badly enough to work day and night, hoping it would eventually pay off.
In February 2022, another milestone was reached when they started roasting their own coffee. The process can be observed on a small scale at Vivina, where a relatively compact machine has been installed. The Nassimocca coffees are a real playground, especially for Nassim. With the type and characteristics of the green coffee in mind, he has full control over the final result. In the meantime, the couple thought it was time to challenge themselves, so after a previous trial run, they entered The Barista League, an international competition for professionals. It was in May 2022 that Budapest became the host city for the first time, so they entered as a team of two. The tasks included everything from flavor recognition to plant-based latte creation, to designing a coffee-based cocktail. At the end of the day-long competition, they were judged by the jury to be the best, and in addition to the title of champions, they also won a trip to Colombia.
This experience has reaffirmed that they were on the right track. Meanwhile, the pub next to the café was closing and they began to wonder if it was time to expand. They were able to rent that space, and by knocking down the walls, Vivina had stepped up a level. The transformation process is far from easy, and is still ongoing, with the various conversion permits requiring a lot of time and work, but they are not giving up. Their goals include an even more complex menu, themed events, more proprietary coffees, and finding new partners.
Until Nassimocca makes it to the shelves, you can taste it at Greenhabit or at the Mon Petit Dessert Boutique, for example. The partnership is reciprocal, as Zsófi Sámson’s aranygaluska has already made its debut at the café on a themed day, and they have also collaborated with Csenge Dusha, the current pastry chef at MÁK Bistro, on several occasions.
It’s worth making a detour to Szerb Street as there’s a good chance you’ll find the owners of Vivina behind the counter, in which case you have nothing to do but ask questions, chat, and of course enjoy the hospitality.
And if I could give you a hint, the pumpkin spice latte with homemade pumpkin puree is something you wouldn’t want to miss!
Photos: Ádám Csordás és Kata Futár