There’s something brewing in Dubai. Rich, often chocolatey and occasionally fruity, artisanal coffee is causing a stir in the emirate.
The current era of premium bean appreciation – known in coffee circles as the third wave – snubs high-street multi-blends in favour of single origin, ethically sourced, expertly processed, roasted and brewed beans.
Dubai’s original urban roastery, the Raw Coffee Company, leads the movement with CEO and owner Matt Toogood at the helm. Sourcing, tasting and roasting beans is his expertise. In selecting beans, he looks for Arabica varieties farmed 1000 metres above sea level around the ‘Bean Belt’, the area between the two tropics. Direct trade has surpassed fair trade as the most ethical sourcing method, cutting out middlemen so farmers take all the profits.
“When we’re visiting family-run farms, the very first thing we look at is the children and whether or not they’re healthy and happy,” says Matt. “That’s always an indicator that the coffee is going to taste fantastic, because when farmers look after their families well, they look after their beans well, too.”
The bean market is dominated by two types of bean. If you’re drinking Vietnamese coffee or instant coffee from a jar, it’s probably made with Robusta beans. Robusta is easier to mass produce and generally cheaper and stronger. Arabica beans tend to be more complex and costly. Some of the most sought-after Arabica in the world – Jamaica Blue Mountain and Geisha – can be found at Dubai’s Mokha 1450, a café for true aficionados.
“Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee has been traded for hundreds of years now and it’s quite famous, especially in Japan where 80 per cent of the production is bought years in advance,” explains Mokha 1450 CEO Garfield Kerr. “And our Ethiopian Geisha is the mother plant of the famous Panama Geisha, which is generally sold at auction.”
Whether you want artisan coffee, an affordable caffeine fix or latte art, Dubai has a coffee shop to suit every taste and budget, from retro Cassette and atmospheric NightJar in art district Alserkal Avenue to bright and breezy rebranded London Dairy Cafés, LCD Kitchen + Coffee. Coffee drinking began in Arabia in the 15th Century and it remains an integral part of Emirati culture to this day, blending Dubai’s past with a multi-billion-Euro business of the future.