The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) has partnered with the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) to launch an annual World of Coffee Dubai trade show in early 2020. Considering this expat-friendly city has been brewing some of the best cups in the Middle East for the last couple of years, this comes as no surprise. Its plethora of cool cafés, speciality coffee labs and roasteries are focused on upping the ante and meeting international standards. They treat coffee as its own reward, and not just something you have with breakfast or for a wake-up call at 4 am.
Only 15 years ago, Dubai was importing almost all of its beans and coffee from overseas. While the coffee beans may still be coming from other countries, the roasteries are now all local to ensure this brown juice tastes potent and fresh each time, unlike cups made with packets that have been roasted in other countries and languished in pantries for months. Roasting coffee beans is pure science and extremely technical. It includes studying and perfecting air flow, drum speed and temperature to get the most out of each bean.
What is Speciality Coffee?
Far away from famous coffee chains such as Starbucks and Tim Hortons, speciality coffee demands strict quality control from seed to cup. More often than not, the farmer is responsible and controls the supply and delivery chain.
After returning from a culinary tour of Dubai, Ankiet Gulabani, founder of the website BellyOverMind, says, "Dubai’s cool kids hoard limited edition sneakers and frequent their favourite roasters at least once a week. You can’t go wrong with any of the Tom Serg outlets. The Sum Of Us and Common Grounds are a safe bet. Dar Wasl’s very Instagrammable Myocum and Stomping Grounds are also favourites. If you’re out to buy your single origin beans though, I suggest Seven Fortunes and RAW Coffee Company.” Some of the other places a true coffee connoisseur will enjoy are:
Slowly achieving cult status, this place takes its brew seriously. The coffee here is obtained from ethical farms and their award-winning, multi-cultural baristas speak multiple languages and recommend tailor-made cups to fit your preferences. Try the Kyoto-style cold-drip or their Syphone Vacuum pot. Although it could easily belong in a science lab, the Syphone Vacuum is a coffee maker that brews by using two chambers where vapour pressure and vacuum produce a super fragrant but light cuppa.
'Follow the smell of coffee' reads the sign at the entrance, and it’s tough not to. Fun fact, many coffee chains are guilty of using artificial coffee fragrances to entice customers. However, this place isn’t one of them and it doesn’t need to. Inspired by the Balkan region, you can complement their super strong and hits-the-spot cappuccino to go with their Burek Cheese, a signature dish created using layers of filo pastry, cheese, egg and butter that melts in your mouth. They source their coffee from Gold Box, a famous DXB roaster.
A place that believes in giving equal focus to coffee and community, their menu appeals to both the massive expat crowd and local Emiratis. A true East meets West philosophy in motion. Their beans are exported from India, Malawi, Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen, Nicaragua and Peru, and are 100 per cent Arabica (it’s not bitter, and lighter than Robusta beans which are generally used for instant coffee). We went a little overboard here and recommend lavender honey or cinnamon latte. Try the lavender honey if you’re opting for the west side of the menu, or the Fragranced with Cardamom & Cloves Turkish coffee from the East might be your jam.
Espresso Lab is for serious bean hunters. The owner, Al Mallouhi, took classes at the American Barista & Coffee School, completed barista certification courses with the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe, and underwent special training with the Specialty Coffee Association of America to ensure every cup he served came from knowledge and passion. Their coffee hails from Ethiopian farms primarily and their speciality is the Ethiopian “Yigracheffe” bean, also known as the King of Flavour. No food or sugar on their menu means you enjoy this cuppa as it was always meant, on its own. Guests looking for a curated experience can order Fika - the Lab’s way of educating its customers - a tasting menu of espresso neat, espresso with milk and brewed coffee.
This café is named after one of the oldest ports in Yemen – a starting point for global coffee trade around the mid-15th century. Mokha as a name and place is special. You will only find prized single-origin, fair-trade coffees such as Ethiopian Geisha and Grade-one Jamaica Blue Mountain, sourced directly from farmers. Their aim, from the very beginning, has been to empower female-run farms in the Middle East and Africa. Decorated in an Arabian Nights or Days style, it reflects the empowering environment of change for women in the Middle East.
Hub 1833 (
Speciality coffee in local style along with an eclectic collection of art pieces, Hub 1833 is a homegrown brand, designed and run by Emiratis. Their smooth blends pair well with traditional sweets such as kunafah, a rich Palestinian dessert made with cheese pastry and soaked in a sugar-based syrup. For a truly local experience, we recommend the Dubai Karak or an 1833 Arabic Coffee, while sitting outside and enjoying the views of the world's tallest building Burj Khalifa nearby.
Even though Surge is primarily a roaster, they house a coffee shop offering freshly brewed coffee. A shot of espresso is a work-of-art here. They offer wholesale and retail speciality roasted coffee beans from various origins, consultation services for commercial and home services as well as barista training. The existence of such a place in DXB is the prime example of where this emirate is headed when it comes to its seriousness about coffee.
Emirati Coffee Co
With Persian carpets and leather couches in an industrial setting, this place is great for enviable coffee posts on the ‘gram. The menu is divided between black, white, manual, cold and roasted so you can decide as per your mood. Definitely for people in the know. And if you want to take a piece of them back home, they also sell beans and coffee machines.
Alchemy pays equal importance to their ambience as their produce. Situated in a beautiful white villa, they take their coffee with a bit of social consciousness. Their beans are sourced from ethical speciality coffee farms and roasted to perfection as per SCA standards. A coffee chart explains the different types of coffee so you can try something new. They serve their coffee with a shot of sparkling water and that’s all. You can pair yours with a slice their scrumptious cakes.
Images Conceptualised by Vartika Pahuja
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