Tag Archives: arabica coffee

I was @ %Arabica, Dubai Mall – Dubai


I always knew that using a name like “arabica” for a cafe in an area predominantly occupied by Arabs would be a winner. In fact when I was debating whether to open cafe in Cape Town or Dubai back in 2009, the name I had tried to approach potential investors for Dubai was… “Cafe Arabica”. I thought back then and it has proven now as you will see in a few lines below that people will resonate well with an establishment that recognises their identity and their pace in the World – in this case, the world of coffee. So, now we have here a new brand,  %Arabica, which incidentally is Japanese – with their first coffee shop in Kyoto and now expanding to the Gulf, venturing into the most avant grade venue of the Arab world, Dubai and more specifically in the largest mall in the World, Dubai Mall.

I had already heard of this brand about a year ago, when they liked one of my coffee pics on Instagram and then I found out that they were going to open a coffee shop at the Dubai Mall in May 2016 – this seemed to have been postponed until September 2016 and so I knew that once given the opportunity to visit Dubai again, then I would head there, which is what I did in early February.

Located downstairs, just around the corner from the aquarium in Dubai Mall – thus is important because the mall is huge, and on the way to the Souk, opposite Sacoor Brothers is Arabica%.

As you enter, they’ve tried to escape the typical chain mall coffee shop feeling with cold decor and dotted place with coffee bean sacks, brown communal tables and chairs to give you that kind of authentic feel, alluding to their artisanal vibe – we are serious about coffee and if you are looking for Starbuck, head right back out.


They’ve got the kind of brew bar you would find in serious coffee shops in London, New York or Melbourne; 2 x two group slayer espresso machines, matching 2 group mazzer grinders, uber boiler and all the brew options of chemed, V60, etc.


You are prompted to order with a coffee menu, which impatient customers ignore and just ask for “a Latte”. There menu is impressive – they have their house blends but also some special 90+ beans, which will set you back $20 or more for a cup. However, although I think the is great for coffee lovers like me, it may be wise if they had more experienced staff on hand to explain why this latte or filter brew costs $5 and this one costs upwards of $20. I know “geisha” and 90+ coffees are expensive due to their taste profiles, rarity and relatively low production, but for someone just making the conversion from mass style chains to speciality coffee, they need to know that this isn’t just another gimmick.

On that last point, when I placed my order, I decided to go off the list and ask for a Cortado, coupled with some questions on bean origin. I hasten to add a proviso – if someone like me walks into a speciality coffee shop and see all the gadgets and understand all the coffee language, then my expectations are raised in that I expect the staff to be able to handle some basic questions. I did hesitate however on asking them to adjust the brew and pressure gauges like I usually do at Balthasar (Vienna), but that was only because the place was quite busy – my point about the word “Arabica”. On hearing that I wasn’t the typical customer, the head barista,Yash (who I found out later was formerly of Common Grounds, Mall of Emirates and UAE aeropress champion) decided that he would attend to me. During which time we briefly chatted about their focus and about his background and mine.

Ah! one cortado.

On the clientele, it was predominantly locals, Emiratis, dotted with passer byes and coffee aficionados judging by their orders.

After my cup, I decided to walk over and ask some more questions about their coffee, roast profiles etc (I’m sure if my wife was with me, her eyes would have rolled up, followed by a  sigh), but yet again it was Yash to the rescue. After convincing me to buy their house blend which is dark roasted (I am usually not a fan of dark roasted oily beans) and offering me a 90+ espresso shot, I bought a bag of beans, exchanged instagram addresses and was on my way.

In summary, Arabica is a welcome addition to Dubai Mall, which although gigantic, I’ve managed to become accustomed to getting around it without too much difficulty. I’m loving the concept that people are taking their coffee seriously and that even though their many customers might not know it up front, this is a small step in changing peoples perception of coffee. You no longer have to drive out into industrial complexes to get coffee and for tourists like me who don’t have easy access to road transportation, it is great to know that by using the Dubai Metro to the largest mall in the World, you don’t have to suffer with chain coffee but can get a good cuppa, even up till midnight – yes! they close at midnight – now this has to be one of the very few places in the World you can get speciality coffee at close to midnight. The jury might still be out on my “best coffee shop in a mall” award, recently given to Common Grounds (Mall of Emirates – see here), but I think Arabica could be a good contender and will fall in second for now. Nevertheless they are planning a massive expansion in 2017, with new shops planned for the whole Gulf area, Germany, France, USA and even England, so watch out for them.

Well done Arabica for the name and concept and I look forward to visiting many times when I visit Dubai insha’allah.


