Category Archives: World of Coffee

I was @ Typica – Probably Dubai’s Best Coffee Shop

I think God is too kind to me. I stopover in Dubai, pop over to one of my most anticipated roastery visits, Gold Box (more on this next week) – get invited by the owner to the opening of a new coffee shop by the 2018 UAE Barista Champion, which turns out to be probably one of my best coffee experiences ever. So, where do I start?

I arrive in a beautifully designed cafe in Umm Suqueim 2 – Jumeirah (Dubai’s best coffee neighbourhood  by far)

 

Show my invite only card but welcomed like I’m a VIP.

Offered a seat and asked what I would like to start with – naturally I let the staff – hold on, no, it’s actually the UAE Champion herself. What can I say, but, “please offer me what you want” I’m thinking “when was the last time I was attended to by an actual barista champion….. well! actually, never… so let me indulge my senses in this experience ”

 

The menu is simple and to the point

I start with a white (I asked for a cortado), served with a salted caramel brownie on the side together with a never seen before – little card describing type of coffee, altitude height it was grown, process and taste profile – wow!

Could I ask for more….

But there’s more…

Michaela Ruazol, the custodian and UAE Barista Champion has something very special for you on – THE CHALLENGE – the signature drink that contributed to her winning the UAE Barista Championship. However, before you start going crazy with delight – whilst this may not actually be the exact bean that she won the championship with, she has managed to creatively select a coffee with the same profile, so that you too, can delight your tastebuds with what won the judges over – cold brew.

I must say, it was very exquisite, with so many flavour profiles in your mouth, but not at once – progressively, as at first you taste the berries, watermelon (yes, you read that right) and then later on, the caramel type swirl and citrus from the dried orange. It’s like a party in your mouth. The clever part about this type of coffee drink is that, as it was developed as a cold brew (not the easiest type of coffee to get a great taste profile)I think it really challenged Michaela a wide range to experiment because she had to get it just right and more.

Now, where else do you get to taste championship coffee prepared by a champion if you’re not a judge ? For me, TYPICA, Dubai of course.

So what else is on offer?

Looks strange? Well this is a very special coffee machine, Aremde Nexus One– the first of it’s kind in Dubai – Typica are about pushing the boundaries read about this one of it’s kind machine here. It’s one of the very few espresso machines in the World trying to solve the problem of having the barista prepare your coffee whilst looking at you and at the same time, you viewing the process. Naturally, I asked for an espresso, again, prepared by Michaela.

As I wandered around, I spotted coffee being roasted on the spot on the Ikawa (one for my wishlist). The Ikawa is the World’s first smart roaster, so basically you can roast green beans on it – read more here

I’m not sure if they were roasting for consumption right away as this will go against the coffee roasting and chemical principle but it was part of the experience that was Typica.

As I sat there enjoying the vibe, I spotted a man walking around taking pictures and directing another in videoing the opening. He eventually walked by and introduced himself and asked if I wouldn’t mind being featured in one of the promo videos – he laughed as he said, we just want a shot of your mouth, sampling and enjoying the delicious coffee on offer. So, if you visit their instagram page, you may spot me on their page around 2-3 September 2019. I later found out that he was Keith Dallison, a creative hailing from Birmingham (UK), who came to Dubai about 20 years ago and never went back. Later on, Barbara Croce, owner of Gold Box joined the party as well as some inquisitive onlookers and friends. Also on offer are exquisite coffees (no space for normal here). For those who don’t know coffees from Panama are usually very, very special with a posher sounding coffee varietal called Geisha.

I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Michaela and of course I have to say she’s a charming lady that comes across as humble but determined. She offered me more, but after three coffee drinks in less than hour, I was caffeine out. Determined that I still delight my taste buds, she offered me her favourite cookie (biscuit if you are English) which is owned and baked by a local Emirati baker and I must confess it was one fo the best I have had. Her staff are naturally friendly and gave the impression that they were having a great time, with a party vibe but committed to giving you the best. After all, they are also the UAE brewers champion.

