About two weeks back a friend told me to check this new cafe out in Abu Dhabi and to be honest, I thought to myself “when am I going to go to Abu Dhabi next, let alone, a coffee shop there”. Literally the next day, I decided to take my wife al the way to Abu Dhabi airport, about an hour away from Dubai and guess what…. drum roll… the coffee shop he told me to check out was, can you believe it… 5 minutes drive away from the airport. It’s like God was saying “you’re going to that coffee shop”.
And here we are THINGS Specialty Coffee shop, owned by 2022 UAE Cup Tasters Champ and Q Grader, Sulaiman Khamis Alalawi and newly opened in March 2023. As you enter, there’s a filter brew bar to the right, together with sunglasses on display (the owner loves quirky sunglasses). The filter brew bar is decked with high chairs, a bar of course featuring filter brewing gear and low bar hanging lights. It’s like if you sit there, full attention will be given to you during the brewing process – a real specialty bar.
As you walk further in, you will notice the San Remo espresso machine on top an unusual looking brick style brew bar to your slight left. This is where the flat whites, cappuccinos, espresso are poured. There’s ample seating, more on the left hand side of the shop in a minimalist, fairly dark toned interior – I guess to promote intimacy with your cup of coffee and taste buds.
Place your orders next to brew bar and select your beans from top roasters as Things doesn’t have a dedicated roaster. When I visited, they had Vulcan from Qatar for espresso coffee and Glyph from Singapore for filter coffees – this is typical of Sulaiman, because if you follow him on Instagram, then you know he doesn’t follow convention BUT loves exploring. I guess he wants to give his clients a different experience and wants them to “drink like an escapist”.
After conversing with the head barista like a coffee geek, I ordered a cortado to start together with a delicious banana bread.
Smooth and well prepared.
My daughter ordered a mocha – hot chocolate with coffee and snapped away.
After we enjoyed the banana bread and our drinks, we were off for the filter brew bar experience.
And, this is where we spent most of our time. The barista was so helpful and loved brewing coffee that he made us two drinks. First was a special Central American coffee, roasted on their Roest small batch coffee roaster in the coffee shop, very clean and bright (as in acidity) as he described it. Served in these unusual glasses.
Second up, we had the Colombia Geisha natural processed coffee from Glyph, the guest roaster. It was more balanced in taste and not so bright and acidic but I must confess, having not eaten since breakfast, I couldn’t finish the coffee. Tasty though.
Indeed it was clean and bright – too bright for my daughter but refreshing in a sort of way.
In short, highly recommend not just for the coffee, but for the experience too and to top it off, really wonderful staff too, who couldn’t do enough for us and spoilt us. So, if you have to go to Abu Dhabi to catch a flight, I strongly recommend getting there earlier to stop over at Things and take your taste buds on a ride before you fly – doesn’t that rhyme ?
I can’t think of a wonderful way to start 2023 than attending a full-blown coffee event in my city, Dubai. This was the second edition of the World of Coffee (WOC) event in Dubai but there was no comparison to the 2022 edition, as the 2023 was on a much bigger scale.. perhaps about 6-7 times the size. Kudos to Khalid Mulla (president of SCA UAE) and the top brass of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), whose president Yannis Apostolopoulos, attended too.
However, it wasn’t just about the size of the venue but the buzz too, created by coffee geeks, like moi who crave learning, talking and speaking about coffee but to be usurped in an environment where you got to witness coffee professionals who work hard to ensure you enjoy your daily brew wherever you are in the World, share their passion and love for the bean. So, what else?
We had the latest tech on display from the espresso machine kings like La Marzocco, Victoria Arduino, Synesso, Slayer, Rocket and more –
We had other equipment highlighting the latest tech to roast, sort, filter brew and store coffee – we had coffee from coffee roasters not just from the GCC region but from India (Subko, Blue Tokai), Australia (Stitch Coffee) and Denmark (April) too.
We had the inventor of Cafec showing us how to brew coffee on his invention differently from what I had seen previously.
