Drinking Coffee in Dubai

Following on from the tradition in Dubai, where they prefer to buy the best and the biggest, you will be glad to know that when it comes to coffee machines, they have not compromised and have bought the best – La Marzocco. Yes ! probably the best commercial coffee machine in the World. It’s like the top salesman at La Marzocco went to Dubai on holiday and has retired there, with all the machines he or she sold. In the biggest mall outside north America, the Mall of the Emirates, almost all the coffee shops and there are many, have a La Marzocco machine. The only downside, as with many of the good stuff, is that the machine is not being used properly to produce good espresso. In testing the baristas, I may have been a bit unfair, as I only really ordered espressos – the main way to test how good a barista is. I also feel comfortable only drinking espressos or non-milk coffee drinks in the afternoon – after all I was on holiday with the family, and by the time we got out bed, had a lavish breakfast, it was of course after-noon. In any case, most of the cafes tend to follow the American style layout and offerings- dark wooden interior with dim lights, cheesecakes, muffins, etc with the usual offerings of espresso, cappuccino, lattes and smoothies. With so many Starbucks and Costa Cafes there too (largest UK coffee chain), people seem to choose a cafe that they are used to.

There are some that try and differentiate themselves with the decor, like Art Cafe on the second floor of the mall, which interestingly has a pop-art decor with palm like cup seats in bright orange. You also have Barista (dangerous name for a cafe, if it doesn’t serve coffee like a true barista), with some coffee history written on the wall. Actually Barista is India’s second largest coffee chain, but they have recently been bought by the Italian coffee maker, Lavazza – smart move ! Barista also boasted that all their coffees were roasted in Italy and their lattes weren’t bad – I didn’t try their espresso as I had a free voucher for a latte – hmmmm !  There’s also a Dubai coffee chain called Second Cup, which also sell coffee beans to take home, but I wasn’t convinced by the way they were stored, nor by their freshness and so I didn’t enquire. In the mall, they also have Paul – the famous French pattisserie, opening stores in London and getting big in Dubai too. So if you fancy a nice croissant or pain aux raisin with coffee, then head over there too – it’s quite popular because I think people love the cakes. Another French style outfit, Le Pain Quotidien (also on Marylebone High Street, London) serve hearty soup, salads, sandwiches and cakes and of course coffee. However, there was one coffee shop I really wanted to try in the Mall of the Emirates, the Emporio Armani Caffe – designer coffee from Italy. The ambience was dark, more like a night club scene, but the coffee was not as good as the clothes. I think there’s a gap for a really good quality coffee shop offering coffee made with real attention. Anyone want to move to Dubai and set up a coffee shop ?

Outside of the malls, the only place I managed to try for coffee was Dome Cafe (an Australian outfit) and for me, the coffee here was the best, perhaps the strong coffee culture from Australia managed to transport itself to this cafe. Dome Cafe is situated in tourist magnet, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, where there’s lots of restaurants and souvenir style shops to keep you occupied. I’ve heard that there are many other places, like in the Bastakiya district of old Dubai, but with 40C heat outside and no car, I decided to leave that adventure for another trip when I visit again God willing.


Drinking Coffee in London @ Flat White

Flat White Rosetta 

For me, no trip to London, should exclude a coffee stop at Flat White, 17 Berwick Street, Soho, London. On my third trip, I got a bit excited, snapping pictures for my website from the outside, inside, etc Flat White Shopfrontand even went as far as ordering a flat white coffee drink (similar to a caffe latte) and an espresso – I’ve never ordered two types of coffees before at a shop in one go and even the guys behind the bar looked at me strangely, but I thought, “I can’t come here and not order a flat white, and I can’t come here and not order an espresso from the pros” – so I did. I also managed to get a sit in their small, newly refurbished, but very full of ambience coffee shop. I lounged in the corner and snapped away at the beautiful rosetta latte art in my cup at different intervals as I drank it. I think people were looking at me thinking “he is either mad, hasn’t seen a cup of coffee before, or he is a journalist”, but it didn’t matter, I was comfortable and the wonderful staff at Flat White made me feel at home. I had the flat white coffee drink first (wonderful), then a glass of water to refresh my taste buds and then finished off with a sweetish espresso – their coffee comes from Monmouth Coffee. Flat White were recently voted “Independent Coffee shop of the Year for 2007” by ProjectCafe 6, now open everyday and have a website, so check them on www.flat-white.co.uk, where you can listen to music too. Definitely worth a visit.

I’m Drinking – Indian Malabar Monsooned

Wow ! I take my hat off to the guys at HR Higgins (79 Duke Street London), i.e I’m impressed. I was sceptical about trying Indian coffee beans for espresso, but I’m sure pleased that I gave in and bought a 250g bag from HR Higgins during my last trip to London – should have bought 2 bags.

Indian Malabar Monsooned 

Quintessentially coffee is one way I describe this wonderful aromatic and crema rich coffee, ideal for espresso. It has the main characteristics of how most people will describe coffee: a lovely aroma – even people that don’t like coffee, love the smell and if you want people to lounge in your cafe, the smell of this bean brewing will do the trick; it has a wonderful dark reddish colour – beautiful for pictures – I took some and will share with you sometime God willing ! it has a sweetish taste that can make you sell espresso to those who think it is just a bitter dark drink; it has wonderful thick crema, the sort that sits on top of your lip like thick double cream. I also carried out some other tests; the sugar test – even with thick brown sugar crystals (I only buy brown demerara sugar) it still took at least 7 seconds before the sugar dropped below the crema cloud to the bottom of the cup.

 Sugar sinking espresso

For example, I put sugar on top of my freshly brewed espresso, got my camera out and still got to take a picture with the sugar just beginning to drop. 

Sugar Gone Espresso 

I also passed it through the after taste test, whereby, even with my regular cappuccino fix in the morning, I was still able to feel the glossy after taste in my mouth for at least an hour after consumption. However, there are some other things you may wish to know about this experience – it is dark roasted by HR Higgins, which naturally contributes to the colour and aroma – this means that for me HR Higgins have roasted the bean right, however, another roaster might roast it a bit lighter or darker, taking away from the experience I had. Also, although when made as an espresso, it is sweetish – hard core espresso and coffee lovers might point to its lack of body (i.e, it doesn’t hit you like perhaps a Kenyan coffee might). I liked it so much as an espresso and for a cappuccino that I didn’t want to sacrifice it for another brewing method, so I can’t tell you how it would taste when brewed for the filter or French Press methods. They always say, if you have fresh roasted coffee, consume it within 2 weeks, but with this bean, it didn’t last a week in my house and that’s just with me drinking it – no ! I’m not selfish, it’s just that my wife doesn’t drink coffee, but she loved the smell of this bean.

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