Dubai: In the last few years, coffee culture has taken on a decidedly different face in the UAE, with cafes flourishing across the neighbourhoods. In Dubai specifically, the cafe scene is thriving. While you can still order a slow drip, flat white or French press at super-speed - there’s now a new focus that’s drifting away from the fast coffee trends, towards a slower, more of a “walk-in-off-the-street” coffee experience.
Coffee shops are now sewn into the fabric of the growing community. People here don’t just love coffee, they love the entire experience that goes with consuming this popular beverage. While coffee still remains the central focus, many cafes now provide comfort and convenience. Free wireless services, couches, music, newspapers and even books in some cases. People are flocking to these coffee shops for everything from work meetings to socialising or getting some time to themselves. A strong presence of Arab expats has also boosted sales of freshly roasted beans here in the UAE.
The Department of Economic Development (DED), looked into the most popular business outlets of the country and they revealed in 2019 that coffee shops were rated the highest in a qualitative analysis of consumer experience across Dubai. The demand for high-quality coffee has gone up over the last two years a report by Euromonitor noted. The market research company also highlighted an increase in the licences issued to UAE cafes. There is a definite demand for coffee and the high cost of specialty coffee hasn’t stopped people from enjoying their cuppa.
A typical cup of coffee from a corner cafe, costs more on average in Dubai than in nearly all of the world’s most expensive cities. Buying a cup of coffee in Dubai can cost an average of Dh17. Other cities like Hong Kong, where the cost of living is the world’s highest, the same cup costs Dh15.
Although specialty coffee shops are all the rage right now, we cannot forget the love that the UAE has for the original Arabic coffee. Arabic culture dictates that as a sign of hospitality and welcome, one should serve coffee to guests. The word 'coffee' comes from the Arabic word Qahwa. In Arab countries across the Middle East, specifically in Saudi Arabia and in the UAE, offering a visitor coffee is the epitome of warm hospitality and tradition. Most Arabs consume two types of coffees; Arabic coffee (Al-Qahwa) and Turkish coffee. While Arabic coffee is served using deeply roasted beans and cardamom, Turkish coffee is prepared by mixing water with finely ground beans.
The tradition of having Arabic coffee is traced 600 years back and is still a sign of Arabian hospitality today. According to Bennett Alan Weinberg, author of The World of Caffeine, the earliest evidence of people drinking coffee was from the mid 15th century in Mocha, Yemen.
It was the first time that coffee seeds were roasted over a fire and brewed with water. They were exported from East Africa to Yemen, as Yemeni traders took the beans back to their homeland and began to grow the coffee tree, known as ‘Coffea Arabica’.
Most coffee lovers have at least tried the Mocha variant at least once in their life, but people never realised that this incredibly popular coffee has its roots in the port city of Mocha in Yemen. Not to be confused with the chocolate flavoured coffee, Mocha coffee is slightly acidic and is believed to be one of the first coffees to be cultivated on earth. Authentic Yemeni Mocha coffee is expensive and highly valued by coffee connoisseurs. Most people are familiar with the famous brown and oval-shaped coffee bean, but not many have actually seen where it comes from.
Before you can enjoy roasting the coffee bean, it is first picked off the coffee tree as a round reddish coffee cherry. The coffee tree, also known as the ‘genus Coffea’ is naturally found in Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Comoros and the Reunion by the Indian Ocean. Nowadays the coffee tree grows in countries all over the world, predominantly in South American countries near the equator as well as Southeast Asia, India and Africa.
There are more than 6,000 species of coffee plants, with at least 25 major types. The two most frequently grown coffee trees are the ‘Coffea Arabica’ and the ‘Coffea Robusta’.
Coffea Arabica is a highly regarded coffee tree that produces 70 per cent of the world’s coffee. Originating from Ethiopia, the beans that come out of the Coffea Arabica tend to make a fine, mild and aromatic coffee. Arabica coffee is expensive in the world market. The high price is because the Coffea Arabica trees are costly to foster and grow.