There were also talks on all aspects of coffee and I got to meet famous coffee podcaster, Lee Safar too. Dubai powerhouse, DMCC had a large booth showcasing their service offerings from a business perspective and their head, Saeed gave Naveed and I lovely gifts.
We had award winning coffee growers, coffee art, young baristi serving coffee from Panama, other coffee growing regions showcasing their coffee, UK and European coffee specialist – a special evening hosted by Garfield of Mokha 1450, where I met former WBC champ, Stephen Morrissey – I wrote about him here in 2008…
The list goes on and I met too many people that I won’t list so as not to offend anyone, BUT it was all about coffee, coffee, coffee – the title of my Instagram post that went viral. However, a major first was the UAE National Barista Championship, which was won by Mariam Erin, now of Cosmic Garden Coffee. I wrote about about her here when she was the UAE coffee brewers champ.
Organised across three days, I went twice with fellow coffee nerd, Naveed (blogger) and met other coffee geeks too – pic at the top.
Leaving my palate free for both days I ensured that I often started with an espresso-based milk drink – after all there were tons of people offering to make you free coffee using the Victoria Arduino Eagle One (I guess they sponsored the event). On my first day, I have to confess I lost count on how many coffees I tried – having been coffee fatigued on day One, I promised not to be drowned in coffee again on day Two but although I know I was a bit more reserved, I still lost count.
WOC was held in the venue of all Dubai venues, the World Trade Centre, which was apt for one of the first major events of the year. You could easily get lost and in fact there were few people I had wanted to meet and some booths that I wanted to visit that I found out were there after the event, but such is life.
Nevertheless, it was good to hang out with Naveed, talk coffee and then veer off to learn more about coffee from other specialists. It got me thinking about how far the coffee industry has gotten in the last 10-15 years since I fell in love with it. Back then, the focus was on the God Shot of expresso brilliance – talk about filter coffee let alone single origin was completely alien as filter methods like the aeropress or Hario V60 were not either invented or ignored – it was all about espresso and batch brew machines.
Now in 2023, even I was completely blown away by the type of coffee equipment not just for commercial outfits but for the home too. There are now so many options that I must confess, would be very overwhelming for a newbie or even someone that wants to start. Perhaps next year they could hold on the first day, a guide to brewing coffee at home, where the manufacturers display some of the items to break you in gently into brewing coffee based of course on your budget.
Other topics worth venturing in may be to do with sustainability – where climate change will affect how coffee is grown and eventually coffee farmers and all those that depend on it, for their livelihoods. I’m really passionate about this and plan to get involved somehow, so anyone reading this that has ideas, please send me a message.
As I sign off, I was touched by how some visitors to Dubai and the GCC in general were amazed by the quality of coffee on offer in the region. Again, I recall coming to Dubai many times before I moved here in 2020 and it wasn’t until Raw Coffee started about 10 years back did specialty coffee start its momentum – to see it get adopted so quickly and to see how people have become passionate about it, obviously brings a smile to my face and a warm comfort for my palate as I’ve always wanted to live a in a coffee focused city.
So, don’t wait until WOC 2024, visit Dubai not just for the sun, beaches, shopping and amazing buildings, but for the coffee too.
One thing I love about Dubai is that it never fails to deliver on experiences. Now, I’m very aware that there’s a lot of media, some good and some suspect about Dubai but a city dating centuries with over 4.5m residents is a lot more diverse than the glitz and glam of what the media wants to portray.
So, off we went to the Al Fahidi district in old Dubai and yes, there is such a thing – it’s the place where it all started -where old building were built to capture cool air, where abrar (water taxis) transported people across the creek to trade in spices, cloths, carpets, gold, pearls and more – and where the old shops/merchants that built Dubai and foreign embassies are housed too.
In fact, I’d heard about the Coffee Museum for years but never ventured there and I must confess stumbled across it when my family and I were discovering the old city a few weeks back – we initially found it on a Friday but it was closed – so never visit on a Friday. That day, we went to another famous old city hub, the Arabian Tea House, just a minute away – another must go for traditional Emirate/Lebanese food and of course tea and Emirati style coffee (qahwa in Arabic).