Before I finish, I have to mention that the amazing story of Michaela doesn’t start or end here. I found out that the 2016-2017 champion actually didn’t enter the UAE Barista championship, because he wanted to coach her to be the champion and of course he succeeded and its a a real coffee love story, because they are together. In 2020, Michaela will actually represent the UAE at the Melbourne World Barista Championship in 2020 – wow! what a story and this is typical (excuse the pun) of leaders, there’s always a fantastic story behind their success not to mention their hard work, passion and dedication. Naturally he was there during the opening but I think he’s still an employee of Gold Box.

Well done Michaela and I definitely cannot wait to stop by again – a real contender for my fave cafe in the World.

Read more about them on www.typicauae.com

 

 


I was at the Lagos Coffee Festival: 5 October 2019

Sometimes you think about something and you talk about your ideas with someone and then it happens. All I can say is praise God. In short, I was introduced to Princess Adeyinka Tekenah, CEO of Nigerian based coffee solutions company, Happy Coffee and wow! her passion for coffee was incredible. I think our first conversation was close to an hour as we exchanged lots of ideas on coffee and how Nigeria can benefit from the World’s most popular beverage. She shared with me a video of when she met H.E. President Macron of France in late 2018, offering him a bag of Nigerian grown and roasted coffee beans. I subsequently shared the video on WhatsApp with all my relevant contacts. One of the ideas we mentioned was for Nigeria’s first coffee festival, similar to the ones across the World, especially the London Coffee Festival. Et voila, on 5 October 2019, it happened – now who says things take time in Africa. Well, not in this case and with coffee charged Yinka, who rounded up a team of planners, visited all potential sites, set up a company for the festival and a website, met with lots of potential sponsors around the country and just went for it with her “full of beans” determination.

So, here we were, after countless WhatsApp messages – the Lagos coffee festival, the first of its kind in Lagos. The main objective was not only to inform people about coffee in Nigeria but to also showcase small and medium enterprises involved one way or another with Nigerian coffee. We had products on offer that showcased coffee as a beauty product such as Damini (owned by NYC trained beautician that developed her products for herself and decided to sell them) and Coffeeskinpert 

In addition, there was the infamous, Asah Bara Designs by Zoza Icha, who brings art alive in her cup designs –

I say this, because I think her cups are too beautifully designed to drink from. You need to display them somewhere so that they can be appreciated. Needless to say, her stand was one of the most popular at the festival.

Also on show were coffee stalls, with ever popular My Coffee Lagos who had coffee and snacks on offer, which I couldn’t resist. In addition, there were artisanal bakers – I bought a peanut butter and banana cake – you know me and dessert; and also Merlyn Nutri, who offer healthy drinks and spices (I must confess their customer service was great, as they hand delivered some products that were not available together with some things for me to try, like their delicious zobo (hibiscus) and Tiger nut with ginger and dates drinks, thanks  Melody).

So, how about the coffee festival itself.

There were three panel sessions; the first focused on “opportunities in the coffee business: creating wealth through coffee”, which featured entrepreneurs who are already in the coffee business, like Yinka of Happy Coffee, Ms Adesola Gbadamosi – Coffeeskinpert founder and My Coffee Lagos owner, Ms Tatyana Buchak. The second focused on “Starting a Coffee based business” with the panel consisting mostly of people who have started non-coffee related businesses but giving tips on how to start a business and find a niche – the main exception was Ibrahim Samande of Mai Shayi Coffee. The third was on “Stakeholders in the Nigerian Coffee Economy: Defining the Coffee Value chain”, which I moderated – filmed entirely by my wife (who accompanied her crazed coffee husband to Lagos), with the panel consisting of Ms Bisola Olusanya, Special Adviser on Agriculture for Lagos State Government, Alhaji Olomide, President of the Nigerian National Association of Coffee and Tea Farmers (NAFCOTAN) and Mr Ejide Oladuoye, a coffee farmer.

This was probably the most apt session for me as I have written a bit about this lately, having attend the International Coffee Organisation SDG Session on this in June 2019 – read here. The main focus was to hear from the coffee farmers as to what their main challenges have been, including their problems with accessing domestic markets, let alone international markets. It was interesting to note;

  • 22 States in Nigeria already grow coffee (Nigeria was 36 states) and there could be more depending on the ecosystem.
  • According to the recent ICO Executive Director, Jose Sette, Nigeria is the 7th largest coffee growing country in the World and with a population of approximately 200m people, the focus should be on growing domestic consumption.
  • The government has put in place initiatives to promote the agricultural sector, including coffee.
  • Nigeria grows both robusta (mainly in the south) and arabica (spanning from the central to the north east).

