Drinking coffee with Champions: Michaela Ruazol-Recera and Mon Alpas

The champs

As promised from my last post, where I mentioned “how often do you walk into a cafe and a champion offers to make you coffee”… well it happened to me twice and here, I was served by Champions – yes that’s the plural of champion – Michaela Ruazol-Recera, UAE Barista Champion and Mon Alpas, UAE Latte Art Champion. Scrolling through Instagram, I couldn’t believe when I saw on Goldbox Roastery (one of my faves) page that both champions would be at their roastery serving coffee. I promptly informed Naveed and off we went.

To be honest I was surprised that upon arriving around 1pm, that there wasn’t a queue – definitely if this was in London, Melbourne or New York, there would have been a long queue BUT I wasn’t complaining – more time to talk to the champions and enjoy my coffee. We even had a front row seat as Michaela explained the special process of her winning coffee, la Esperanza Mandela, stored in barrels for 30 hours – which was served – listen below;

Michaela in action

Fresh from competing at the World Barista Championship and the UAE Barista Championship, which she won again, Michaela seemed excited about trying to innovate the coffee industry and during the week I was there, it was also being served at her cafe, Typica in Jumeirah (yes, I went there a few days later to have it – let’s just say it tasted like vanilla ice cream). BUT we’re not finished yet.

Two creatures

Yes, that looks amazing but have you heard of “distilled milk”? Well, I recall Naveed mentioning it to me but I had never tasted it before – in short, it’s milk that is frozen and then in this case defrosted with 50% of the water removed making it a lot creamier and sweeter. This isn’t an easy feat as I have tried to froth cream before – yes, many years ago during my inexperienced wide eye years and no, it didn’t work. So, all I can say is “hat’s off” (English colloquialism for well done) to Mon Alpas for not only frothing the milk but pouring such wonderful latte art.

Mon in action

So, we had our coffee prep and brewed on the this wonderful Modbar by the UAE Barista champion and had our milk for our cortado prep and poured by the UAE National Latteeart champion – how often do you get to experience or say that ? Online Dubai.

The taste ???

Well, here’s my reaction – need I say more.

Excited me

Okay just a little – sublime in that usually when I’ve had any kind of macerated or anaberoic coffee, it’s been filtered and you can experience this unusual fruity caramel taste but in a milk based espresso coffee, it was Wow! sometimes words are not needed – just enjoy the experience.

And I’m not finished – I so enjoyed the experience that I asked for the cappuccino version – yes, it had more milk but also more coffee….. Yummy!

Pegasus

Needless to say It was great meeting Barbara Croce, owner of Gold Box too as she was in Dubai for a few days, so I got to talk coffee geek stuff too.

Feeling jealous ? Don’t be, because this coffee will be made available at Typica if not now, then very soon as Michaela can’t wait to INSPIRE others with her new creation.

Drinking Coffee with Champions: Mariam Erin

Mariam Erin and I

A few weeks back I decided to re-visit my favourite coffee spots in Dubai and Espresso Lab was of course on the list. This time however, I went to TEL.Roastery (i.e. their roastery) and when I got there, who greeted me with a smile, Mariam Erin – the current UAE Cup Brewers Cup Champion – she won the award for making the best filter coffee – I was lucky enough to watch her compete earlier in the year. So, imagine my delight when I entered and saw her and even more so, when she offered to make me coffee – how could I say no to that.

The champ in action

On the brew was a special – it’s always special at Espresso Lab – coffee from Panama – a Geisha of course. Her recipe was 16g using 240ml of water with a brewing time of approximately 2 minutes.

The smell was unbelievably fruity with citrus high notes, which made my eyes and tongue water and so was the taste.

Then she offered to make me a cortado – again I could’t resist using an Ethiopian Hambela bean. Again another fab experience.

I have to say that only is Mariam great at making coffee, but she makes it with ease in a cool and collected manner. I recall that when I watched her on her way to be crowned champion, she spoke very clearly and articulated her passion, drawing you into the experience of the coffee she selected whilst brewing the coffee. I have to add too that she’s a great artist – check her on instagram.