Still craving that experience and when asked what should we do today… I replied, “let’s got to the coffee museum, which is also close to some shops for you babe (my wife)”. So, off we went last Sunday but we got there a bit late, just after 4pm – they close at 5pm.
Opening in 2014, the owner and purveyor of the Coffee Museum, Khalid al Mulla, had been collecting coffee related trinkets for years and decided to open up what is now the largest coffee museum in the Middle East – there are only 16 in the World. We paid an entry fee of AED10 (just over $3), which included complimentary qahwa (arabic coffee) with dates and another cup of coffee made the Ethiopian way using the Jebba. The museum is housed in a traditional Emirati home with low ceilings and narrow walkways, so mind your head as you enter.
Split into many rooms across two floors, housing international antiques (mostly from Germany ), coffee origins room, middle east antiques, a literature room, a majlis (traditional Emirati room for drinking coffee and talking), as well as a kids corner and media room, you will have time to satisfy your curiosity. In short, the rooms host anything from old coffee grinding machines, dating centuries to the first ever roasting devices as well as beans and posters too. Luckily for us, we met Kay, whom I had met at an event promoting the UAE Aeropress championship, gave us a personal tour.
For speciality coffee, head upstairs to their mini shop, which houses a Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine and of course filter brewing options. I couldn’t help myself and went for two options, a cortado
and a filter coffee using THREE Coffee (Dubai based roaster) Colombian filter beans prepared by Kay.
As we were walking down we saw this…
The Victoria Arduino Venus – yes it looks very plush but the great thing about this machine is that although it looks very antique from the outside, inside is a modern take on espresso machinery. This was their espresso machine before they recently introduced the Black Eagle.
As a tribute to all the coffee growing countries in the World they have these flags but they now have to add more (Nigeria grows coffee too).
All in all, a wonderful experience, which I highly recommend when you visit Dubai. Sure, you’ll want to visit the tallest building in the World , Burj Khalifa and the largest shopping mall, Dubai Mall but take time out to visit the old district, which houses traditional souks (that’s why my wife likes coming here… LOL), the Seef district with quaint hotels/restaurants and a murder mystery hunt, the museum of illusions, the Arabian Tea House, old
style mosques and of course the coffee museum. After all, after all that walking and eating you’d want to finish off with some good coffee right?
You’re probably thinking “where the h**l is this?”. In short, Khorfakkan is a sleepy beach town in Sharjah (a UAE emirate, next to Dubai), but a stone throw away from Dibba in Fujairah (another UAE emirate).
So, why was I here? We had a family staycation (a vacation that takes place in the same country that you live in) at a fantastic beach resort in Fujairah in late August. I’ve posted my coffee experience at the beach resort on instagram, which got almost 10,000 views but in summary, it still bothers me how hotels and restaurants spend so much time and training in sourcing the best ingredients but when it comes to coffee, they literally fall apart – sourcing coffee from big commercial brands, where taste has been sacrificed just to make as much money as possible. I digress.
So, in my quest not to sacrifice my taste buds even for 3 days for well prepared speciality coffee, I announced to the family “lets go over to Khorfakkan Beach and see what’s there”.
Now, if you know me, you’d kind of guess that I already done some research on speciality coffee in Khorfakkan. But I’m not that bad, as last year we also went there but it was a lot busier and I got to go on a jet-ski for the first time in my life, twice. However, this year and perhaps because it was on the weekday…. it was completely dead silent – not a soul on the beach. So, we decided to leave our beach gear in the car and look for somewhere to sit….
“I think there’s specialty coffee somewhere near”….. I smell a rat…. no, I smell coffee. LOL!
Upon entering the very empty coffee shop, named Medellin (yes, Colombia comes to mind), I noticed their espresso machine – a Synesso, quizzed the barista and saw that the coffee shop already had an award. As soon as I was informed that they stock Espresso Lab coffee (one of my faves in Dubai), I was convinced, as I know that Espresso Lab won’t sell their coffee to anyone without intensive training. I opted for the Indonesian as a Cortado.