However some gaps remain, like data on the value and output of coffee. Needless to say, some work needs to be done to determine the quality of Nigerian coffee, essential to tap international markets. All this will be really valuable information needed to entice the private sector to get more involved too. In fact that was one of the things I committed (coffee geek) – to develop a public private partnership (PPP) proposal involving both the Federal and Lagos State governments to facilitate the process for developing the Nigerian coffee industry, which may include exporting coffee, possibly through a coffee processing plant near the harbour – just thinking.

All in all, I really enjoyed myself and I was really encouraged by the energy of the panellist, the participants – we had over 70 in the last session and by the atmosphere. Driven by all this energy, I was hungry but more important, I was craving coffee – naturally I headed over to the Happy Coffee stand of course, where I had a double espresso – I had to, after all Yinka was their CEO.

In addition, I tried some coffee from the Mai Shayi stand, where the Syphon was on display. Later on, their CEO, Ibrahim Samande held the coffee appreciation session.

So, here’s looking forward to the Lagos Coffee Festival in 2020 and developing a PPP proposal to resuscitate the Nigerian coffee industry, which will now become one of my main personal projects. If anyone reading this, is really interested to join this ride, please contact me.

 


Please Sign The Coffee Pledge – 1 October 2019

I’ve written recently about the fact that the price of coffee is the lowest it’s been for over 15 years, meaning that coffee farmers are finding it so difficult to make a living from selling coffee that some of them have eve abandoned their farms to look for a job in order to feed their families and educate their children.

So 1 October is International Coffee Day – yes, there’s is as such a thing – and the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) together with some like minded partners have launched the Coffee Pledge, so please sign the #coffeepledge that calls for a living wage for coffee farmers.

Some the World’s top coffee roasts have already signed something similar – see below and congratulations to them too.

 

In addition, just also week on 23 September 2019 at the first ever Global CEO and Leaders of the Coffee Forum, the “London Declaration” was signed, committing;

“to taking action focusing on four themes: promoting competitive and sustainable production; fostering responsible and equitable growth; promoting responsible consumption; and promoting public-private dialogue regarding policy development.”

see link here to read more.

In any case this is historic and as we say in the project management world, all we need to do now is ‘implement, implement and implement” so that everyone in the coffee value chain gets a fairer treatment.

Here’s looking to a fairer world for commodities especially for the second most tradeable one, coffee, as we need everyone involved in getting this most popular of beverages on to our table to benefit as much as possible.

 

 


I was @ OR Coffee Roastery, Brussels

This is like part two of my previous post, when I visited Brussels to attend the ICO SDG Coffee Symposium. Prior to visiting for the day, I obviously checked out the speciality coffee scene in Brussels and although few came up, the one called OR Roastery stood out. In any case from what I could deduce from the map, there was one centrally located but I wasn’t sure if it would be near the symposium. As I had not been to Brussels in like ages (my memory puts me visiting there around 1987 and that was a long time ago) I was looking forward to visiting again, albeit for a day.

Although there was coffee during the coffee break, my fussy palate was not satisfied with what was on offer. Having arrived late and after spending my lunch break networking with the coffee aristocrats, I decided that during the next coffee break, I would wander not too far to look for OR Coffee and wow! It was like God wanted me to visit, because would you believe it, right outside the Sofitel Hotel where the afternoon sessions were taking place, was the OR Coffee shop I was looking for – located on the corner of Place Jourdan and Rue de Cornet.

