Tag Archives: Dubai

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.

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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

 

 

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Getting a Good Cup of Coffee in Dubai: RAW Coffee Company

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When you think of Dubai, you may think of Toobuy and many moons ago, when I thought about opening up a speciality coffee shop somewhere in the World, I thought about Dubai. Well, why not – they had big shopping malls, flashy cars, the best paid expatriates with tons of perks, a growing coffee lifestyle market, the highest amount of 5 starts hotels with the highest occupancy rates in the World at that time and even now the tallest building in the World, BUT they didn’t have good coffee.

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Sure, all the major coffee chains from the UK and the US are there but still, not good coffee. So, I thought, let’s break the bean and start something special. In any case, as you know, I chose Cape Town to pursue my dream (I sold Escape Caffe in February this year) but I’m glad to report that someone else beat me to it a few years back, RAW Coffee – at this moment, the only speciality coffee operator in Dubai, focusing on sourcing fair trade and organic coffees and roasted locally in Dubai – located at Warehouse 10, Al Manara, al Quoz – in an industrial complex of the very busy Shaykh Zayed Road.

I like what they’ve done with the place to make it feel more authentic – first of all it’s in a converted warehouse – as you enter on the left, there’s the La Marzocco Strada machine to make espresso based coffee and other gadgets as well as a brew bar with an Uber boiler to help make pour-over coffee.

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On the right they have a “green” living wall and some chairs. Walking through to the back, on the left hand side of the warehouse/shop, there’s a glass enclave featuring not one, but three coffee roasters – so they import and roast all their coffees (When the proprietor, Kim started, she only had one Probat, now she’s expanded to another two, a giant 18kg Coffee Tool roaster and a smaller Dietrich sample roaster).

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I think the main reason for this is that they also supply some restaurants – a list of their customers is on their website. Dotted around on the ground floor to add more authenticity are heaps of green coffee sacks. Right at the back of the shop, there are some stairs to a small sitting and workshop area at the top, overlooking the rest of the shop. You can sit and drink coffee from a very authentic solid wood table or relax on some bean bags. In any case, if there’s more than 4 of you, I would recommended sitting upstairs and chilling out.

Now, to the coffee. Upon entry, I ordered a flat white as I usually do to test out their milk frothing and latte art skills. I noticed that another customer was very impressed with the latte art as he kept looking at it and I silently thought “Erm! I know this is new to you, but eventually you’re going to have to drink it”.

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Lots more people, mainly expatriates, shuffled in briefly to buy bags of coffee. For my second test – I usually order a pour over to test the roasters skill with the bean and have to confess, I thought the coffee a little too darkly roasted for me – it was good with milk but as a pour over, pure black, slightly bitter with no delicate notes picked up. I quizzed the barista present as to how he prepared my coffee and in conclusion the water was too hot (over 92C) and the dimensions (20g with 200ml water) way too high. He apologises profusely and my cousin, accompanying me for his first speciality latte (he is used to chain style coffee) bought two 500g bags of coffee for me to take back to Vienna, so that appeased the barista somewhat.

I would have loved to have met Kim but it was Friday afternoon and I guess her time off.

In any case, to the best of my knowledge, if you want a speciality coffee experience in glitzy and flashy glass skyscrapers Dubai, I recommend you escape into RAW coffee.

Visit them online at www.rawcoffeecompany.com to order coffee and get directions to where they are. They’re open 7 days a week; offer barista courses and sell all types of equipment for the very keen home barista.

 

 


Bean There – Dean & Deluca, Dubai

Following up on my promise, made in my post of 17 October 2008, to update you on the new Dean & Deluca Cafe, which recently opened in Dubai, I was lucky enough on my way back from Sudan (last post) to Vienna, to stopover in Dubai and as I didn’t want to let my readers down (what few they are), here’s my brief story of my visit.

I don’t want to go into too much details, but Dean & Deluca are a famous New York Cafe/Deli, with international branches in Japan only, until the branch, situated at the Souk-al-Bahar, Old Town Commercial Island, Burj Dubai, opened in Dubai this year. The Souk-al-Bahar is designed internally to look like, wait for it, an old Arabian souk (i.e a group of street shops in English). It’s quite a new place, dotted with shops you will recognise and with expensive souvenirs with dark calm interiors.

Dean & Deluca have got a really great spot in the Souk al-Bahar as it is one of a very few eating spots to have an outside balcony. Inside the shop is your typical black and white New York Deli interior and furniture. They’ve got a La Marzocco coffee machine and as it was still before 12pm, I decided to order a cappuccino. I ordered a regular, but was surprised by the rather biggish size of what I got, more for me I thought, unless they thought I was some kind of reviewer, but I wasn’t dressed as one. In any case, as usual I did my “Hey ! please tamp my coffee grounds properly before you place it into the porta-filter” routine and the barista kinda got the idea that I was serious about my coffee, even going as far to ask if I wanted milk with less fat in it for my frothed milk – of course I said no, as I only like the good full fat stuff. In any case, the coffee wasn’t bad, strongish enough to taste it with all that frothed milk.

The counter is decorated with colourful fairy cakes and they also have a shelf of some tasty bits and pieces right in front of the barista counter. Of course they sell their own brand/roast of coffee, which make lovely gifts as they are nicely packaged, but as a bit of a fuss pot and seeing that they were roasted in mid-June 2008 and it was December 2008, I resisted temptation and just took a picture of the shelf.

If you want to sit outside in the cooler months, which runs from about November to April, then their balcony sitting area is quite nice.

However, if that wasn’t enough and you are into a bit of sight seeing, then Dean & Deluca have the best spot to view the tallest building in the World, the Burj, which sits right in front of the balcony sitting area, Wow !

I recommend Dean & Deluca for a nice place to sit, eat breakfast and enjoy coffee – it is definitely on the list for my “drinking like an escapist” along the lines of “drinking African/South American coffee in a New York style deli in an Arabian dessert/sea resort in front of the tallest building in the World” Now Escape………and I think you get the picture of the place quite literally.


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.