Tag Archives: Dubai Coffee

Breakfast in Dubai


A couple of months ago whilst passing through Dubai, I had to stay in a hotel, as my cousin was away and one question puzzled me and if you know me, you’d have guessed it by now. “where can I stay in Dubai that doesn’t cost too much but is within close distance to a good breakfast and coffee?” So, after having used google to search for best breakfast in Dubai, I found one close to a non-expensive hotel (by Dubai standards, close to $120 per night) and that was it. I booked in for 2 nights.

Bystro, al manara district – Winner best breakfast in Dubai 2016

About 15 minutes walk from the Metropolitan Hotel was Bystro. As I walked it I was hit by such an eclectic atmosphere, breaming mostly with European and Australian expatriates. 


I had a slight panic as I couldn’t see a spare seat but as I was solo, I didn’t have too long to wait. As I was seated and handed the menu, I took in the atmosphere and an Australian gentleman came by and asked if I was okay – I found out later that it was Josh, the owner. The walls are covered with lots to read – quotes that I have seen plastered on the walls of  other coffee shops around the World (witnessed on Instagram) and shelves stocked with imported Italian condiments like cantuccini, olive oil, biscuits and more. 


The walls are wooden, what else. There’s a long glass display centre piece, hosting mini cakes, pastries, tarts and fresh exotic juices.


About the food – after all that was one of the main reasons I came by – I was glad to see that they use organic products, especially organic eggs. But wow! the menu check this link out bystromenu . I was literally confused and overwhelmed , but when I searched google for this place, I noticed that their star breakfast dish was the Bistro Brisket Hash – slow brisket, patatas bravas, avocado, cilantro pesto and fried eggs, although I asked for poached eggs.


It was delicious and I must confess I was thinking I’m coming here tomorrow to try more. In fact, when I got home to Vienna and knowing my kids are breakfast lovers like moi, I said “who would like to go to Dubai for a foodie trip” and I don’t think a second passed, when the unanimous reply was “me daddy” Cute for mid-teens but when it comes to food, they don’t joke with food.

Now the coffee. I found out that they use Raw coffee beans, which I’ve blogged about a couple of times before, but in summary they were probably the first micro-roastery in Dubai, starting way back before 2010. I walked around to see the barista area, Nuova Simonelli and Mahl Konig grinders and although the coffee was served rather nice in this yellow acme branded cup, Josh sensing I was a coffee afiocinado mentioned that they just got the espresso machine in last night, meaning it was the first time the poor barista was using the machine, which on such a busy day, Friday morning, was like a baptism of fire – poor female barista. Needless to say, it wasn’t bad for such a stressful morning – tad hot for a cappuccino, but I look forward to visiting again to eat and drink coffee God willing.


Before I left I had to try something sweet and Josh suggested the lemon tart – delicate and complimented with a delicious scoop of ice cream. Dessert for breakfast… , but why not eh?


Highly recommended and I have to say as informed by Tom of Tom&Serg, whom I met the day after, that Bystro knocked Tom&Serg off their position as Best Cafe in Dubai for 2017 – no small feat and if you check trip advisor, you’ll see lots of positive reviews. Tom didn’t have any bad feelings, because Josh, a fellow Aussie, is one of his friends.

Dean & Deluca, Mall of Emirates – A taste of New York in Dubai


Being a little adventurous and to be honest having witnessed the most rainy and stormy time in Dubai ever, my plans to go back the next day to Bystro were squashed as a brisk walk to the venue in blistering rain was not an option. So, I caught the complimentary bus shuttle to the metro station and headed to Mall of Emirates.

I think after the first time I went back in 2009, I always wanted to visit Dean & Deluca and I headed straight for there in the newish extension of the mall. however, as I approached, I noticed that they were saying no more breakfast. Horrified I mentioned I had trekked all the way just to have breakfast and the very friendly manager said, provided I ordered within 2-3 minutes, it’ll be okay. I opened the menu and knew instantly I was going to order eggs benedict. Whilst I waited I wanted to try their espresso milk skills and ordered an espresso macchiato;

 

Pleasant to drink and later I walked to the back to view the barista arena, aptly named Espresso Bar and saw it was housed by a La Marzocco 4 group lines machine and that they were using Orbis coffee, another local roaster, which I saw was being sold at the airport too.