As I walked in, it had that air of Anglo-Saxon and by that I mean you could be in London,  New York or perhaps Australia, with green tiles, wood and exposed brick and copper pipes overhead – a relaxed atmosphere, with displays of their coffees, gadgets, etc. to the right hand side – see pic at the top. It was quietish but not empty. In fact it was a bit too relaxed for me as I was eager not to miss any of the sessions and waiting about 10 minutes for my coffee, made me a bit impatient even though I was second in the queue but I didn’t know that people sitting down were still waiting for their coffee. In short, don’t come here rushing for coffee, at least not at 3pm in the afternoon, but I’m sure that they can handle crowds during rush hour. In any case, it gave me the opportunity to walk around to stretch my legs and soak up the atmosphere, browsing their menu, which reminded me more of a London cafe especially when I saw their cakes, cheesecake, red velvet, etc – oh! how I wished I had come here for lunch instead. Walking over to their coffees, I was pleasantly surprised , after having just mentioned to someone that I haven’t seen Tanzanian coffee for years, to see a Tanzanian espresso blend, which I grabbed very quickly with a smile.

 

Eventually I got my coffee, brewed on a  La Marzocco GB5, served by amiable staff a flat white, with two shots, using their house blend – just what I needed.

 

I did some more research on OR Roastery, which you can view here

In short, they are the first specialty coffee power house of Belgium – they roast, they teach you how to roast, set up a coffee business, provide coffee to your office, have a few locations and more.

Upon my return home I was happy to have purchase their Tanzanian Espresso Blend.

The bag says rhubarb and high acidity, but for me it was the aftertaste even with milk, coating the outside of your tongue with a berry like acidity – delicious and something I haven’t had in a while – tempting for me to order for delivery to Vienna in the not so distant future.

So, in summary, if you visit Brussels, try and visit OR coffee along with the other speciality coffee shops you may find on your list.

 

 

 


I was at the SDG Coffee Symposium on 6 June 2019

 

Organised by the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) on 6 June to discuss the challenges of the coffee value chain during historically low coffee prices. I was invited by Gerardo Patacconi, Director of Operations. I know some of my readers are wondering is there such an organisation, yes there is and….

The ICO is the main intergovernmental organization for coffee, bringing together exporting and importing Governments to tackle the challenges facing the world coffee sector through international cooperation. Its Member Governments represent 98% of world coffee production and 67% of world consumption.

The ICO sounds like the kind of place that for me, as a development economist who loves coffee would like to work in and yes I confess that it is one of the places I would love to work in, especially located in my fave coffee capital in the World, London. Anyway I digress.

More on the jargon – the SDG stands for “sustainable development goals” and are sometimes known as the Global Goals. In any case they were initiated through the United Nation (UN) and are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

So, this Symposium was organised together with the European Coffee Federation and hosted by the European Commission (EC) bringing together coffee sector stakeholders (buyers, farmers, academia, civil society, partners) and is part of ICOs sector wide consultation that will lead hopefully to a roadmap with concrete actions to address the coffee price crisis and volatility, which has resulted in affecting coffee farmers livelihoods and which will eventually, if left unchecked, affect the sustainability of the coffee industry.

In summary, coffee prices are very low at the moment, whereby you can buy a pound (.453kg) bag of coffee greens for about US$1 at the world commodity price. Price varies with quality and with type (robusta/arabica), but a few years back it was double that (in 2010 it was three times this around US$3 per pound), which means that coffee farmers have seen a 50% drop in their income depending on other factors. Initially, you may be thinking like I did, hold on; “my specialty coffee roaster sells a kilo for about US$30 but only pays US$1 or up to US$3, so the roaster is king”. In fact, in a recent Financial Times article it was calculated that for each US$3 (UKGBP2.50) for a cappuccino, the roaster got 10p and the roaster 1p – yikes.

 

This seems very unfair and unsustainable, but there are other factors and as I mentioned on my linkedIn article on “coffee and economics”;

Perhaps the big players should consider diverting some of the profits to;

  • coffee research into new varieties to address climate change
  • investment for the local communities such as centralised washing stations and hence clean water, like Stumptown did – see “A Film about Coffee”
  • investment in transport access,
  • promotion of the crop in the local communities especially with the youth, which are running away from coffee farming. Use social media,etc.
  • educating the communities in life skills, even entrepreneurial skills.

On point (i) and (ii), Starbucks highlighted that they work with 450,000 coffee farmers and have supported research to create 400 varietals of which 5 have been released on farm trials.

On the point (v) and in general, I really believe, that the more you give the more you will get back. It runs through some of the points I have raised under my #honestmanagement series, if you show respect to your employees (and in this case we can say coffee farmers), you will foster loyalty and they will go the extra mile to grow the best coffee.  Whoever in the coffee chain has the most and in any industry they will know who they are, should really think about how the coffee industry can be sustainable for future generations – after all there is no doubt that the demand for coffee is constantly growing, so there will always be a market for it.