Oh wow! the hints of cherry and caramel with subtle hints of vanilla completely blew me away. It was indeed such a pleasant experience (if not I won’t be bothering wasting my time writing about this here). I sipped it gently….
After all make the good stuff last.
We took pictures of the cafe, chilled for a bit and then headed back to our plush beach resort for a late evening swim.
I was so fascinated by the taste that upon my return to Dubai, I went to Espresso Lab and ordered the same Indonesian arabica beans as a Cortado or should I say their 3 ounce.
Still just as delicious.
So, if you are craving well prepared specialty coffee and are within 15-25 minutes away from Khorfakkan Beach, please drive there and you won’t be disappointed believe you me.
Medellin is at Khorfakkan Beach, near the second entrance for paid parking – not too far from Baskin Robbins. It usually gets busy between 6-10pm and is open until 1am daily (whoa!)
I often refer to coffee as the DRINK OF THE ESCAPIST because it’s a drink that you can drink almost anywhere in the World BUT more so, it inspires you for adventure, where you visit a new city and want to learn about their coffee history to. So, here I was in Marrakech, just last week and after painstakingly looking for specialty coffee, I found this recommendation in the Timeout guide to 16 things to do in Marrakech.
As a coffee snob (what my family call me), I was a bit sceptical – after all Morocco café culture ironically literally orbits around Moroccan mint green tea. Yes, there are many places calling themselves cafes, but don’t expect to be served wonderful coffee that delights your taste buds – trust me, just order tea. Nevertheless, there was one exception, BACHA Coffee, situated in the the spectacular Dar el Bacha Palace, which means “house of the Pasha”. A place steeped in coffee history, built in 1910, where dignitaries such as Winston Churchill and Frank Roosevelt (past leaders of the UK and America for history agnostics) and even the famous Charlie Chaplin used to meet to drink…. Coffee and discuss ideas – the drink of the escapist and idealists.
In any case, after the second world war it was closed and only reopened in 2019 after years of restoration. It has now reclaimed its place as a stalwart of Marrakech attractions. To enter the palace, you have to pay 10 Moroccan dirham (I hear complaints) but this is only $1.
As you make your way through the palace, feel free to take pictures like I did, you will eventually get to the café, situated in the left-hand corner. Prior to entering, you will notice a coffee room, with walls lined with 40+ selection of coffee from around the world comprising of single origins, blends and new coffee growing countries (I.e., Rwanda) for you to buy as well as other luxury items.
A word of advice, go into the reception of the coffee shop and reserve a table first as there will be a waiting list if you go in the kid-afternoon. After which, wander around the palace. I didn’t do that and was told I may have to wait for about 30-40 minutes (I don’t remember ever queuing for coffee in any city before). Luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long as I met a fellow coffee geek, Abigail (world traveler) who offered to share her table with me. She then entrusted me to order coffee as she could detect my coffee geekiness.
You’ll also be spoilt for choice inside with a full menu, delectable cakes and over 40 coffees to choose from in a classic French colonial setting BUT don’t expect any caffe lattes or cappuccinos here, as all coffees are pour over, served in a very generous decanter – enough for 3 cups at least. I ordered lemon cake and coffees from Yemen and Rwanda.
I find that you can never go wrong with coffee from Rwanda – it was fruity, with medium acidity, whilst the Yemeni coffee got better as it cooled down with hints of berries and chocolate.
After relaxing for about 1-2 hours, I went to the coffee shop to buy the Yemeni coffee, because it is quite rare. I miscalculated or misheard the shop attendant and when he presented the bill of US$85 for 250g, I was a bit shocked, but proceeded in any case. I added unbleached V60 filter bags, as it will supposedly give me a cleaner unadulterated taste.
Would I go back ? Yes of course, probably for a meal and of course more coffee when I visit Marrakech again.
Highly recommended for coffee enthusiasts and novices alike, who want to drink coffee like an escapist in a Palace like setting.
Visit their website to learn more and if you can’t make it to Marrakech, you can visit their other shops in Paris and Singapore or order online.
