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War-displaced family opens cafe in Lincoln

By: Kathryn Palmer Of The Lincoln News Messenger
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Every day at 5 a.m., hours before most nearby businesses and eateries are ready to open their doors, Olga and Daria Pudova are already in their aprons. They are busily crafting European pastries and confections in the kitchen of B&B Cafe off Twelve Bridges Drive. Olga, who owns the cafe, handles much of the baking, while her daughters, Daria, 25, and Polina, 15, help with other aspects of the business.

 

The nearly two-month old cafe offers a melange of food and beverages that gives the place an international flair. Options range from Taiwanese boba drinks popular with teenagers to traditional Italian espresso and European cakes to Eastern European piroshkis or hand pies with sweet and savory fillings. Olga, her husband and her two youngest children, Polina and Feodore, came to the United States in February 2015. Daria joined them a year later. They were forced to leave their native Ukraine, which had quickly spiraled into a deadly and fractious armed conflict in spring 2014, close on the heels of the February revolution that ousted the country’s government.

 

“It was dangerous to stay in our city,” Daria said, “but it was also dangerous to move around Ukraine.” The family lived in the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine, the epicenter of what is referred to as the War in Donbass. The conflict remains active with regular skirmishes and periods of increased violence, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Through her daughters as translators, Olga said, they moved to the U.S. to get as much distance as they could from Ukraine and find a democratic country where war was unlikely to displace them again. The family landed first in Sacramento, then settled in Rocklin. Soon after, Olga asked her eldest daughter, Daria, to look for places nearby where they could open a boba tea shop.

 

Daria mentioned this quest to her English tutor, Lincoln resident Cathy Cassady, during one of their conversation sessions facilitated by the Placer County Adult Literacy Service. Cassady pointed her to where B&B Cafe now stands, at the intersection between Twelve Bridges Drive and East Joiner Parkway. But it was too big to just serve tea, Daria said, so Olga decided they might as well serve pastries and coffee. “It was her idea,” Daria said, referring to her mother. “I just help her run it.”

 

From 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., Daria and Olga are at the cafe, baking, making tea, crafting espresso drinks and ringing up purchases at the register. Olga’s youngest daughter, Polina, lends a hand once she finishes the school day at Lincoln High School. “They get there between 4 and 5 a.m., and every day, Olga is just baking all morning,” Cassady said.

Each morning, the cafe’s display case is full with fresh, handmade pastries. Many of them are different from the default fare offered at many generic cafes in the U.S., such as muffins, scones and cinnamon buns.

 

“We love those things but we also wanted to share with American people a part of Europe,” Daria said.

Both Olga and Daria spent time living in European countries, which Daria said taught them about different recipes and flavors. “I lived in Sweden a couple of years so some of the recipes come from Sweden,” Daria said. “My mom lived in Germany and she knows a lot of recipes (from there).”

 

They are still experimenting with different flavors and recipes to see what customers want, according to Daria. Some offerings are undeniably unique, such as the British-inspired caramel and walnut cake and cheese cookies made with Olga’s homemade cottage cheese. B&B Cafe is currently the only boba tea shop in Lincoln. The Taiwanese drinks, also called bubble tea, are tea-based drinks that incorporate brewed tea, tapioca balls and a choice of milk. The result is a cold drink with chewy pearls at the bottom of the glass that are slurped up by the straw.

 

Despite the long hours, Daria said she’s happy to show up to the cafe and get to know new customers and serve regulars. “When it’s your place, you can give people better quality,” Daria said. “And one of the most important things is that I know these people, their names, and what they like to order.”