The ideal environment for the growth of the Arabica coffee tree is thousands of metres above sea level, in an area where temperatures are mild throughout the year, and where it rains no more than 60 inches annually. Additionally, Arabica trees are sensitive to diseases, so they usually need a lot of care and attention. Arabica is a large bush, grown at 600 to 2,000 metres above sea level in Latin America, central and east Africa, Asia and Oceania.
Coffea Robusta is a less sophisticated yet more robust coffee tree. Its beans produce the remaining 30 per cent of the world’s coffee. Robusta coffee is what you normally find in blends for instant coffees. The coffea Robusta tree mainly grows in Central and Western Africa, parts of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia and Vietnam, and in South America, specifically in Brazil.
The Robusta bean is somewhat rounder and smaller in size than an Arabica bean. It costs less to maintain the Robusta tree, because the plant itself is stronger and more resistant to diseases. It can also grow in low altitudes and in hotter temperatures. Robusta tree is a bush or small tree and is grown between sea level and 800 metres above. It requires 60 inches of rainfall annually.
To the coffee purist, Arabica is undoubtedly the preferred bean. The big difference and why the flavours are far more pronounced in Arabica beans is because Arabica has 44 chromosomes and Robusta has 22. Robusta has a naturally earthy taste. The process of growing the coffee trees to the final step of sipping the coffee is a lengthy process. Starting from scratch, it can take around four years to yield the end result.
The coffee tree takes approximately 3 to 4 years to bear the cherry fruit. The tree is grown by planting the coffee bean in large beds in shaded nurseries.
2. Harvesting and Peeling
The cherries can only be picked once they are a deep red colour. Once ripe the cherries are picked (usually by hand) and dried by being spread out on large trays to dry in the sun.
After the coffee cherries are dried, they become known as coffee seeds. These seeds are then put through machines and the outer layers are peeled off.
At this point in time the coffee seed is known as green coffee. They are filled into large sacks and loaded in containers to be exported to their country of destination.
Before the green coffee is roasted in large batches once it arrives at its destination, a small amount is taken and tested by special coffee experts known as cuppers. The beans are roasted in a special laboratory and brewed. The cupper then smells and tastes the coffee in a special way that evenly distributes the liquid all over the taste buds on their tongue.
5. Roasting and grinding
Once the coffee passes the taste test, the green coffee beans are then roasted in large roasting machines, which transforms it into aromatic brown coffee beans that you can buy at stores. This is usually always done in the exported country, so that the coffee can reach consumers as fresh as possible. The main goal of grinding the coffee is to get the most flavour in your cup. Whether it is ground coarsely or fine depends on the preference and brewing method.
This is done in different ways, depending on what kind of coffee is being made and used. Traditionally coffee is made in a coffee pot, where the ground coffee is added to hot water.
Nothing makes coffee lovers light up more than the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans wafting through the air. That is the feeling you get when you step into any Emirati majlis. The smell of freshly brewed Arabic coffee will also have hints of cardamom, saffron and sometimes cinnamon. The beans from the coffea Arabica tree are the ones used to make Arabic coffee. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of sipping on Arabic coffee, then you might have noticed an entire cultural ritual that goes into making, serving and drinking the coffee.
Arabic coffee is served from a specially shaped coffee pot known as the ‘dallah’. The dallah is usually made from copper and iron, however it could also be made of precious metals. The dallah has a unique shape; it features a bulbous body that reduces to a waistline in the middle and flares out at the top. The most distinguishing feature is a long spout with a crescent-shaped beak. Everyone living in the UAE has most likely seen what the dallah looks like, since it is depicted on one side of the UAE Dirham coin. The coffee can be prepared and kept in the dallah all day, where it is designed to stay hot and fresh. The coffee is then enjoyed in small cups known as a 'Fenjan'.