As soon as Ramadhan finished in May 2022, I rushed to meet a friend at one of my fave cafes in Dubai, Qahwaty at the Dubai International Financial Centre (known as DIFC), which hosts as many international companies you can think off. As I waited for a friend, the head barista , Dhani, hailing from Indonesia asked me what I thought about my cortado and I replied that it was fine. Unimpressed with my answer, I think, he then asked me what I love to taste in espresso based coffee with milk and I said… “well balanced, low-to-medium acidity, not too much fruit, hints of nuts and spices like vanilla (actually like my blend) and then he said, “okay I’m going to prepare something for you”
As I waited and sipped my cortado, he presented this…
Upon raising the cup to my mouth, I was hit by the smell of tropical fruits like mango and banana (now, these are one of my five favourite fruits – the rest are pineapple, strawberries and pear, in case you were wondering). Okay I digress.
BUT did you know that 80% of our taste buds come from our sense of smell ? If you don’t believe me, just google it here. It’s what I also learnt when I did the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Sensory Skills course in June last year.
So, you can imagine the anticipation of my taste buds when I smelt this tropical nirvana. As I tasted the coffee, I detected hints of pineapple acidity and although the coffee smelt like a topical paradise, the taste was a lot more subdued – I can’t imagine a banana, mango coffee milkshake with hot milk….
BUT I was not disappointed, as I rejected my earlier cortado in favour of this myriad of flavours in a cup. Wow, wow, wow – said thrice for excitement.
Of course I questioned Dhani about what he did as he was delighted with my response. In short he created a blend of coffee on the spot using Colombian coffee and Brazil from two different roasters based in Dubai.
I just thank God for this experience which I won’t forget for the rest of my life.
Indeed the best smelling milk based espresso drink I have ever had. Here it is one more time
If you are ever in the DIFC area, look out for them – a small coffee shop located outside the gate village, first floor, in front off the Ritz Carlton, opposite Wild and Moon and not too far from ICD Brookfield.
I’m blessed to live in a vibrant city that thrives on specialty coffee, not to mention, constant sunshine, beaches, great food that will make a foodie tire themselves out and an eclectic mix of cultures – a true city of the 21stcentury. For me, it’s been wonderful since I moved here in September 2020. Nevertheless, with the ever-growing coffee culture witnessed by almost a monthly opening of a new coffee shop, it’s easy to forget the ones who started the journey and paved the way, so here we are, Mokha 1450.
You may have heard me mention the name before as I did an experiment to debunk the myth of freshly roasted coffee last year and needless to say, a rare coffee, an Ethiopian Geisha, won my test, whereby a coffee roasted months before tasted even better when brewed using a Hario V60. This coffee was sourced by Mokha 1450.
Initially located at Wasl Road but now with a branch on the famous Palm Jumeriah – yes the man-made island shaped like a palm tree in the middle of the Arabian sea off Dubai’s coastline – now you see why Dubai has a lot to offer, indeed a city of dreams, BUT back to coffee….
The origin of the name traces back to Arabia itself, Mokha being the seaport in Yemen that started trading coffee back in….. 1450 – get the hint. So, Garfield Kerr, the owner, I presume wanted to launch his coffee shop in homage to the first city of coffee. However, that wasn’t enough, as Garfield with roots in Jamaica, ensued that his was the first company in the UAE to import Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee from Jamaica’s Coffee Industry Board (now known by its new acronym JACRA). In this connection, Mokha 1450 have always sourced “rare and exceptional” coffees – this terminology features on their coffee bags. In fact during the EXPO2020 from October 2021 to March 2022, Mokha 1450 served the most expensive coffee there as Jamacia Blue Mountain coffee is usually if not the most expensive, one of them.
Mokha 1450 is called a boutique in that their service is akin to being served in a fashion boutique – attention to the coffee but more so to the customer.
At their Palm Jumeirah branch, upon entering, you are given a menu that explains all the coffees on offer and if you are serious about coffee like me, you may take a while to go over the menu before placing your order. After which, they will offer further explanation if needed. At this branch, as they have more space, they will also prepare the coffee in front of you, just like in a boutique they will bring out the best clothes and explain the product, so too here.
