Coffee has an almost-ceremonial place in the culture of the Middle East, where it’s traditionally brewed with cardamom and served in a small cup. Though most of the population still sips their coffee old school, chains like Starbucks and Tim Hortons have moved into Dubai, bringing with them sugary Frappuccinos and milky lattes. And now, international artisanal roasters are bringing in a whole new class of trendy styles from around the world. At least, they’re trying to. Dubai presents a series of obstacles that make launching a simple coffee start-up not a simple feat.
Kim Thompson opened RAW Coffee nine years ago. Her shop, located in a warehouse in Dubai’s manufacturing district, is constantly busy and her beans are now served at over 80 cafes in the city. As one of the first to bring new world coffee to Dubai, she has faced countless issues with supplying a simple cup of coffee to Emiratis, many totally unexpected. Here, Thompson on the many hurdles Dubai’s new generation of craft coffee makers will need to face:
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The Water Quality Is Less Than Optimal
Dubai water has to be desalinated and, therefore, brewers have to spend extra money on reverse osmosis. Salinated water is bad for two reasons: taste and corrosion of equipment. “If you think of an espresso, which is the base for most coffee drinks, it is made up of 10 grams of freshly ground coffee and 30mL of water, that is all,” Thompson says. “So even if the coffee is good, the water can change the overall taste profile of the coffee.”