The most common way to enjoy Arabic coffee is with a side of dates, dried fruit and nuts. There are strict rules of etiquette that must be observed when serving and drinking Arabic coffee. Doing it any other way is considered very rude. Most Emiratis, especially the older generation, prefer having their coffee infused with saffron and cardamom, while the younger Emiratis like it with a hint of sugar and generally less spice.
There is no specific time during the day to enjoy Arabic coffee, as it is a versatile beverage enjoyed during any occasion or no occasion at all. Drinking Arabic coffee is strongly connected to socializing with friends, family and business partners. It is consumed at weddings, evening gatherings and even at funerals.
Arabic coffee serving etiquette
It takes some skill and practice to serve Arabic coffee like a pro. The coffee is usually served from the right side of the room to the left. The server must always hold the dallah in the left hand while the Fenjan cups are always stacked on top of each other in the right hand. The last Fenjan on the bottom of the stack should never be used to serve a guest. It should only ever be used as a tray for all the other Fenjan cups.
A professional Arabic coffee server will pour the coffee at a distance of one foot. The Fenjan should only be filled 2/3 of the way with coffee. Never fill the cup completely. It is considered rude in Emirati culture.
Traditionally, the right hand is the one used to receive the coffee, and to lift the Fenjan to one’s mouth. Drinking with the left hand is considered rude.
If offered Arabic coffee, a guest should always accept at least one cup. Depending on the circumstances and length of visit, it is customary for guests to drink three or four cups in a single stay.
Because the cups are small in size, it is considered etiquette to always go around and keep pouring out the portions until the guest shakes his cup to signal he has had enough. To indicate that you have finished and would like a refill, place your cup on the table or serving plate and swirl it 180 degrees. This tells your host that you’re ready for more.
Arabic Coffee in 5 Simple Steps
3 cups of water
3 tbsp. of finely-ground Arabic coffee beans
1 tbsp. of ground cardamom
1 traditional coffee pot (Dallah)
Small Serving Cups (Fenjan)
1. Prepare the Cardamom
You could purchase ground cardamom, or grind the seeds yourself at home with a mortar and pestle.
2. Bring the water to boil
Heat 3 cups of water in a kettle or pour into the dallah and heat it on the stove until it starts to boil. Remove it from the stove.
3. Add the coffee grinds
Add the coffee to the water (without stirring it) and return it to the stove. When the water starts to boil again, reduce the heat in order to allow your coffee to brew. This should be a 10 minute process.
4. Add the Cardamom
Remove the dallah from the stove and sprinkle the ground cardamom on top and return coffee to the stove once again.
Remove the dallah from the stovetop and let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes in order to allow the coffee to seep and for the grounds to settle on the bottom of the pot.
Turkish coffee is a strong, rather bitter beverage, traditionally served black and sweetened according to taste. It is prepared in a small pot that is sufficient to produce several servings. Contrary to common knowledge, Turkish coffee is actually not a type of coffee, it is a method of coffee preparation.
Any type of coffee bean can be used for Turkish coffee, as long as it ground to the finest possible powder. Turkish coffee is a style of coffee commonly enjoyed by many in the UAE and Middle East. The texture is heavier than the light Arabic, American and European coffee. It is an unfiltered coffee roasted and then finely ground. It is added to water and simmered, not boiled, in a pot called ‘Cezve’ in Turkish and ‘Kanaka’ in Arabic. The coffee is then poured in a small cup (Fenjan) with a little handle.
Turkish coffee in four simple steps
2. Turkish coffee - Very finely ground dark roast, or medium roast coffee
1. Add room temperature water to the coffee pot (about 50 ml per cup of coffee desired) and bring to boil on the stove or use kettle boiled coffee for a faster process.
2. Add two or three teaspoons of coffee to the water in a coffee pot while stirring to blend it in. Optional: Add sugar to taste.
3. Boil coffee while stirring it in for about 30 seconds, then watch until first boil.
4. Remove the coffee pot from heat immediately after bringing to a first boil. Place the coffee pot back immediately on the stove after removing it for a quick second boil then remove and leave the coffee pot on the side for approximately 3-5 minutes for the coffee powder to settle, then serve.