I’ve been thrice, twice to the Palm Jumeirah branch and once to the Wasl branch. On my second visit to Palm, we met with Garfield and he offered us another delectable coffee – see below.
At the first World of Coffee event, Mokha 1450 experimented with serving you espresso in an iced cup – the coffee cup was placed in a freezer and they pulled the espresso shot into the freezing cup – the idea was to display a different array of flavours, more on highlighting the acidity.
So, why go? Well, if you love coffee and want to be served with attention to details by courteous staff and want to take your taste buds on a whirl, then visit. I must add that they have a delicious of array of cakes at their Palm branch and wife always orders the carrot cake, not to share…. Ha!
Yes, you read that right and before you get the geography books, Riyadh is the capital city of Saudi Arabia (aka KSA). About a year ago, I started a job there as a Director of a Think Tank, which I did for 9 months – now why wouldn’t you take a job entitled Director of Think and where you are asked to think about how to change the world leveraging AI and robotics to solve healthcare and environmental problems – well, I did. If you want to know more, check my LinkedIn profile here for all the other serious stuff I talk about.
Before I delve into coffee, you’d be amazed to learn that KSA has got fantastic scenery, with the famous “edge of the world” a few hours outside Riyadh, a must go see. Here I am at another location.
As this is about coffee and love, you’d be amazed to know that the coffee scene is thriving in the heart of Arabia – after all, the Arabs named the best coffee variety “arabica” after themselves. Reportedly, the Saudi population spent an estimated US$300m in cafes alone in the first half of 2021 – now, that’s a lot of coffee – US$1.6m per day in a city of over 8m people – you could have lots of fun with these facts. Before I move on, I should add that Saudi Arabia have their own coffee culture too. After all, the first officially recognised coffee shop in the World was in Mecca. Now, here’s a summary of what I saw for myself based on what I should say “third wave” coffee;
there’s a coffee shop almost on every corner or shop cluster
people queue for coffee shops even at 10pm at night
people go to cafes to drink coffee even at midnight and beyond
the La Marzocco distributor must be happy as these machines are in the majority of coffee shops
there are many speciality coffee shops, serving hard to get Yemeni coffee
Saudi’s love Ethiopian coffee, importing three times more than the UAE (industry insight)
Even one of the local chains pays a great attention to detail in preparation
Yes, cold coffees are very popular, after all in the summer, 45C is normal for weeks
I visited one of the largest coffee shops in the World
So, here’s a quick summary of my coffee shop experience – drink on….
I’m starting with probably my favourite. You may easily get distracted by the impressive muriel but the coffee on offer is also quite impressive. First up, you can order their normal selection of coffees, which range from espresso based, cold brew and filter too, BUT upon close inspection at the till, you will be ecstatic to learn that they offer Cup of Excellence (CoE) coffees too. Yes, CoE are highly rated by world experts and naturally these coffees cost a lot more but if you want to treat yourself, you can pick up a really special coffee for about $65 for a 250g bag of coffee.
I, on the other hand, opted a for a special Yemeni coffee for about $24 for a 250g. Also on offer is food but the main reason that Brew 92 is one of my faves is the quality of coffee on offer and their attention to selecting coffees and preparation.
Another one of my faves, recommended by my former colleague, as it’s his fave is Camel Step. They have a few locations but I only went to one – it was after dinner and I really wanted my after dinner coffee, so I opted for a V60 Ethiopian. To continue the experience at home, I bought a bag of coffee for my travels and to take back with me. Wow! I really enjoyed brewing this coffee at my hotel room every night during Ramadhan and upon my return to Dubai, where I shared it with my friend, Naveed. In short, the coffee was roasted in a way that really showed their attention to detail in their selection process and their roasting profile.
A bit difficult to pronounce but before I arrived in Riyadh, this was top of my list as a friend of mine had visited and said I had to go there. It was a bit far from my hotel but worth the wait and I’m grateful for my friend who took us there at night. As I entered, I couldn’t believe the size of the place, not to mention the number of La Marzocco espresso machines they had, including the latest, LEVA – see below.
