The failure of Szarvasi Zrt. which left 400 people unemployed may not seem a momentous event, but it can be argued that – for Hungary at least – it is the end of the last Communist vestige. In this caffeine-addicted country one would be hard-pressed to find a kitchen that does not have one, even if it has been forced out of service by more modern contraptions.
Szarvasi began making their machines in 1953, the year Stalin died. Originally made of aluminum and more recently of stainless steel, their typical gurgling sound was as much a part of the average Hungarian’s morning routine as washing their teeth – we dare say more.
Due to an unfortunate turn of history – the Battle of Mohács in 1526, following which the Ottoman Empire ruled a significant part of Hungary for more than 150 years – Hungarians became familiar with coffee a good half century before say, England.
To this day, Hungarians have a saying “now comes the black soup”, meaning a bad end to something. It evokes the peace talks with the Turks, during which a meal was always followed by coffee, hence the black soup.
The demise of Szarvasi had, of course, nothing to do with the Turks. While the company did not officially mention this, market rumor has it that having lost a sizeable part of their market to automatic coffee machines, the company was bidding for a large supplier contract with Swedish home improvements maker IKEA and even bought the production tools before the deal turned sour.