For breakfast….

I have to say this is probably the best value eggs benedict I’ve ever ordered, because for the equivalent of US$13 you get THREE poached eggs and side order of a fresh salad. They had run out of smoked salmon, so they gave me beef bacon with crispy bread. I really enjoyed dipping the crispy breadsticks in the runny yolk.

For both spots I have to highlight that what really stood out for me wasn’t just the delicious food on offer but the dedication of the staff and the customer service. I even asked the Dean&Deluca manager for the customer feedback card so I could give him and them a rave review.


So what about that foodie trip to Dubai ? Hmmm! lets see if they have any offers on Emirates this year, because this summer we didn’t book for Dubai like we’ve done the last 3 years.

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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.


Drinking Coffee in Dubai: the coffee roasters edition 


So, I was completing a survey on Dubai a few weeks back and the final question was, “why would you advise anyone to visit Dubai”, So I started “if you love calm beaches, oceans where you can see your feet, stay in hotels with great value for money, eating food from different parts of the World, access to great shopping, a holiday that is great for both kids and parents alike….. and love coffee, then visit Dubai” Wait a minute “coffee”. Yes! It seems like every year I visit Dubai – can’t help it, the kids love it, plus I connect through there a lot – the coffee game has been raised. Before 2010, there was only one specialist roaster, Raw Coffee – read here. Then in 2014 two guys called Tom and Serg opened their Melbourne-esque style cafe with great coffee and world cuisine style menu with a strong focus on breakfast and brunches. Fast forward to 2016 and I couldn’t even visit all the specialist coffee roasters in Dubai alone. Tom and Serg now have 3 cafes (the original Tom&Serg, the sum of us and common grounds) – all featured on my website. In addition, they now roast their own coffee. There’s also Speciality Batch, Espresso Lab, Goldbox, which I couldn’t visit and Seven Fortunes, which I blogged about recently. Okay, so here’s a snapshot;

Speciality Batch/Espresso Lab

If you read my post on ratio’s coffee, Sharjah, you’ll know that I had already heard of Speciality Batch many moons ago. Specialty Batch roast in Dubai, focusing on roasting small batches of only single origin coffees.

Their coffees are favoured strongly by Espresso lab, located at the 100 Wellness centre – a very unassuming place, which I must confess, can easily be missed, as it’s located in a very residential area. Having just visited culinary boutique and being that it was like 40C outside, I popped in for a cold brew. The first thing that you notice is that this a no frills coffee place, manned by male and female baristi that seem very committed to coffee. 


I learnt afterwards that they are also a coffee school offering certified barista training too and that their owner, Ibrahim Al Mallouhi is the only Emirati certified by the American Barista & Coffee School, Barista Guild of America, SCAA and SCAE They don’t even serve any snack to go with your food and the only other drinks on offer are sparkling or still water. They have an innovative coffee menu, offering different type of beans with different brew options, coupled with expert advice on how to brew and of course they sell coffee. For the cold brew I wanted something not overtly fruity and they were served with these steel balls, which apparently have some kind of effect on the cold brew.

 

It looks gorgeous, doesn’t it ?

Speciality Batch are beginning to amass a large retail following, so you may start seeing their coffees at numerous speciality cafes opening up in Dubai now. Check speciality batch here and read more about Espresso Lab’s plans to roast their own coffees and expand here.

Leopolds of London

Located at the very Miami-esque part of Dubai, the Walk, is this newish restaurant – a franchise now only based in the UAE. In fact we just happened to enter this place by chance. As usual I was craving coffee at around 10pm and as we were walking through the Walk, decked out with flashy restaurants, like the Real Madrid Cafe, household retail outlets and of course the traditional coffee brands, I was close to giving up, when I saw a sign outside this facility about coffee. So, we popped in, egged on (English colloquialism for encouraged) by one of the staff. They were so delighted to hear that I loved coffee, that they took me upstairs to show me their roasting facility, surrounded by both green and recently roasted coffee beans. 