It was like a factory. I’m sure if they were in the middle of any major city like London or NYC, they would be able to serve an espresso based drink very quickly with a lot of baristi to work the machines like clockwork. Watch video below to grasp the size of this place.
As soon as you pass the la marzocco gallery, you can spot a very large Loring coffee roaster to your right – definitely the biggest coffee roasting machine I’ve seen in my life. As you walk to the back, there’s tons of tools galore, right from the entrance on your left, all the way to the back with la marzocco linea machines, brewing gadgets and of course coffee. There’s also a little sitting area at the top. Again, definitely the largest coffee space I’ve ever been and a must if you visit Riyadh.
Now, this is unusual for me, as I hardly ever feature a coffee chain BUT this was my go to every morning or at lunch time, as one of their shops was located within my work vicinity at the digital city. Of course, the first time I went, I was skeptical but once I tasted the depth of the coffee flavours packed with cocoa, berry, caramel and a long lasting finish, not to mention exquisitely poured latte art, I thought, “this is actually good”. It is no wonder that I went there often not just for my daily cortado or flat white fix even in 45C but to hang out with my former colleagues too – and yes they too used a La Marzocco Strada machine. I have to say, 8OZ may be my fave coffee chain in the World to date.
Located at the bottom of the Panorama Mall, I first heard about the place from Dubai as the owner of this space called HUNA (it means here in Arabic), also owns one of my fave cafes in Dubai, Qahwaty. However for Brew Bar, he invited Huda, who was already famous in Saudi for developing a unique secret recipe for her home made cold brew coffee. Ahmed invited Huda to open up a cafe in Riyadh, serving coffee from Cypher of Dubai as well as other roasters. What you have here, is an unusual arty and intimate spot, stacked with Arabic literature, coffee, history and self help books. I went a few times and met friends here because I knew that the coffee would be good.
Newly opened in June 2021 but with a keen attention to detail, is this new spot, near the new King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD). My friend took me here as I was craving specialty coffee all day and we just beat the crowd, as literally once we entered, a queue of about 10 people formed. Now, I knew that people queued for coffee in Riyadh but at that time of the day I was lucky that I didn’t have to, as I was literally “coffee” starved.
Other spots I visited and worth mentioning
Very well respected with coffee lovers and winner of some awards is Elixir. They’ve got many locations too and I bought a really good but rare to find Democratic Republic of Congo arabica coffee here, which I brewed at home to the delight of my taste buds.
Situated opposite the very popular U-Walk, is Equal, where they serve Sulalat coffee, have a selfie mirror that attracts instagrammers and cool decor (top of the page).
Yes, I know that the name doesn’t sound very creative, but if you happen to visit U-Walk, which hosts some international restaurant brands, and you are craving coffee, then here’s my to-go- spot – I usually avoid chains. For coffee machine enthusiasts, you’ll be glad to see that they’ve got one of the most advanced espresso machines ever made, the San Marco OPERA along with other cool gadgets for brewing coffee.They also roast onsite and have ample seating area.
Another coffee spot that roasts it’s own coffee, with a great selection of coffee to take home.
I never got to visit this shop as it recently opened but the owner is a World Ibrik Turkish coffee champion and she will offer Turkish coffee as well as Third wave coffee too.
This list is by far not exhaustive and I’m sure since I was last in Riyadh (October 2021), more high end, speciality coffee shops have opened, where queues are forming even at midnight, but I’ve tried to give you a summary, so that when you are craving speciality coffee, you have options.
To find the locations, check instagram and google maps.
You’ve probably heard me many times elaborate about how blessed I am. Blessed to be introduced to the coffee bean by its Creator and I can’t even count how many times I’ve had a wonderful coffee experiences, let alone the amount of times I’ve been given free coffee (there are many reasons for this). And the blessings continue.
