Dubai Coffee Scene 2018: The Roasters

So, Dubai has lots of coffee shops now, but who is supplying them with their main commodity – roasted coffee beans ? If you are an ardent follower of my blog, then you’ll know that as far back as 2008, I found out that Kim, was moving to Dubai to start a coffee roasting business, Raw Coffee. Back then I found this very interesting but also very brave, because Dubai was awash with coffee chains, stuck in the first wave of coffee – just drinking from the World leaders in coffee branding (Starbucks, Costa, etc) and Kim wanted to start roasting for speciality coffee – back when there wasn’t even a single coffee shop in the whole of Dubai, let alone the UAE that cared what coffee should taste like.

Fast forward to 2013 and Kim already some clients – Tom&Serg and some restaurants – things were moving but still Dubai only had one speciality coffee roaster. It wouldn’t be until about 2015, when the guys behind Tom&Serg decided to launch their own coffee roasting business – now called Encounter Coffee. Sure there were some others roasters popping up like Coffee Planet and eventually Ortis, whose coffee you can buy at Dubai Duty Free and drink at a few cafes, like Dean&Deluca but specialty roasting, focussing on direct trade, sourcing the best coffee and investing in roasting profiles and aiming to compete at the World stage, not much, until now.

So, now they have %Arabica Coffee Roasters, Seven Fortunes, Stomping Grounds, Gold Box and Specialty Batch, whose coffees can be found across many of the new coffee shops. From the personal conversations I’ve had with them, they seem to have been started by Emirati businessmen who loved coffee and wanted to replicate something in their own lands, hiring professionals from abroad to train their own staff, which seem quite competent now. They tend to roast in the al Quoz industrial district, which I’m sure if you visit, near Mall fo emirates, will smell like coffee land. On my last trip I discovered Grandmother (unusual name), Grind and Emirati Coffee, but I’m sure there’s more that I’ve missed. Here’s a snapshot of them

%Arabica

Obviously just roast for themselves as they are a branded coffee shop. They have a wide range of coffee from “normal” to 90+. Their house blends tend to be darkly roasted with a chocolate bias and their much wider range of filter coffees are too numerous in taste profiles to mention. You can buy coffee from their shops, ranging from about US$13 for about 200g to US$150 for their top coffee (usually Panama geisha) – yes, you read that right; US$150 for 200g. This is Dubai and the fact that a coffee shop offers coffee to buy over the counter at that price must mean that they have customers willing to pay that. I have never seen any coffee shop in London selling at that price range but I guess if you wanted something like that it can be arranged. In any case, I presume that %Arabica don’t spare any effort in trying to purchase the best green beans to roast. To finish, you can buy these special coffees to drink at their shop – see my last post and from what I tasted they are quite good at roasting.

Seven Fortunes

I first tried this coffee at Culinary Boutique (see my post in 2016) and was so impressed with their fruity bias, that I bought a bag of their coffee to take how with me. They seemed to have grown in stature and popularity and now have outlets that serve their coffee. Visit their website to buy coffee, get brewing guides, pay for training sessions and more. You can visit them to learn how to set up a coffee shop, including equipment advice – they deal with La Marzocco.

Specialty Batch

Growing in popularity especially as they distribute Synesso espresso machines, which from my last visit was very prominent as well as Slayer espresso machines. On the coffee front, they seem to also have a wide range of outlets serving their coffees (depresso from my last post). You can also buy coffee from their website.

Emirati Coffee – the Return of Omni Roast

Last but not least and I have to say, wow! why, because, although they are new on the scene, they seem to have propelled themselves. They roast at Al Quoz too and you can buy coffee from their pop-up shop at Dar Wasl Mall – see my last post or by visiting them at their roastery – Al Quoz Industrial 3, Dubai. As I mentioned in my last post I bought a bag of their coffee, Ethiopian Edido, Yirgacheffe, which they assured me was roasted using the Omni method, which from Perfectly daily grind blog means;

Omni roasting embraces the idea that any coffee can be brewed using any method. So long as the coffee was roasted well, it’ll play well across a variety of brew methods – be it press, filter, espresso, or even cold brew.

That doesn’t mean that every coffee will taste the same in every brew method, of course, or even that every coffee will suit every brew method. A French press will highlight a coffee’s body and perhaps its dark fruit notes. An espresso will highlight acidity and, if they are present, citrus notes.

In short if a coffee is roasted this way you can brew it in many ways, espresso and filter style. I must confess whenever a roaster tell me this, I am usually sceptical – why ? Because whenever I get home and try the beans, whilst they may pass the filter brewing style (aero press, Hario V60), they always fail the espresso brewing method, until NOW.

I’ve only had one beautiful omni roast experience and that was by Square Mile, their Brazilian arabica coffee CAPAO CHAPADA DIAMANTINA or Capao (so good it has to be in CAPs) – read here.

Emirati’s Edido is definitely a close second behind Capao and that for me is a fantastic rating, because with this coffee I really enjoyed brewing it – such a shame I didn’t buy a 500g bag. Everyday, I didn’t know which brewing method to use to get the best taste profile out. With espresso, caramel and almonds with a hint of red berries and with aero press, more red berries and with Hario V60, more dried grapes and floral.

But as they say, all good things must come to an end, at least with culinary delights.

In summary, I think no real place can call themselves a coffee capital without some serious attention to locally based coffee roasteries and hats off (well done) to the Dubai and Emirati based coffee connoisseurs for tasing their game to roasting specialty coffee style. I look forward to checking out gold Box and any other newbies in the Dubai coffee roasting scene.

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