Tag Archives: Dubai Mall

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 Sum of Us and more….

 

The Sum of Us

I could easily have done one post on this cafe, which comes from the team behind Tom&Serg (click here for my post on them) because the space and what’s on offer here is quite extensive. Located at the top end of the famous Shaykh Zayed Road (the road lined with all the skyscrapers, The Emirates Towers, et all and famous 5 star hotels), The Sum of Us is just behind the new Sheraton Hotel and easily located at Burj al Salma Centre, 6th Street, Trade Centre. During the cooler months, it would be ideal to sit outside, but we visited a few weeks back, when it was 40C outside and sanely sat inside. It was a bit quiet when we visited as it had just opened a few weeks back but that gave my kids and I the leisure to stroll around and take lots of pics and for me to specifically chat with the staff and head barista, Fiona, from Ukraine, but more recently of Nude Coffee in Soho, London.


First up what’s different ? The Roastery – I strongly believe that in developing markets, the tide rests with the supplier and in this case, the roaster. In developed markets, it’s fine for a busy cafe, pumping out 600 to 1,000 cups of coffee a day to order from a reputable roaster, because the investment financially and time wise is huge. However, when you’re in an economy like the Middle East or Africa, then roasting and selling your own opens up “multiple revenue streams” – the buzz word for spreading your opportunities with just one capital investment. Ok!, enough of my economic baffle, but I speak from experience with escape caffe and just my observation of the huge margins when you roast greens into drinkable coffee. So, in summary, as hinted to Tom and Serg, roasting your own is great. However, not to steal their thunder (a British term), Raw Coffee Roasters, (read my post on them here) the current premium roaster in Dubai, suppliers of Tom and Serg, are also helping the Sum of Us with setting up their roastery. In fact I spotted their van outside the cafe when we were there. It’s very magnanimous of Raw to help what would potentially be a competitor, well done to Kim and her team.

Sharing the space downstairs with the roastery, is their in-house bakery, displaying recently baked goods and famous for their sourdough bread. In addition, there’s a coffee bar with a La Marzocco Strada and some seating and a take away booth.


 Upstairs, there’s a lot more seating with an airy feel and some subtle decor and fine touches, open plan kitchen, complete with another brew bar and La Marzocco Linea, naturally.


 On offer is coffee, of course, together with small but filling, no frills food, celebrating the eclectic culture of Dubai, which means carefully chosen street food from around the World. For the not so adventurous, there are burgers, and for the hardcore brekkie fans, like me, there’s breakfast served well into the afternoon. I must admit I was tempted to order of the breakfast menu but decided to try the Chicken Katsu Bowl instead, as I’ve never heard of it.


On coffee, first off was the flat white


and after my meal, I asked Fiona to make me an Ethiopian using a Hario V60.


Coffee fix done, I was glad to visit the Sum of Us and look forward to reading more about it in the future and of course visiting it again God willing. Before I leave, I should add that another major difference between tom andsErg and the Sum of Us, is that the latter are also offering dinner. For me that means one thing as a coffee geek; finally a place to get great coffee in the night when in Dubai, yay! Read more about their focus on http://thesumofusdubai.com

 

Kaffeine Projekt @DubaiMall

So, you’re in the largest shopping mall under one roof in the World and after walking around for hours googling (nothing to do with the internet but the original English word for looking at something) at the World’s top retail brands from Louis Vuitton, Rolex, to Zara, Topshop, Hamleys et al, you need coffee right ? Well, I did mine in reverse, as we traversed the valet parking with Bentleys, Ferraris and more into the main entrance of Dubai Mall, I was already looking for coffee and stumbled at Kaffeine Projekt. After quizzing the barista, Ren, about how long he pulls an espresso shot and I asked him where he was trained, I decided to try their coffee and went for a cappuccino, which I often do, when I want to try both their espresso and milk frothing/pouring skills.


So impressed was I with him, that the next time we visited Dubai Mall before the end of the holiday, I stopped there again and posted pics onto my instagram (fromcoffeewithlove). I’m not sure why they spell project the German way, but there. So, when you visit Dubai Mall, check them out at the main entrance, where al, the posh shops are and right behind the information desk.

 

Plato’s Cafe @Atlantisthepalm

Ok! I confess, we stayed at a real icon hotel in Dubai, Atlantis the Palm on the Palm Jumeirah. My daily coffee fix consisted of coffee using my aeropress, brought from Balthasar Cafe in Vienna but on one occasion I was really craving espresso based coffee. I decided to take the plunge and visit Plato’s Cafe in the West Wing. After quizzing the barista about how long she pulled an espresso shot, we decided to not agree on her 30 second shot. Next was the milk frothing and pouring interrogation – gee! I’m really a coffee snob – my wife and daughter quickly ran to sit down, rather than be associated with this coffee fanatic.So, I asked her if she could pour a tulip and she said yes and then I took the plunge.

Using illy coffee, like all the restaurants at the Atlantis, the coffee was fine but it satisfied my fix with a carefully poured cappuccino using posh villery and boch crockery – very posh indeed. Ok, so if you do visit or stay at the Atlantis, try the coffee at Platos Cafe in the West Wing.

So, that’s my take on cafes in Dubai, but I have heard that Speciality Batch will be opening a cafe very soon in Dubai, so search out for them if you live in Dubai.