In summary, for coffee lovers we want everyone to get a fair deal for the best of our planet. We know that low coffee prices “never” translate to lower prices for our daily cappuccinos or flat whites, pour overs, etc, but at least those at the source, the farmers should benefit somehow, if not we will all loose out.

In short it was a very interring symposium for me, looking at the other side – away from my traditional view (cafes and quality) to the upstream side, where it all starts from the farm. That’s my take for now, but I’m working on this as a side project, so I’m welcome to any more ideas.

Sources

FT Article

http://www.ico.org

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/coffee-economics-lameen-abdul-malik/?published=t


A Beautiful Coffee Shop: Alchemy Coffee, Dubai

Sometimes you just drop into a coffee shop and think Wow! what a space, and that’s what happened when I visited Alchemy Coffee in Dubai last month. I had heard about this coffee shop since last summer when we visited but we ran out of time and I missed the opportunity. As they say, good things or should I say, good coffee, comes to those who wait. As you enter, you know, as they articulated on their website that they wanted you to enter a space that feels like home. Alchemy have progressed from the so called Starbucks “home away from home” space, as you feel like you are home. It helps that this coffee shop is definitely a converted Miami style house with very clean lines, including a plunge swimming pool outside (not for coffee drinkers), but it adds to the ambience.

As you enter the front door, on the right is this beautiful info graphic;

which is actually their drinks menu – the only thing missing is the price for each drink.

To the left is the brew bar, with all the filter options (hario V60, aeropress, chemex, kalita, etc) and of course a Synesso Espresso machine with Anfim grinder and Victoria Arduino Mythos grinder. Interesting enough, two baristi hailed from Uganda.

On the day we arrived, it was their first year anniversary – 6 April and they had a camera crew taking pictures and videos of their space plus a giveaway competition with first price a trip to an Ethiopian coffee farm for two (that would be ideal for me). It was also a bit busy so we had to wait for about 5 minutes before placing our order. My cousin went for something with milk – a beautifully poured cappuccino;

Latte art!

As it was later in the day, I wanted to try a filter coffee and wow! was I in for a real treat. Yes, almost like the elusive red sulphur – I had to do a double take – Did I see Yemeni coffee (the first country after Ethiopia to grow coffee and for which the coffee variety arabica comes from) on the menu, in front of me in a  very apt golden coffee bag. I was so stunned to see Yemeni coffee that I quizzed them as to where they got it from – their coffee comes from a local roaster, Cypher. In fact I wanted to buy a bag but as it was a special edition to coincide with their 1 year anniversary, it wasn’t for sale. In any case I chose for it to be brewed on a kalita, which I don’t usually have.

 

The flavour profile was typical Yemeni; spicy, with hints of dark chocolate and medium acidity. After a while I managed to persuade my cousin – not a coffee drinker – to try.

To accompany our coffees, we ordered scrumptious looking tarts and cakes – mine was Swiss almond (yes, typical me, I told the barista, chuckling that Switzerland don’t have almonds) and my cousin an orange polenta cake – but very yummy.

Their space is very clean – perhaps too clean for a normal house, unless you have guest coming over – which Alchemy have all the time, obviously.

In summary, a very nice space, with attention paid to detail in presentation , preparation and hospitality. Looking forward to my next visit insha’Allah.

visit their website on Alchemy


I was @ Kaldi Coffee, Lagos (Nigeria)

I first heard of Kaldi Coffee early in 2018, when they liked one of my coffee photos on Instagram and was so intrigued by their concept that I told everyone I knew in Nigeria to look out for their coffees, which can be bought at the duty free, supermarkets and of course at their shops. In any case, I promised to visit them when I visited Nigeria again, which happened in December 2018. So, on my last few hours in Lagos and with the mad traffic in Lagos, it was beginning to look extremely slim that I would make it, but due to the kindness of one of my cousins, who resonated with my coffee passion, she loaned me her car and driver and I headed off to Ilupeju – near Ikeja – the part of Lagos that the airport is located in.

