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Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and Sanjeev Dutta, Executive Director - Commodities & Financial Services at the coffee testing section of DMCC Coffee Centre in Jebel Ali. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News


  • UAE is one of the largest re-exporter of tea in the world with a 60 per cent share
  • The DMCC Coffee Centre’s Premier Training Campus is certified by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) and offers professional courses in grading, green and sensory analysis, baristas and brewing and roasting techniques. Nearly 1,000 baristas have benefited from it.

Dubai: The unmistakable aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans wafts through the air as you step inside the sprawling coffee centre at the heart of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) in Jebel Ali.

The massive facility not just offers a raft of customised services for the storage, roasting, packaging and delivery of coffee, it also conducts certified barista training courses to help coffee enthusiasts master the art of making the perfect cuppa.

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For decades, working in the coffee industry has been viewed as an in-between job on the way to another more lucrative career. But of late, things have changed. Today, coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages globally. Between 2018 and 2019, a staggering 165.35 million coffee bags, each weighing 60kg were consumed worldwide, up from 158 million bags in the previous year. Coffee and tea tasters are some of the most highly paid jobs in the world.

Sure enough, in just a little over one year since its launch, the Dubai Coffee Centre has emerged as a one-stop shop for international coffee giants and aspiring baristas alike.

Buoyed by the overwhelming response, and the recent visit of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vic- President and Prime Minister of UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, the DMCC Coffee Centre has now decided to raise its game.

Earlier this month, DMCC’s executive chairman and chief executive officer Ahmed Bin Sulayem announced plans to increase capacity threefold, with an eventual goal of processing 20,000 tonnes of green coffee worth over Dh360 million.

“It’s one thing to go after the target, it’s another to go where the target will be in the coming years,” said Bin Sulayem, who has been spearheading one of the world’s biggest free zones for the past 19 years, managing 17,000 businesses across various sectors including precious metals.

New global hub

“We want to boost international trade through Dubai, support the UAE’s growing speciality coffee scene and transform the city into a new global hub for coffee trade and tea trade,” he said as he showed Gulf News around the coffee centre and the equally impressive adjoining tea centre which came into existence in 2005 and now offers end-to-end solutions to traders from around the world.

A coffee aficionado himself, Bin Sulayem has an unusual penchant for turning conventional wisdom on its head by venturing into uncharted territories.

Not many gave him a chance when he forayed into diamonds. But he proved the naysayers wrong. Today, DMCC’s Almas Tower office houses the world’s largest diamond trading floor.

Similarly, there was a great deal of scepticism when he launched the DMCC Tea Centre 15 years back. What’s the point of having a tea centre in a city which doesn’t grow even a single blade of tea leaf, many wondered.

Cut to 2020. The DMCC is the largest site for re-exporting tea globally with an enviable market share of 60 per cent with annual exports of about 48,000 tonnes.

Teas from 13 different tea-producing countries are processed at the purpose-built facility and scores of companies including some of the world’s biggest tea producers and brands use it as a base for their operations.

Sheikh Mohammed’s vision

“I am inspired by Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin model. Just as he turned Godolphin into a global thoroughbred breeding and horse racing operation I want to turn DMCC into a world leader of commodity trading, import and export of coffee and other agro commodities like cacao, chilies, spices, pepper, and cardamom,” said the Bin Sulayem.

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Coffee beans from different countries being processed in huge capacity machines at DMCC Coffee Centre in Jebel Ali. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Recently, DMCC and Amazon Webservices teamed up to run a three-day workshop to look into the possibility of using blockchain technology to track the provenance of coffee beans and to trace coffee as it flows and is transformed along the supply chain.

“Having an Amazon base at DMCC is akin to having Google or Microsoft. It’s certainly a great honour. But for me the biggest validation was the visit of my role model Sheikh Mohammed,” he said.

The Dubai Ruler toured the place in June, taking a close look at warehouses and also stopping by at the barista training institute and the state-of-the-art coffee quality lab where professional coffee tasters (cuppers) sample incoming batches of coffee — weeding out the undesirables and picking the ones they reckon would work best for certain blends.

“We have invested over many years in establishing an infrastructure and legislative infrastructure for which all elements of excellence have met to serve our national goals and support the businesses of local companies,” Sheikh Mohammed said later.

Coffee Entrepreneurship Programme

In keeping with his vision, Bin Sulayem is sparing no effort to support new entrants to the coffee industry. The latest of many such moves is his Coffee Entrepreneurship Programme.

“The initiative is aimed at nurturing talent and helping start-ups by equipping budding entrepreneurs with the skills and knowledge they need to run a coffee business,” he explained. “One such home-grown coffee concept that I have seen grow from strength to strength is Air Speciality Coffee led by some well-driven Emiratis. We are proud of their achievements, particularly their entrepreneurial vision,” he said.

Tres Marias, Sedna, Vora and Coffuel are among many other DMCC member coffee companies that have also had a remarkable run.

Some of them shared their experiences.

Success stories

Arjun Katyal, of McLeod Russel, the world’s largest tea-growing company, said the DMCC Tea Centre has an important role in their success story.

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Coffee beans from different countries being processed in huge capacity machines at DMCC Coffee Centre in Jebel Ali. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

“We have been member since 2011 and have seen first-hand the expertise, experience and vision that has shaped the success of this facility,” he said.


cups of coffee has been roasted by the centre in the past 12 months

Maria Pavani of Tres Marias Coffee Company said there couldn’t have been a better place to set up their business. “From climate-controlled warehousing, roasting and packaging facilities to specialised services like sample evaluation and quality control, it has everything What else could one possibly ask for,” he said.

Raphae Menakbi of Sedna Coffee said they chose the place because of its world-class infrastructure and ease of doing business. “The trust we reposed in DMCC was certainly not misplaced.” he said.

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Coffee beans from different countries being processed in huge capacity machines at DMCC Coffee Centre in Jebel Ali. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Bin Sulayem said the success of member companies has prompted them to launch what he describes as the third wave of the coffee movement. “We don’t want to rest on our laurels. We want to get more people involved and support more Emiratis looking to launch and grow their coffee concepts,” he said. DMCC’s executive director for commodities and financial services, Sanjeev Dutta, said what sets them apart is their ability to connect demand and supply and create a vibrant marketplace.

Over 800 new companies joined DMCC in the first half of 2020 with a noticeable uptick in the months of May and June despite overall softer business climate. Bin Sulayem said they have barely scraped the surface of their potential. He said; “We are always hungry, open to new ideas, looking to innovate and go beyond our job description.

So if you are looking to get into coffee or tea business or become a professional coffee or tea taster you know where to go.