So a few weeks ago, or is that months now, one of the baristi (plural for barista in Italian) from Butterworth & Son Coffee Roasters Lauren Small (aka I am the Anxious Barista on Instagram) reached out to me on Instagram and wanted to know if I would like to taste their coffees. Having researched them – yes I do this because I have been offered free coffee before BUT if I don’t think I’m going to have a pleasant experience, I decline – I politely accepted. However, as I had just moved to Dubai, I was concerned that it would cost a lot for them to send me about 1kg of coffee in terms of postage and registered delivery/courier charges but Lauren was insistent, so I succumbed. In any case, after one failed attempt, I decided it was far much easier to have Lauren send it to my brother in London who would then pass it onto our daughter, who would be visiting Dubai in mid-December and voila! just one day before she was due to leave, it arrived…. The things you do for coffee eh! Nevertheless, another blessing.
Not only did I receive coffee from them, they selected a very diverse group of coffee spanning the coffee world, two Africans, one central American and one South American – that sounded strange as I wrote that. Now, off to the coffees.
From reading the taste profile, I knew that this would be good for espresso and it was. I even invited a friend over to share the experience and well what did it taste like….
Chocolate but of course, especially when brewing it as my daily cappuccino. After a few days, you would be pleased to know that it never disappointed and always tasted like chocolate. Now how’s that for consistency and a good way to start the day.
Guatemala Honey Process
This one, I must confess was a bit tricky as I brewed it both as an espresso and as a filter (aeropress and HarioV60). I started off brewing this as an espresso and picked up hints of apricot but the Colombia (above) was so good as an espresso based coffee, that I moved over to brewing this solely as a filter, either on an aeropress or Hario V60, where I picked up hints of winey dried fruits.
Kenya Peaberry Washed
Now, it’s getting exciting. If you know me, you would know that I usually get excited about Kenyan coffees but I should probably add that Lauren, I presume, didn’t know that I love Kenyan coffees. Typically, Kenyan coffees when roasted right and of course brewed right tend to have traditional taste profiles of dark berries and this one obviously had that.
However what stood out for me when brewed this on a Hario V60 was the hints of lime and mint. Now you may be wondering, why Lime and Mint? but before you judge, it was not overpowering at all. It was like after you had the first sip, then there was this delicate flower taste of lime and mint afterwards. As the coffee got older and the days went by, the mint dominated and the lime diminished but nevertheless it was a truly pleasant experience all the way to the last bag… sigh.
I think I’ve saved the best for last. The experience with this coffee was further enhanced by my desire to start using my Chemex, which was given to me by my former colleagues as a leaving present way back in November 2019. I know, why did it take this long to use it ? but that’s another conversation. Prior to using the Chemex for the first time, I asked Lauren for their recipes (yes, each coffee shop has a recipe for how they brew their coffee per method, well serious coffee shops do). In this way, I wanted to ensure that I was brewing not just this coffee but the others too, using their recipe. In fact after this disclosure I have now amended how I brew Hario V60 to 20g with 300ml water.
Okay, so back to the Rwanda and the Chemex, now that could be a good movie title
Using their recipe of 300ml to 20g of coffee and my new Hario scales (thanks to my wife), I really enjoyed the process.
And how about the taste? Okay I may not have picked up strawberries and cream but Plum, medium citrus acidity and hints of buttery caramel were predominant. It was such a pleasant experience that I mainly brewed this coffee on the Chemex, despite its average brewing time of 5-6 minutes. On the Hario V60 and aeropress it was still nice but not as delicious as on the Chemex. In fact Lauren had recommended trying this as an espresso but I couldn’t take the risk of wasting 40-60 grammes of this delectable coffee during the espresso adjustment process, so I just stuck to the safer process of filter brew.
I just checked their website prior to writing this piece and sadly for you they don’t have this coffee anymore. Don’t worry, I empathise with you too as I had my last brew of this coffee early last month.
Just before I finish, kindly note that this is not paid sponsorship and I don’t get any money for bragging about my wonderful tastebud experience.
I’m not sure about the background of Butterworth and Son, who are based in St Edmunds, UK but I know that they do good tea too and from my experience, good coffee as well. I definitely recommend them and you have to love their artwork on there bags too.