Photo for illustrative purposes Image Credit: Pixabay

Brew it, shake it, stir it, drink it, gulp it…it’s not just time to wake up and smell the coffee but also to appreciate its kunafa-like layers that drip, drip, drip flavour.

It’s true, the world has been building up to this point, ever since the first coffee beans were discovered; legend has it they were found in Ethiopia thanks to some overzealous goats. But over time, from the Devil’s drink to the morning’s saving grace, the brew has earned many new monikers.

Each step of that transition came with innovation, greatly appreciated the world over. In Dubai, demand for the goods - powdered coffee and coffee beans - has grown rapidly, culminating in a Cagr of around 8.4 per cent from 2011 to 2016. These sales were valued at around Dh2.25 billion, according to statistics by the Dubai Chambers of Commerce.

According to Euromonitor International, the UAE is in a region that accounts for 8 per cent of the $85 billion globally spent by consumers of coffee.

That’s about $ 6.5 billion.

This year, Dubai took its love for the drink-with-the-caffeine-hit to a new level, with a ‘Dubai Loves Coffee’ competition organised by Brand Dubai. The winners - Nightjar, PDL Coffee, Farmers, The Espresso Lab, Home Bakery and AlChemy - are now at the Amsterdam Coffee Festival, which celebrates the tradition and changes in the coffee industry and which has more than a hundred artisan roasters and equipment makers in attendance.

This fest has about 4,000 industry experts from independent cafes, branded coffee chains, contract caterers, hotel and restaurant groups and retail weighing in on the latest happenings.

Changing grounds – from Dubai to Amsterdam

Winners of the “Dubai Loves Coffee” competition with Nehal Badri and Ayesha bin Kalli Image Credit: Supplied

The Dubai Loves Coffee competition was launched last year in December and saw the participation of 23 speciality shops. There was a free and fair ballot. And the winners at the polls – picked by about 7,000 voters – won a spot at the 2019 Amsterdam Festival.

Who won what? And why should you care?

ALCHEMY

Winner of: Best Milk-based Coffee

Fred Owino, who is representing the brand at the coffee festival, says he’s been in the business for about eight years. And like its namesake, the brand is all about experimentation and getting the balance just right. Its space in Dubai is a converted villa with floor-to-ceiling windows in Jumeirah, and the firm’s managers are going for artisanal coffee served in a minimalist setting.

What are they known for? AlChemy sources its coffee from different single origin farms, using multiple international roasters in Europe and the local Cypher Roastery in Dubai. Oh, and they offer oat milk.

Owino, who is excited about Amsterdam’s possibility of networking, faces challenges such as innovation and research – things that always seem overwhelming until they are over, post which they are gratifying.

A good cup coffee can be from the coffee beans, from the barista and the equipment that you use. But more, of course, from the water that you use.

- Fred Owino

FARMERS COFFEE

Winner of: Best Special Drink for Organic white latte and Organic salted caramel

Faisal Ahli, from Farmers Coffee, is quick to call this award and subsequent travel special; it’s the company’s first trophy. “I’m very proud to be here today, representing Dubai and representing what Dubai brands can do,” he says.

The credo of the company is to keep it healthy, simple and organic. “Many commercial cafes have drinks that are not healthy or are not beneficial to the customer. So we created the healthy and organic concept – which really faced challenges,” he recalls.

For now, this firm uses Saudi roasters Camel Step coffee beans who employ a fair direct-trade method while offering high-quality beans.

HOME BAKERY

Winner of: Best Milk-Based Coffee

In June 2014, two Emirati siblings decided to dip their toes into the slowly growing pool of coffee servers in Dubai. “Home Bakery we started off with commercial coffee in the beginning and we saw the plan moved to specialty coffee, which required a greater understanding of specialty coffee,” explains co-founder Abdulla Al Mulla. [His sibling is Hind Al Mulla.]”.

“It was a stressful experience, but we learned a lot from it,” says Abdulla, whose company sources beans from Brazil, Ethiopia and Columbia.

The next step, he says, is creating new, locally-influenced flavours. “Pistachio, saffron…” he says. Oud-flavoured coffee, anyone?

NIGHTJAR

Winner of: Best Overall Speciality Coffee Concept

Antony Papandreou, Head Roaster if Nightjar, has been bitten by the Dubai bug: to be better than everyone else. He sees his trip to the Netherlands as a way to compare Nightjar, which sits in Alserkal Avenue, to the trends rippling through the rest of the world. “Dubai is bit of an isolated market at times so when you come to a place like Amsterdam which has a very exciting coffee scene, we can basically compare ourselves and our company with what other companies around the world do. It’s also a great opportunity to touch base with machine manufacturers, different producers with different equipment just to see if we can be improving on what we are doing in Dubai,” he explains.

That, and it’s a beautiful city, he says.

Tap into this company’s Nitro Cold Brews for a cool taste of delicious things to come.

PDL COFFEE Co & BARBERSHOP

Winner of: Best Overall Speciality Coffee Concept

For military men Essa Al Marzoogi, Majid Bin Suloom, and Ahmed Iqbal Khoory, it’s important to feel a part of a community. And some things they feel bring people together are the elements they incorporate into their shop PDL. “Our coffee journey started when we were in military service. We started in early 2016, we had a lot of time and we had a break so we [me and Ahmed ] used to sit down and discuss opening a new business and new investment. And when we graduated, we started to brainstorm about what we wanted to do, what we wanted to open, and we wanted to focus on the community and the best way about the community is to go with cycling, to go with coffee – we wanted to be part of everyone’s day to day life,” explains Al Marzoogi.

Look good, feel great and have a chat in a comfortable space while at it at this cycle-themed cafe. PDL offers interaction – and cycling rides; it operates weekly rides for the community every week.

THE ESPRESSO LAB

Winner of: Best Special Drink for Fika (your choice of espresso served in two methods and sparkling water)

Emirati entrepreneur Ebrahim Hamza Al Mallouhi, whose love for coffee began at his grandmother’s knee, is all about the experience. He wants to show the world everything that Dubai can do – innovate and create. Since 2015, The Espresso Lab has been handcrafting all its products, including some limited edition cups of Joe. It really is time to drink up.