Naturally at that time, the roasting facility was shut, but after quizzing them about their focus and spotting their La Marzocco GB5, I decided to order a double espresso to accompany my triple layer red velvet cake. Before I carry on, they really have delectable cakes (carrot cakes, cheesecake, which my wife loved, chocolate fudge cake, etc) and a mouth watering menu here and for Dubai, I must confess, the value for money is great – shhh! keep it a secret.

 

So, it’s never too late for an espresso, even at close to midnight, yummy!. We went back twice and although I didn’t buy any coffee to take home, I’m willing to say, this was the best coffee at the JBR – the Walk. Visit their website.

 

So where else….

Seven Fortunes – affiliated with a company in Canada, these guys are really serious about coffee. I wrote a bit about them on my visit to Culinary Boutique but you can read about them here. A welcome addition to the speciality coffee roasting scene. So impressed was I with my visit to Culinary Boutique that I bough a large bag of espresso beans, which I really enjoyed on my return to Vienna.

 

Fruity and caramel like and great with milk too. Highly recommended and if you live in Dubai, they have an online shop too.

 

Goldbox Roastery – Again, I had heard of this specialist roaster a few months ago through instagram and actually wanted to visit them, but sadly they are closed on weekends. In any case I had the opportunity to taste their coffee when I visited Sharjah in May 2016, but most of the roasters I visited, had a lot of respect for them and recommended that I visit if I get another opportunity.

%arabica, Dubai Mall

This is really fresh news as this cafe just opened in Dubai in mid-September 2016, located at the World’s largest Mall, the Dubai Mall. Decked out with two very expensive Slayer Espresso machines, it;s definitely one to check out when I visit Dubai again insha’allah. For those of you reading this and located in Dubai, go there now and let me know what you think.

Signing off with this pic, so “where’s the good coffee in this place Dubai?” Well, there are too many man.

 

 


The Culinary Boutique, Dubai: Wow!

 


The Culinary Boutique, Dubai, Wow! What can I say ?

I walk in with two of my friends and my two kids, tell the first employee, Hans, that I read about them in the emirates magazine, Portfolio and he greets me with such delight, tells me about the cafe, takes me on a  tour, introduces me to the head chef, who takes over, tells me about their philosophy (which I’m very impressed by), introduces me to his staff, shows me the prepping room for their signature lavender croissants, tells me about their cooking schools (which I’d love to try when I visit Dubai again on holiday), then after about 20 minutes, send these down for my party of 5:

Prawn on sweet potato mash

Okay, it’s not coffee, but I’m coming to that.  But when you get service beyond your imagination, you’ve got to commend, congratulate and tell all.

Okay, so  the place is gorgeous in decor, just look below;


I can’t add anymore. Attention to detail. Even if you just visited to look around, you’ll be forced out of sheer will to buy something and yes, I confess it’s expensive, but so is everything with quality – you get what you pay for. Look, a rose croissant;

Rose croissant

Rose croissant

I must confess, I initially visited because of the coffee but the other stuff just blew my mind.

Okay, so let’s get to the coffee. Before my tour, although dressed in typical emirati gear – custom made and designed by me – I exposed my strong coffee sense, naming their machine, a la marzocco GB5, the grinders, asking them about their coffee blend (Kenya and Colombia), roasted by newbie Dubai based roastery, Seven Fortunes. Initially I was a bit apprehensive with the type of blend, as Kenyan coffee beans tend to be very fruity and will take over when brewed as an espresso. I mentioned that most coffee aficionados tend to prefer fruity coffees, so before I could even place an order, Hans arranged for the Ugandan barista, Andrew, to make a single shot for me;


Yes, it was a bit fruity, but the acidity was mellow enough to consume without frowning. I mentioned that yes, people used to drinking coffee at your usual coffee chain will have their taste buds mesmerised by a fruity espresso blend and may frown. However, I recollect that when I tried such an experiment at my cafe in Cape Town (2010-2012), I had to offer free coffee tasting lessons so that people could appreciate what I was trying to do. Perhaps Culinary Boutique should try this. However, as a coffee lover, I won’t change the coffee – let people know that you are different and educate them about why your coffee tastes different. Stick to your guns Culinary Boutique.