All in all, I could say was, Thank God, as how often do you walk into a cafe and a champion offers to make you not one but two cups of coffee – well it happened again, but to read about that, wait for the next post.

I was at Gold Box Coffee Roastery in Dubai

Finally!

Ever since I heard about Gold Box Roastery in 2016, I have been trying effortlessly to visit them. However, the main reason I was unable to visit them in the past 3 years was because although they open for 6 days a week, they are always closed  Fridays and whenever I used to stopover in Dubai for 48 hours, the only full day I had was, Friday. So, on this occasion, as my stopover was from Saturday to Sunday and when asked by my friend where I wanted to go, I naturally said, “let’s try Gold box roastery”.

Situated in Warehouse #7, Building: SMARK 3, Umm Suqeim Rd. East, Near Mall of Emirates Next to Warehouse Gym Al Quoz Industrial Third, the industrial but arty district of Dubai, you could easily miss Gold Box roastery, like we almost did – google maps isn’t always the best for this part of Dubai. Luckily as determined as we were, we found it. As you enter, you could be excused for thinking you’ve walked into a coffee warehouse – right in front of you is a custom made purple La Marzocco GS3 espresso machine – giving the indication that pouring 100s of cups of coffee per day is not their focus. Behind the barista station, also decked out with filter brewing options and a mahl konig grinder, is where the action is, as you can just glimpse the coffee roasters – yes, there’s more than one – this is a coffee roastery. To the left of you, you will see bags and bags of coffee sacks, containing waiting to be roasted green coffee from al over the World, selected carefully by the owner.

The sitting area is small, decked with their theme, purple. Whilst visiting, the customers that stopped by, were regulars, stopping over on their way to somewhere, sitting briefly to drink their “black gold” or buying lots of bags of wholesome coffee to take home.

On the right is an impressive array of coffees on sale with an enticing logo to accompany the delicious coffee beans inside. If you just edge your eyes atop of the coffee bag rows you will see a placard – owner, Barbara Croce awarded as a Q Arabica Grader by the Coffee Quality Institute – now if you don’t know what that it is, here a short explanation

The certification is useful for purchasing coffee, selecting roast profiles and production/processing methods, understanding coffee origins, and more. It allows (them) to communicate objectively about quality throughout the entire coffee supply chain. (source: perfectlydailygrind.com)

In short, Q-graders are like the superheroes of the coffee industry. It allows them, once qualified to detect quality right through the coffee process, enabling them to know how to choose coffee and grade it for its quality, let alone, know how to get the best out of the coffee.a custom made purple La Marzocco GS3 espresso machine – giving the indication that pouring 100s of cups of coffee per day is not their focus. In short, Barbara is really serious about her coffee

But wait, there’s more.

I walk over to a lady and exclaim, finally I have found this place after many years of trying – I noticed that the lady had an air about her, relaxed but confident. To my pleasant surprise it was none other than Barbara herself. Great! first of all we just about find the place and secondly, I get to meet the owner herself.

In fact, to the detriment of my friend, even though he was very polite about it, Barbara and I spend the next 1-2 hours talking about coffee – I learn about there commitment, her vision to make the Dubai roastery world class (her first one is in Newcastle, north England), her family history in coffee, her commitment to understanding coffee by living on an actual farm for a few months, her expansion plans, right opposite their current site, which will become a training school too, the expertise of her staff (one of them Lyndon Recera was UAE barista champion for 3 years in a row until last year – see my previous post on Typica) and much, much more.

It’s only after chatting for a while, that I noticed that I hand’t even had my cup of gold.

I chose a fruity blend as I actually like fruity blends in my milk based coffee. Afterwards, I looked at the impressive display of coffee and was totally spoilt for choice, so of course I ask Barbara to advise me, as I wanted a coffee that would be great for espresso and filter, so I selected the Bolivian Caranavi with tasting notes of fig, dark chocolate and nougat to name a few.

Just before we left, Barbara kindly gave me the invite only to the opening of Typica (previous post), as I presume she had detected a real coffee nerd in me.

Definitely one of my best coffee experiences and looking forward to hearing more from them and their new barista academy.

Read more and order coffee from them on their website https://www.goldboxroastery.com/uae/roastery

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

 

 

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