A burgeoning destination for specialty coffee connoisseurs, Dubai has been hitting everyone with its best shot.

A burgeoning destination for specialty coffee connoisseurs, Dubai has been hitting everyone with its best shot

The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) has partnered with the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) to launch an annual World of Coffee Dubai trade show early March 2020. This really comes as no surprise considering this expat-friendly city has been brewing some of the best cups in the Middle East last couple of years. Its plethora of cool cafes, specialty coffee labs and roasteries are focused on upping the ante and meeting international standards. They treat this beverage as its own reward, and not just something you have with breakfast or for a wake-up call at 4pm.

Only 15 years ago Dubai would import almost all of its beans and coffee from overseas. And while the beans may still be coming in from other countries, the roasteries are now all local to ensure this brown juice tastes potent and fresh every time, unlike cups made with packets that have been roasted in other countries and languished in pantries for months.

Roasting 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 Specialty Coffee?


Far away from famous chains such as Starbucks and Tim Hortons, specialty coffee demands strict quality control from seed to cup. More often than not, the farmer is responsible and controls the supply and delivery chain.

Ankiet Gulabani, founder of the recipe website BellyOverMind, has recently returned from a culinary tour of this buzzing city and 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 connoisseur will enjoy and recommend are:

1. Drop Coffee

Slowly achieving cult status, this place takes its brew quite seriously. The coffee here is obtained through ethical farms and their award winning, multi-cultural baristas can speak multiple languages and recommend a tailor-made cup just to 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 vapor pressure and vacuum produce a super fragrant but light cuppa.

2. 21 Grams


‘Follow the smell of coffee’ is their entrance sign and it’s tough not to. Fun fact: Many coffee chains are guilty of using artificial fragrances to entice customers in. This place isn’t one of them and it doesn’t need to. 

Inspired by the Balkan region, you can try to 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 just melts in your mouth. They source their coffee from Gold Box, a famous DXB roaster.

3. The Brass

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 100% Arabica (which means it’s not bitter and lighter than Robusta beans that’s 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.

4. Espresso Lab

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 specialty 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.

5. Mokha 1450

This café is named after one of the oldest port in Yemen – a starting point for global coffee trade around mid-15th century. Mokha as a name and place is special. Which is why 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 seems to reflect the empowering environment of change for women in the Middle East.

6. Hub 1833

Specialty 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. 

We recommend a true local experience – sip on the Dubai Karak or an 1833 Arabic Coffee, while sitting outside and enjoying the views of the nearby Burj Khalifa. 

7. Surge Coffee

Even though Surge is primarily a roaster, they house a coffee shop offering absolutely freshly brewed coffee. A shot of espresso is a work-of-art here. They offer wholesale and retail specialty 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.

8. 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.

9. Alchemy Dubai

Alchemy pays equal importance to their ambience as well as the produce. Situated in a beautiful white Villa, they take their coffee with a bit of a social consciousness. Their beans are sourced from ethical specialty coffee farms and roasted to perfection as per the SCA standards. 

There is a coffee chart that 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 of one their scrumptious cakes, if you so please. 

Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

Images Conceptualised by Vartika Pahuja

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