My New Toy: The Hario V60

From the title, it sounds like I bought some sort of fast car or psychedelic machine, but as this is a blog about coffee, the Hario V60 is a piece of art but relates to coffee. It’s developed by a Japanese company and is a different form of coffee brewing. I’ve actually seen many similar devices before but did not really know what it was for, but after skimming through many websites, of which square mile coffee roasters (London), was one, there’s been a lot of buzz about the Hario version, with a cool name, the V60. In summary, it’s a simple brew method, but the Hario V60 design, won a Good Design award and actually does makes the coffee taste different. It’s more apt for precious coffees, which will enable you to taste the more fruity and subtle cocoa elements in well roasted coffee. So, you can imagine my delight when I walked into espresso lab in Cape Town and saw a batch of them now available. I thought about it for a week and then I was sold, and bought some Ethiopian Guji Sidamo to accompany my first experience. So, here’s a detailed account of how to brew. You need (i) scales to weigh the coffee (ii) your V60 (iii) unbleached filter paper (iv) a warm glass or carafe to let the coffee to filter into (v) a good grinder (vi) a kettle to boil the water and (vii) great coffee.

1. Whilst your water is boiling, weigh about 22g of arabica beans and pour into your grinder. Once the water is boiled, grind your beans on a setting above a moka grind setting – so not was fine as espresso and not as coarse as French Press; Pour into the filter paper, which should already be inside the V60

2. Measure out your hot water to about 280ml and pour in a circular motion onto the ground coffee – you should see a bloom

3. It should take about 2 – 3 minutes to brew through, by which time you should have about 280ml freshly brewed coffee

4. At the end, the V60 should look like this after the brewing process is complete

The above is just a guideline, but play around with the method if you get one. Enjoy the experience – the coffee should be light and easier to drink than a French Press. For the Ethiopian Guji I got berry and cocoa lingering tastes. I’ve just bought the organic Brazilian Sao Pedro. I’v been captivated by this method of brewing coffee and have to apologize to my lovely Bodum Columbia French Press, which hasn’t been used in about 2 weeks.


I’m drinking espressolab coffees

They are only 1 year old but their popularity is growing, Espresso Lab that is, situated in Woodstock, Cape Town. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I discovered way back in October 2009 – well, they were 5 months old. OK ! So it’s one of my prime stops for coffee in Cape Town and lucky for me, my familiarity with Renato, the roaster, has helped increase my coffee knowledge. Usually sourced from high quality coffee farms when in season, Renato prefers to roast in a manner that brings out the fruity and spicy elements in a coffee, almost like coffee for the sophisticated, so if brewed correctly, you should get soft chocolate, apricots, lime, honey and caramel notes. In this manner and I may be generalizing, the coffee is roasted lighter than most. To compliment this style of roasting, you also need to set your brew temperature (if you’ve got one) to between 91-93 C. Lucky for us, Renato places a variety of information on each coffee bag, ranging from roast date, blend composition, tasting notes and brew parametres.

Just a note; as I don’t have a brew temperature control, I usually run the machine for a few seconds to cool it down a bit, before I extract my espresso shot.

OK ! So what have I been having. Lots and the main ones I can remember are Panama Mama Cata, Organic Espresso (Brazil and Ethiopia), Espresso 004 Version (panama  mama cata, costa rica puente tarrazu and ethiopia hama) and just finished Espresso blend 008 version (brazil serra do bone, costa rican puente ecologico tarrazu and ethiopian guji). I should mention that Renato likes African coffees too. So first up,the Panamanian coffees, santa teresa and mama cata, which I will never forget, tend to have very distinctive tastes, such as lime, grapefruit and chocolate, wow ! I recall tasting them at espresso lab when they were having an in-house tasting session and the mama cata was really different.

Look at that golden trickle, like honey.

Second up and very in-tune with espressolab coffees are the high notes of fruit, complimented with soft cocoa tones and a hint of honey and sometimes caramel, encapsulated in the ESP004 blend, which featured a 40% composition of mama cata. Nice – was my first impression. However, as I’ve lost some of my pics due to my hard drive crashing a few weeks ago, I can’t share a pic with you, unless the pics are retrieved. Wish me luck.

However, my favourite to date (just finished last week) has to be their latest blend, the ESP008 (I’m guessing that every time Renato develops an espresso blend, it gets a new 00 number, so this is version 8). On this occasion I just went for a 500g bag, and seeing that about 10 days before I got it, it was ready for the extracting. As an espresso, it was one of the sweetest I’ve ever had and so after dinner, there was always a pleasant delight to complete my meal awaiting for me, with a double espresso but of course;

I looked forward to the mornings, as when blended with milk, the chocolate and caramel tones pulled through the milk for quite a pleasant brew. As the first people that served me a cortado, I usually made a cortado to compliment this delicious espresso blend from espressolab, which I think is their best to date, well done espressolab.

I hope Renato doesn’t tamper with this blend for a while as I know he prefers to source seasonal coffees and I’ve got an exciting package of more coffee to taste coming soon to share with you. If you can, grab a bag quick, when you are near Woodstock or visiting the Old Biscuit Mill on Saturday morning, Ciao !