Most of the time Arabic and Turkish coffees are made by hand, while other coffee types, such as espressos, cappuccinos and lattes are made using coffee machines. The history of the coffee machine dates back to 1840.
1. Vacuum coffee maker
The Vacuum Coffee Machine was developed in 1840 and was made up of two vessels. The machine works by heating water in the lower placed vessel, until the water expands because of the heat and gets forced through a narrow tube up into the vessel that contains the ground. When the lower vessel becomes empty, and the coffee is brewed, a vacuum would pull the coffee back through a strainer into the lower vessel, where it gets decanted and can be drunk properly.
Percolators were invented in 1865 in Illinois, USA by a man named Hanson Goodrich. A percolator is divided up into two compartments. One compartment is for the water, while the other compartment is where the ground beans are. The water is heated and then forced through a metal tube into a brew basket containing the coffee. The extracted liquid is then drained from the brew basket, where it drips back into the pot. People still use percolators nowadays and the modern version of it is found in many European homes.
3. Electric drip coffee makers
An electric drip coffee maker normally works by taking cold water from the left chamber of the machine through a metal tube into the right chamber of the machine, where the ground coffee is located. The water is heated as it runs through the metal tube through thermally induced pressure. The heated water moves through the machine and is sprayed onto the ground coffee. Once the coffee and the water are mixed, they are filtered and end up in the final pot, where it can be enjoyed.
4. French press
A French press coffee maker is a relatively simple and electricity free machine. Coffee is brewed by placing the coffee and water together, stirring it and leaving to brew for a few minutes, then pressing the plunger to trap the coffee grounds at the bottom of the beaker.
5. Espresso Machine
To make more complicated cups of coffee like the espresso, we have to thank a man named Angelo Moriondo. In 1884 he built and patented the machine in Turin, Italy. Espresso machines today still work with the same concept as 150 years ago. The espresso coffee variant is made by using pressure to force steam into the chamber containing coffee grounds in order to yield a thick, concentrated coffee. The machine gained popularity in 1903, when it was improved and commercialized by Luigi Bezzera in Milan, Italy.
6 of the most popular types of coffee
There are mainly 6 popular types of American and European coffee types that people in the UAE drink. Most coffee shops will have large coffee grinding machines, large industrial sized espresso machines and milk foaming machines to make different variants of coffee.
Because people are no longer satisfied with the simple cup of black coffee, people have experimented with hundreds of different ways to enjoy java. Out of many coffee related tests and trials over the years, these are the six most popular types of coffees that are commonly served in coffee shops.
Espresso is the basis of almost all kinds of American and European coffees. An Espresso is an intense coffee experience. It is very strong, black and is made through the use of powerful steam and dark-roast coffee beans. Most purists will have the espresso as it is. A small shot of the coffee with a small splash of milk to add a visible mark on the surface of the coffee. Espressos are universally served in 30ml or 60ml cups.
Cappuccinos are one of the most popular coffee drinks and a staple in almost every coffee shop. A cappuccino is an equal mixture of espresso, steamed milk and froth. It does not taste as strong as the espresso, which is why it is a more popular choice.
An Americano is made with one shot of espresso with an added cup of hot water. A favourite of those who are dairy intolerant and prefer a low calorie way to stay awake. Some people add sugar and cream to their Americanos for more flavour.
A cafe latte is made up of one shot of espresso with three parts of steamed milk added to it. Lattes are some of the most popular types of coffees enjoyed all over the world.
Cafe au Lait
A traditionally French beverage that is almost like the cafe latte, but is made with brewed coffee as the base, rather than the espresso. It is a weaker form of cafe latte with less caffeine.
Not as readily available as its predecessors, the ‘mochachino’ is basically a cappuccino or a Cafe Latte with the addition of chocolate powder or syrup in order to sweeten the deal for chocolate lovers.