As I finally arrived, I was met by a very enthusiastic Dr Nasra Ali – the main owner of Kaldi coffee. I presume she was excited to meet a fellow coffee geek. We headed over to have a coffee first – I was really looking forward to my first good cup of coffee in Nigeria after 10 days (most of it was spent in Abuja and the remaining 2 days in Lagos only). Prepared on a La Marzocco GB5, using of course Kaldi’s coffee beans.

So, what is the story behind Kaldi Africa. First of all, I presume everyone knows the story about Kaldi and if you don’t, click on my page – a Brew beginning (the story about how coffee started) at the top. In any case, Dr Nasra Ali is actually a doctor, formerly of the World Health Organisation (WHO) – the United Nations organisation in charge of health, where she was working until she met her husband to be, a businessman of Greek origin, who resided in Nigeria – you see the connection. In any case, coffee runs in Nasra’s family bloodline, as they were behind Kenya and perhaps Africa’s biggest coffee chain, Java House (see my post here). So, when presented with an idea of setting up a business in Nigeria, it was obvious. In her own right, she’s a trained barista and roaster and has the Nigerian license for distributing my favourite espresso coffee machine maker, La Marzocco and have SCAE recognition.

So, Nasra, doesn’t compromise on quality. Kaldi’s focus is on sourcing good coffee from Africa and they have started trying to resuscitate the Nigerian coffee industry – yes, there is one. This is very commendable, because she could easily just buy Kenyan and Ethiopian coffees from Eastern Africa and ignore West Africa, but she didn’t and also sources coffee from nearby Cameroon too. So, now for the tour;

Nasra showed me her coffee factory. First the tasting and barista room, where she has a few espresso machines (La Marzocco of course), grinders, brewing equipment and the Ikawa mini-roaster.

Then we went to the heart – the roasting room, which houses two Probat Coffee Roasters – wow!

If you view her Instagram Feed, you will see what she went through to get this factory from an empty dusty room to this gleaming roast factory – truly amazing and I was very impressed.

On the business side, Nasra has started roasting for hotels and restaurants – I visited Krispy Kreme Lagos, who are one of her customers –

Met with Edouard Sassine, who offered me the opportunity to start a coffee roasting company with him – extremely tempting, I must say. In any case, Nasra is so generous, that she is willing to develop a roast blend for each of her customers beyond her own trusted espresso blend. If you cannot visit, you can also buy their coffees on line – 250g starting for the equivalent of $7.8 and there’s even more – something I’ve never seen. You can order your coffee as greens or roasted in three different profiles of light, medium and dark. As a coffee geek, you could order the same coffee in three different roast profiles, even though I’d omit the “darker” version. They also sell chocolate and tea, gadgets, coffee cups, brewing equipment, grinders and espresso machines. Nasra offered me two coffee bags and hot chocolate and I grabbed the Nigerian and Cameroonian coffees, which I brewed as espresso.

On services, they have three different types of barista courses, so ideally, any serious retail outlet or business that wants to start a coffee business in Lagos – a city soon to be the largest in Africa with over 20 million people, there’s no real reason to serve substandard coffee. They can also be contacted to serve great coffee at events if needed. Read more about Kaldi on http://kaldiafrica.com

Nasra was so conscious of me missing my flight back to Abuja that my very intriguing visit was all over in less than an hour and as my wife knows, I can literally chat about coffee for hours. So, I reluctantly left, but guess what ? What should have been a 15 minutes ride to the airport, took a whopping 90 minutes and if my flight left on time, I would definitely have missed it – things I do for coffee.

I was really intrigued by my visit and seeing the passion in my eyes, Nasra, ever so giving, offered to help me start a coffee roasting business in Nigeria – I can’t even imagine anyone offering to train a competitor, but I think she’s so giving and I was really tempted – perhaps I’ll add that to my wish list or should I say dream list, plus I would really like to explore the possibility of helping Nigerian and other African coffee farmers get more recognised and up the quality of their coffee – anyone interested, please feel free to contact me.

Until then, if you ever visit Lagos, please stop by but not on your way to the airport and it’s probably best on the weekend or in the morning, when there’s less traffic.

Well done Nasra and here’s to working with you to help Nigerian and African coffee producers.