I WAS AT WORLD OF COFFEE DUBAI 2024 – From Coffee With Love


I wasn’t sure what to expect from the third edition of the World of Coffee Dubai, which took place from 21-23 January in Dubai, under the auspices of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). Sure. I’d been to the previous two and this year promised more excitement with a slightly bigger offering. Featuring much as before, with experts, coffee roasters, gadgets, coffee farmers, espresso machine and coffee roasting manufacturers and more, I thought I’d go, meet fellow coffee nerds, drink lots of coffee and attend a few lectures. Well, I did most of that and more, but sadly wasn’t able to attend any of the lectures, BUT, all was not lost, as I learnt a lot on the one day that I attended. So, here’s a quick summary;

First stop was at Harvest Belt, where I learnt about the Link small batch coffee roasting machine that you can programme to roast espresso, filter, etc and even fine tune it for different coffee processes like natural, washed, etc. If I was going to start roasting, I think I’d get this machine.

Just next to them was one of my fave Dubai roasters, Grandmother (I still don’t know where that name comes from ), but their head roaster, Freddie, offered me a delectable Ethiopian anaebroic espresso – it really filled my lips – yum.

Then I was now on the hunt for my first milk based coffee of the day and when I saw Uber Milk, I thought what better place to stop than here. I had already witnessed their ultra automated machine when I visited Rosslyn Coffee in London in January 2023 and just wanted to enquire about their business in the GCC, as most cafe are not as busy as a typical central London coffee shop. Sure enough one cafe in Dubai has it but they have a few of them in Saudi already.

In conversation, I noticed this guy pouring beautiful latte art and they said, that’s the head of coffee at WatchHouse – startled, I walked over and placed an order for a cortado – incidentally, it was Ethiopian beans again.

Cortado by Flavius

Never one to miss out on an opportunity to learn from an expert, I chatted with Flavius for about 20 minutes and this is what I learnt;

➡️Brew Ethiopian beans at a higher temperature for both filter and espresso – so much so that for espresso, try 97C – the reason Ethiopian beans have a a higher density.

➡️Store your coffee beans in the freezer in dose batches – so store 18g of beans for your espresso, etc, as opposed to just storing the whole bag to avoid moisture.

➡️WatchHouse shop at Hanover Square (which I wrote about a few months back) is their flagship store for experimentation, so much so that the head barista won a recent competition.

➡️In 2020, the UK Brewers champion was Matteo D’Ottavio and he was head barista at their spitalfields branch and WatchHouse use his winning recipe, which for using 15g of coffee and 250ml water is;

50ml, wait 30 seconds, bloom

50ml, wait 30 seconds, pour

50ml, wait 30 seconds, pour

50ml, wait 30 seconds, pour

50ml, wait 30 seconds, pour

Walking around I saw the famous Dritan Asela – of instagram fame – had a brief chat with his wife.

I noticed that he was at a stand, Toga Coffee of Sharjah that were offering this delicious coconut balls wrapped around white chocolate and fresh raspberries – I boldly asked for 3 and the owner was so kind and hospitable he duly obliged. However, I noticed their strange description of coffee beans with hints of coconut and asked for a piccolo.

Coconut piccolo

wow! even before I drank the coffee I could smell the coconut (one of my fave fruits). I met the roaster, Pirates of Coffee, all the way from Canada and asked where I could buy a bag – he said here and he only had one bag left – destined for me I guess, praise God.

After lunch, I saw the that the Nordic Approach were hosting a coffee tasting session, so off I went.

There were lots of exciting coffees and I must confess I can’t remember which one stood out – was it the Panama Geisha or the Kenyan ? In any case, Nordic Approach are famous for their lighter roots and the tables were set top across continents, Africa, the Americas and Asia.

Photo: courtesy of Liana

Still up for more tasting, I passed by quickly to Janson Farms – another famous coffee farm from Panama – saw they were brewing their coffees on a Hario V60 and thought why not – during my experience I bumped into the Indonesian barista champion.

Where to next?

I had heard that my new coffee friend, Antonio Orria, whom I had met in Dubai airport in September, had just joined Victoria Arduino in Dubai and was showcasing their latest espresso machine, the Black Eagle Maverick, so off I went. Lucky for me, he was by himself and I got a quick demo about the machine, which in essence brews both espresso and wait for it….. filter coffee on their Pure Brew system. To quote them,

PureBrew technology is a revolutionary, three phase, extraction method that uses pulsating frequencies of water pressure to release the purest flavour from your coffee bean according to its freshness, region and type.”

Victoria Arduino Black Eagle Maverick

In essence they have a different basket for filter, with a cone shape and for which Antonio kindly brewed for me using 12g of coffee – I can see the advantage for playing around with different brew recipes and of course reducing the time for a barista in a busy coffee shop. It can also brew tea. I’m looking forward to visiting their newly opened outlet to learn more.

I was already having an Ethiopia coffee bean filled day, so why not go over to Boon Coffee, headed by the friendly Orit Mohammed. She got her head baristi to brew me an espresso, using Ethiopian beans of course and very kindly gave me a bag of their premium blend to try at home.

Boon coffee: espresso

No more coffee!

Well, not quite. I stopped over at Three Coffee, one of my fave Dubai coffee roasters and couldn’t say no, when they offered me an espresso using Yemeni coffee beans.

Yemeni espresso

Then I bumped into my fellow coffee geek friend Shehzeen and she roped me into a latte art competition, which she won with some help but which one do you think was the best?

Guess mine?⬅️

Incidentally the UAE BARISTA CHAMPIONSHIP was won by Michaela of Typica coffee (one of my faves) again for the fourth time I think

Photo courtesy of Lyndon, her husband

Before I left I popped over to the SCA stand and bumped into an old acquaintance, Stephen Morrissey, Deputy Chief Commercial and Community Experience Officer (plus WBC 2008) like I did last year, had a brief chat about the state of coffee in the UK and perhaps globally – in short, he shared my concern that many coffee roasters tend to roast quite light these days. Don’t get me wrong I like medium light roasting for filter based coffees but for espresso…. NO!

I still reminisce about espresso coffee from like 10 years ago. It was such that whether you had an espresso or flat white the body wrapped around your tongue with chocolate and dark berries, caramel and nuts and the taste lingered for an hour – not to mention the latte art contrast with milk that was delectable to look at, but nowadays, I think espresso is too bright and in milk, it is almost like flavoured milk. I’m not sure what your thoughts are, but when I launched my coffee brand two years ago, I tried to bring that back.

Also, we felt that the customer experience is beginning to diminish. Again, I recall when I was in London recently, not naming any cafes, I felt like the baristi were not that approachable like the ones in Dubai. I recall trying to film a barista pouring latte art and she abruptly told me to stop. I know that as specialty coffee has grown, you will loose the essence of that coffee nerdy experience, when I used to got to a cafe and just chat with the baristi about the coffee and the art of coffee making, but I miss those days and with so many companies investing in specialty coffee now, perhaps those days may never come back.

Photo: courtesy of Naveed

But you know what, I still dream about having another cafe in the future and perhaps I will be able to make a difference in bringing that back as after all this is…



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