How to make the base for any coffee: The perfect espresso
Brewing the perfect cup depends on several factors and these are not just to do with coffee. The time of day, the atmospheric pressure and the humidity all have a role to play. Meticulous attention is paid to every aspect of the process.
Espresso making is a fine art where the barista is but one in a chain of coffee experts among growers, buyers and roasters — to mention a few — who make the perfect cup possible.
Preparing espresso and espresso-based drinks consists of three main parts. These are extraction, milk texturing and pouring and cleaning. The extraction is the process in which the oils are pressured out of the roasted coffee grinds using hot water. The thick honey-like oil drips out of the handle and leaves a reddish brown crema on top of the espresso. This process takes approximately 20 to 30 seconds and yields a 30ml shot of espresso.
The main factors to control extraction are dose (the volume of grounds in the coffee handle), tamp (applying firm even pressure on the dose using a tamper) and grind.
In milk texturing, cold full-fat milk produces the best results, creating a smooth, creamy consistency with no visible bubbles. There are three parts to texturing milk. These are stretching, heat and pouring. Each of these are performed at the same time to offer an exquisite fern and other patterns on cappuccinos and lattes.
Most specialty coffee shops in the UAE grind their beans in house, in order to yield the freshest possible flavour. If you want the very best cup of coffee, you need to grind the beans moments before brewing. Local coffee shops use large industrial coffee grinders to achieve fresh cups of coffee on a daily basis.
There are two different types of coffee grinders. One is called a Blade Grinder and the other one is called a Burr Grinder.
Blade grinders are quite simple to use and are commonly the ones that people have in their homes, because they are easy to use and are also quite inexpensive.
A blade grinder usually has a clear plastic top so you can see the propeller type blade slice and grind the coffee bean. Similar to a food processor. The coffee you yield is usually good enough to make black coffee, but it wouldn’t be fine enough to use in an espresso or a cappuccino.
Burr Grinders on the other hand are for a more precise grind and usually the ones used in larger coffee shops. A burr grinder will grind coffee accurately for any purpose from French Press to Espresso to Turkish. The results are finer ground beans.
Coffee is not considered harmful if consumed in moderation, claim medical professionals. Along with caffeine, coffee beans also contain antioxidants and nutrients beneficial for the body. The addition of additives, sugar, and milk, however, takes away from its benefits. The best way to benefit from coffee is to drink it black with no sugar, cream, or artificial sweeteners. He also claims that organic coffee is the best way to go.
A study, led by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and Imperial College London, examined more than half a million people across 10 countries in Europe.
Those who drank about three cups a day tended to live longer than non-coffee drinkers, said the study, which researchers described as the largest analysis of the effects of coffee-drinking in a European population.
“We found that higher coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, and specifically for circulatory diseases, and digestive diseases,” said lead author Marc Gunter of the IARC, formerly at Imperial’s School of Public Health.
The second study included more than 180,000 participants of various ethnic backgrounds in the United States.
It found benefits to longevity whether the coffee was caffeinated or decaffeinated.
Coffee drinkers had a lower risk of death due to heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and respiratory and kidney disease.
Those who drank one cup a day were 12 per cent less likely to die compared to those who didn’t drink coffee.
Those who drank two or three cups per day saw an even higher 18 per cent reduced risk of death.
What is organic coffee?
For coffee to be organic, many factors need to be considered. According to the Organic Food Production Act of 1990, if you want to yield organic coffee beans you need to start with the source that feeds the coffee tree. The fertilizer that is added to the soil in which the coffee tree grows needs to be organic. The fertilizers are not allowed to contain any synthetic nitrogen, phosphate or potash.
Once the coffee cherries are harvested off the trees, there are strict regulations on how they should be handled. Coffee beans are usually sorted by hand in a fair trade coffee plantation, where none of the workers have had exposure to any chemicals. As a result organic coffee beans are produced in a clean environment, including fresh air, land, and water. Organic coffee beans are full of healthy antioxidants. Most people can taste the difference between normal and organic coffee.