So, of course I ordered a cortado – not on the menu, so that I could appreciate the fruity coffee with a bit of milk.


Delicious !!!

So impressed was I with the coffee, that I asked if I could buy some of the beans, which being as accommodating as they were, they obliged, yay! More on that in a later post on Dubai cafes and roasteries.

So thanks to Hans, Andrew, the Capetonian cafe manager and the head chef and of course the owner, whom I didn’t meet, but I was informed about her strong commitment to providing the best and it showed.

Looking forward to trying out their food next time insha’allah.

Check them out at :

AddressVilla #56,Jumeira Beach Rd,Jumeirah 1 – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Phone+971 4 345 0023

 

 

 


The Best Coffee Shop in a Mall: Common Grounds, Dubai

  
Usually, malls are dry places for creativity, where only the big chains can afford the exorbitant rental prices, stifling independent and artisan retailers, so when you see something different in a mall, it catches my eye, and no more so that coffee or/and food shops.

I recall about 7 years ago walking into a mall in Cairo and seeing the famous Venetian coffee shop, Caffe del Doge – sceptical, I went in and was really intrigued by the enthusiasm of the baristi – the coffee was typical Italian, dark roast, but prepared with care and lots of etching (not latte art, but using chocolate syrup to draws patterns). Back then, I thought that was the best coffee shop in a mall. Then about 3 years ago, I went into Westfield Stratford in London and was pleasantly surprised to have coffee at Grind. Attention to detail in preparation, coupled with great espresso machines, topped up with cakes, customer friendly staff in a very busy environment made for a very electable coffee shop environment and for me back then, the best coffee shop in a mall.

But now…. we have a new contender… drum roll…..

With two Victoria Arduino Black Eagle two group machines (i.e. the most expensive espresso machine in the World, designed by Jim Hoffmann – see my last post), 

  
 a coffee menu, offering filter coffee especially brewed for you using a chemed, aeropress or Hario V60, coffee beans on sale, a very welcome spread of cakes, sweet bites, pastries and more, including a food menu with wide appeal, friendly staff, the brainchild of serious coffee fanatics and located in a the city of malls and more, comes…..

Common Grounds in the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai.

  
The brainchild of Tom&Serg, Common Grounds is their third outlet in Dubai, after the Sum of Us. The latter location is now their coffee heaven location, where all their coffees are roasted and dispatched to their shops, with espresso blends and filter roasts  on offer.

Located in a mall, Common Grounds had to be different – first off all, it’s in the Mall of the Emirates extension – this remains one of Dubai’s most popular malls and is famous for the one that has the ski slope, amongst other popular attraction and designer shops. The shop is not too far from the movie theater area in the corner. For this location, Tom&Serg had to offer more food and dessert and own 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When I visited I had a burger, prior to my flat white of course 

  
and was really spoilt for choice on the desserts (almond and orange cake, mini-cheesecakes, chocolate cakes, brownies, pastries and more), I decided on the almond and orange cake.   

The staff from France and South Africa were really friendly and couldn’t do enough. The barista were available to offer coffee geeks like me a choice of coffee based on brew process – I settled for the chemex.

I could easily have been in a cafe in central London in terms of the attention to detail – with it’s laid back feel and no evidence of being a chain, Common Grounds has a unique and independent cafe appeal. As you know, I like shopping (mostly outside and not in malls, unless it’s for food) and visiting Dubai, but now I’m rest assured that no matter how much shopping I’m doing, not to mention, my wife and daughter are doing, I can always escape if I’m Dubai to a cafe to relax and drink great coffee.

A well deserved title from me “the best coffee in a Mall”, but let me know if there’s somewhere else, I’ve missed in the World of Coffee.


