Tania's Tea House in Umm Suqeim Image Credit: Supplied

The past few decades have seen a dozens of coffee shops and tea spots proliferate across Jumeirah. From the massive UAE flag all the way to the Burj Al Arab, you can barely half a kilometre down this once-quiet beachside area without hitting a café of some sort. Property Weekly speaks to some cafe owners about how they are attempting to stand out along a competitive F&B road.

Building the right menu

Product innovation can be an effective means through which to stand out in a world where social media means everyone’s a critic (or supporter). “I find great joy in concocting flavours that seem too good to be true, such as some of our most popular flavours like: cookie dough, pecan pie, cherry cheesecake, mint chocolate and chocolate,” explains Tania Lodi, Founder and Owner of Tania’s Teahouse in Umm Suqeim. These are a departure from the typical tea fare of green, black, earl grey and chamomile.

For Wajiha Ghayas, Owner of Spontiphoria, a short walk from Safa Park, most of the tea and coffee on her menu caters to the preferences of Arab and Western patrons. “From Turkish coffee to peppermint tea, we cater to everything in between, be it an Earl grey or a plain good ‘ol Karak chai.” It’s the latter, she says, that’s most popular at the café, whose name is a portmanteau of spontaneous and euphoria. “The karak has a certain creaminess of fresh milk and fresh tea leaves.” She adds that Spontiphoria’s espresso shots are popular too. “They are strong enough to give one an early morning or late afternoon pickup.”

Spontophoria is a delightful cafe and bakery close to the Safa Park Image Credit: Supplied

For Lodi, there’s also a matter of everything on the menu conforming to a particular ethos. This includes sourcing Fair Trade, ethically sourced tea; ensuring the teahouse only works with scrupulous farms; and buying organic and safe tea that is grown via eco-friendly methods.

Co-working cafe culture

There’s no doubt that the coronavirus has impacted a huge swathe of industry sectors, and F&B is no exception. Restaurants and cafes across the country were forced to close doors during the Sterilisation Programme earlier this year, and had to contend with customers being less willing to go out and socialise as usual after that. “This pandemic has affected people in a lot more ways than might be obvious,” says Ghayas.

On the work front, many companies have mandated – or at least encouraged – their employees to work from home. Yet month after month of sitting behind a laptop on a dining table or the sofa can get tedious, so cafes have begun to see an uptick in remote workers.

Letswork.io is a platform that has sought to capitalise on this trend. Once a user has downloaded the app and signed up, they can purchase a package (a single-day package is Dh39) and visit one of the platform’s partner cafes to check in to unlock various perks. These include free tea, coffee, water and Wi-Fi, as well as 20 per cent off food.

“We are now about nine months post the lockdown and work behaviour has certainly shifted dramatically,” says Darya Tajallipour, Business Development Manager at Letswork.io. She adds that while many companies are still hesitant for all their employees to return to the office, employees are fed up with their dining table-cum-home office. “We’ve seen a change in our clientele. We’re seeing a lot of corporates, international companies and teams working from our spaces. It’s important to understand that other than cabin fever, lots of customers may not have the infrastructure to work from home.”

This model, which pre-pandemic would have worked with only a tiny proportion of working professionals, has seen its customer base quickly expand over the past ten months. It’s little wonder, then, that Letswork is expanding its platform through the launch of a meeting room booking platform, which Tajallipour says is the first of its kind in the region.

The Jumeirah effect

With its large number of coffee and tea spots located close to Dubai’s coastline, Jumeirah is a ripe market for a platform like Letswork.io, which has four participating cafes here. “We can expect about 20-30 [members] working from the Jumeirah cafes on any given day.”

But what is it about Jumeirah that has drawn so many entrepreneurs to launch cafes here? “Yes, Jumeirah is home to a large number of cafés – however, each place has a certain expertise of its own,” says Ghayas, who adds that its an easily accessible locality.

The Lime Tree Café is an original Jumeirah institution. It opened next door to bookstore Magrudy’s in Jumeirah 1 over two decades ago and quickly popularity as a spot for kids and their families to refuel following a reading-cum-shopping session. The café has since expanded, opening up in several spots across newer parts of the emirate. Its gluten-free bakery caters to the health-conscious, while a savoury selection of afternoon tea treats offers a slightly more sugary rush.

Lodi says, “As someone who’s grown up in Dubai, Jumeirah is so central and something that one will always drive by. I wanted to be seen, and to be in a place that is easily accessible and near iconic buildings such as the Burj Al Arab. Being a luxe brand that promotes tea in a unique manner, I knew we had to be in a place with easy parking and a place that cannot be missed.”

Find your favourite dessert gem in Jumeirah Image Credit: Supplied

One marketing tool that both cafes have successfully leveraged is social media – and Instagram, in particular. While the Spontiphoria page is peppered with delectable cakes – which Ghayas says are the café’s forte – Tania’s Teahouse is proud to call itself the seventh most Instagrammable café in the world. “We received this international recognition after only being open for a year and a half, and were humbled to be the only cafe in the region to be featured on this list, by Big 7, and later by Daily Mail, Insider and Buzzfeed.”

Another brand with an effective Instagram game is Yamanote Atelier, a boutique Japanese bakery that has managed to amass more than 50,000 followers through pictures of delicious soft-serve ice cream, moreish fluffy pancakes and their famous cheesecake.

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