Is coffee healthy?
Even though caffeine is a diuretic, which forces water to be excreted in urine, our bodies quickly compensate. So, coffee has a net hydrating effect. The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee depends on the type of beans or leaves used to make the beverage. One cup of coffee can contain between 90mg to 200mg of caffeine.
The right proportion of fruits, vegetables and proteins in a daily diet can confine coffee to an enjoyable cuppa rather than an addictive habit. Coffees in supermarkets contain preservatives to ensure a longer shelf life, so the best way to drink coffee, and to keep its nutrients, is to enjoy a brew with freshly-ground seeds.
Some other benefits of coffee include: Improved mood, reaction time, memory and mental function. People trying to lose weight should also consider drinking coffee, since it increases a person’s metabolic rate and fat burning. Coffee also reduces the risk of mild depression.
The benefits of caffeinated coffee are more prevalent than the benefits of decaffeinated coffee. Some people enjoy the taste of coffee, but do not want to consume caffeine. “Decaf” is the term commonly used for decaffeinated coffee. It is made up of coffee beans that are 97 per cent caffeine free.
The caffeine is removed by washing the coffee beans in organic solvents that strip the bean from its caffeine. They are then roasted and ground like regular coffee, but the taste and smell may be slightly milder. A decaf coffee is not completely caffeine free, since it contains about 3 mg of caffeine.
Both regular coffee and decaf coffee are full of antioxidants and nutrients. Decaf coffee losses a small amount of its antioxidants during the decaffeination process. The main antioxidants in regular and decaf coffee are hydroxycinnamic acids and polyphenols. Both are important in the reduction of free radicals in the body. Coffee may help prevent diseases like heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. One typical side effect of drinking coffee is heartburn or acid reflux.
In a world without coffee
We asked our readers what they would do if they lived in a world without coffee. For some, the morning does not even start until they’ve had their morning fix, while others seemed okay without the addictive beverage.
Rik Singh, Graphic Designer in Brisbane, Australia
“Without coffee, I would be bereft of these delightful pleasures that make life an enriching experience on a regular basis. Not to mention missing out on the heady aroma and rich taste of this wonderful brew! I am here in Dubai on a visit, and my fiancée and I have been doing a lot of coffeeing around as we chat up and try getting to know each other better. I find the coffee culture quite vibrant out here and wished I could have checked out an Arabic coffee cafe by the roadside, but then time has been short this time… maybe on my next visit!”
Lovetto Nazareth, Communications Executive
“Life without coffee would be one long day in slow motion. Instead, people would take time off to maybe smoke cigarettes. Cigarette companies would make a killing, with some craving for nicotine in the absence of caffeine. Brooke Bong will be the most profitable company in the world and Bill Gates would be displaced as the world’s richest man. I will make a gazillion bucks doing advertising campaigns for caffeine supplements and marketing them as the next best thing to coffee!”
Namdar Fereidooni, Trades Manager
“Life would be no different for me without coffee, as I would drink tea instead! Though I do like coffee, it upsets my stomach and is not as beneficial as tea. However, I do crave coffee for some reason. If you took away Coke though, that would be a devastating blow, as Coke is my first love among all.”
Sabitra Chatterjee, Sales and Marketing Manager
I would not like to link 'coffee' with 'life' and scare potential wannabes out there. It’s too gentle a drink for that kind of pressure! The vibrant atmosphere of the 'Coffee House' in Calcutta is what induced me to my first habitual cup of 'Infusion' (without milk). From then on, I have been on three cups a day and still going strong. But when the selling gets tough the coffee keeps me going. The ups and downs of life somehow seem easier to handle with the first sip. I chat better and simultaneously give more time to my thoughts with a cuppa of the brew.”
Paul Smith, Third Secretary British Embassy
“If life without coffee would mean that people no longer had to pay a steep price for coffee in some cafe’s then I would say it would be for the better. So, a life without coffee for me would mean drinking more tea.