I was @ TomAndSerg, Dubai

tomandserg collage

tomandserg collage

It seems the coffee scene is vastly improving in Dubai. It was only about a year ago that I was excited when I visited Dubai and visited RAW Coffee – see my blog here. Now, just a few months later, two guys called Sergio (from Spain) and Tom (from Australia) team up and open up Tom&Serg – a post-modern Aussie style cafe, dedicated to offering artisan prepared coffee using the state of the art La Marzocco La Strada, hearty well prepared food in a no frills atmosphere – exposed brick, blackboard walls, open plan kitchen with noise to create a homely feel.

The Entrance

The Entrance

Most of us visiting from NY, Melbourne and London will instantly feel at home here. For me it is reminiscence of Workshop Coffee (Clerkenwell, London), cum St.Ali (Melbourne). In fact its a style I very much like, because it was not long ago that the it was very difficult to get artisan coffee and well prepared food under one roof. I remember my trips to London, where I had to eat in one place and then trek to find good coffee in another and vice versa, but that’s changing now. So, to Tom and Serg, Dubai and to my freshest post ever, as I just got back from Dubai yesterday (12 April 2014), that’s how excited I am.

Relax and Eat

Relax and Eat

I didn’t hesitate upon entering to let the waitress know that I’m here because of the coffee and persisted to let her know that when I owned Escape Caffe, my Magic was made with a triple shot of espresso in a 150ml glass. In any case, that’s what I ordered and then I asked who was in charge of coffee and she directed me to Jamie, who hails from Melbourne and has done a stint of jobs at Melbourne’s finest cafes such as Proud Mary, Auction Rooms, Sensory Lab (St Ali’s sister shop) and Seven Seeds, so in summary, a well-trained barista that knows what he’s talking and drinking about. My wife looked at me and was like “you know you want to, so go and talk to the chief barista”, so, I walked by for a chat to talk all things coffee, blend, taste profile, market preferences, etc. I was glad to know that they get their coffee from RAW, but the blend is made specifically for them under Jamie’s guidance. In summary, it hails from Central and South America with medium acidity, roasted just after second crack (where the oils begin to sip out) – ok, I’m getting a bit geeky here, so I’ll stop. In any case, ti goes well with milk, with chocolatey and caramel overtones with not in your face sweetness.

A Magic

A Magic

 

For me however, what blew my mind was the cold brew, offered to me by Jamie and his description as on point – it’s very unusual in that you need to take several sips to try and pin point the taste and so that’s what I did and I have to confess it wasn’t easy.

Cold Brew

Cold Brew

 

All I know is that the first couple of sips sent flavour profiles literally through my whole body. In fact it puzzled me so much that I ignored my lunchand then realising that I hate cold food, had to succumb and indulge in my burger and fries.

IMG_2575

I washed my palate with more water and went back to the coffee. After that I took a stroll around the shop, which is fairly big as there’s also an upstairs area, a black board describing the coffee.

So what coffee do you like

So what coffee do you like

a library area and another La Marzocco Strada, supported by another barista from Australia – this time from Brisbane – wow! two under one roof – baristi from Australia and La Marzocco Strada that is. As we literally got there 30 minutes before they close on a Friday – 4:30pm I rushed through the place and tried to take some original pics and on our way out, I met another lady, Michaela, from Melbourne, who used to live in London but never had a chance to try out some of the top cafes there. I reassured her that if she ever visited London again that she would be wowed by the quality of cafes there, who could rival those in Melbourne too, encouraging her that London’s acceleration to the top of the World coffee drinking cities was partly due to the influx of baristi from Melbourne itself – she was happy with that confirmation.

All in all, a great place to visit and from what I read (the owners were in the Esquire Middle East Magazine for their dress sense), there’s more to come from Tom and Serg, perhaps more shops, definitely more publicity and similar concepts. Please try Vienna, Austria, where I live.

Lots of seating space

Lots of seating space

For more info, see http://www.tomandserg.com

Open from 8am to 4pm (4:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays)

A Branded Bottle

A Branded Bottle

 

 


Looking for Crema in Dubai

Wow ! it’s already been a month since my last post, which is way over my target of a weekly post but my excuse, if I can get away with one, is that it was family holiday season and we went again to Dubai – the kids and wife insisted.

Burj al Arab coffee 

Last year I wrote a summary on drinking coffee in Dubai, which was really like a summary of drinking coffee in one mall. This time, I tried to broaden my horizons by visiting a few more malls but still failed to visit some cafes outside the mall perimeter – next time God willing. Following on from some advise given by a coffee pro – “don’t bother tasting espresso style coffee from coffee chains because it is always going to be badly prepared”, I initially only ordered what could be called Americanos and just “normal” filter coffee. For a while it satisfied my caffeine thirst, but then I thought, it’s been over one week without espresso and decided to risk it.

A few pointers before telling you about my experience. Firstly, I only visited cafes with semi-automatic machines and not pure automatic ones (witness Starbucks), where the barista just pushes a button and hopes for the best. Secondly, and I was called a snub for this by my wife – insist that the barista cleans the machine before making your coffee. Usually, old coffee is left in the portafilter, emptied and without cleaning the old dried stale coffee, what is supposed to be fresh coffee is ground and placed into the portafilter before placing into the group head without cleaning the machine – Yuk! On this occasion, I insisted every time that the barista empty the old coffee, flush it out with hot water and also clean the group head with hot water. Finally, I insisted that they tamp the ground beans. You would think that with these key pointers, some sort of espresso will come out, but sadly this was not the case – why ? I think it falls under the best known two classical mistakes – serving non-fresh coffee with an inaccurate grind setting. From the taste of the majority of the coffee I had, freshness was compromised by far, because, even if the coffee is fresh and the grind setting is inaccurate, you will smell the aroma and the coffee, although bitter in taste, will still have some sort of fresh taste. I didn’t even go there with milk based drinks because badly frothed milk is usually burnt and gives me indigestion – Snubbish ? No ! I’m just trying to get what I paid for and not mess up my stomach.

Anyway to the shops. One thing I noticed now is that some more of the cafes have now started trying to tamp. At the Tea Merchants, Burjuman Mall, I noticed a La Marzocco machine and an expensive Mahl Konig Grind-on-Demand coffee grinder, but sadly, as you can see from the picture, after insisting on cleaning the machine, etc the crema was still very thing and lasted about a minute but the taste told me more – not very fresh.

Tea Merchants Espresso 

The baristas, however, were very amused by my tips on cleaning the machine and tamping the coffee.

Having looked down on coffee chains and there are everywhere, I decided to try a popular one in Dubai, who boasted about the “Italian taste”, so I went to the aptly named Barista – which is actually an Indian coffee chain. At their shop in the Dubai Festival City (nice shops and water way) I was impressed by their preparation techniques and most of all by the taste – it did have an “Italian taste” after all, as they proudly displayed that their coffee is roasted in Milan.

Barista Espresso 

In all, I told them that their espresso was the best I had tasted in Dubai. I also caught, surprisingly of all, one of the baristi having a go at latte art… hmmmm !

One more success story was the espresso I had on my last day at the Dubai International Financial Centre in the Testa Rossa Caffe. I decided not to fuss about how the coffee would be made – I was too hungry to run over to the bar. However, perhaps my reputation had preceded me as I watched the barista, clean the machine, flush out the group head, grind the coffee and tamp. I was impressed and although the coffee had some crema, the taste was not as sharp as the one I had at Barista.

Testa Rossa Espresso 

I’m still looking for real crema and that authentic espresso taste in Dubai – land of the malls, flashy cars, famous hotels and indoor ski slope, but that will have to be on another occasion God willing if I return. I’ve just got to leave you with one incident – On another occasion on this trip, I decided to try an espresso at a Dubai based coffee chain and after warning the barista that I write on coffee, he boasted that his colleague could make really good espresso, so I thought why not. In chatting to him, I went a step further, “so ! what sort of coffee do you use in your blend and where is your coffee from ?” “Canada” was the reply and I thought “Oh no it doesn’t, they don’t grow coffee in Canada” but I decided to keep that embarrassing revelation to myself and just smiled – I then knew I was in for a surprise. Needless to say my suspicions were confirmed and that is why I have a story and not a picture of what was advertised as an espresso. I think they need really good coffee in Dubai to match their plans to become one of the top destinations in the World…. still looking.