All in a day’s grind

UAE cof­fee com­pany on how your morn­ing brew gets to you

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Rory Reynolds @Ro­ryReynolds

If Dubai is be­com­ing the city that never sleeps, you can prob­a­bly put it down to one fam­ily who’ve turned a hand­ful of road­side cof­fee stops into a small em­pire.

When the Mid­dle East wakes up and smells the cof­fee every morn­ing that’s the cul­mi­na­tion of a long and ex­haus­tive process for Cof­fee Planet.

For Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Robert Jones and his team, it be­gan with trekking their way through the jun­gles of Brazil or the plan­ta­tions of Ethiopia to buy di­rectly from farm­ers, be­fore ship­ping it to the Gulf.

From their fac­tory in Jebel Ali, they man­age the process from plant to cup, roast­ing be­tween 70 and 100 tonnes per month, which is sent to ho­tels, restau­rants and su­per­mar­kets in 10 coun­tries in the Mid­dle East and Asia.

The firm also now trains baris­tas in ho­tels to make sure that long process doesn’t come un­done at the last minute.

“To get this cof­fee into your cup it’s prob­a­bly the re­sult of a process that’s taken nine months and prob­a­bly in­volved about 50 peo­ple,” says Jones.

“So if that guy at the end burns the hell out of it…”

Jones, who is from a fam­ily of Bri­tish en­trepreneurs, showed 7DAYS around the roast­ery in Jebel Ali, which was re­cently ex­panded from 6,000 sqft to 14,000 sqft, the largest in the coun­try.

Cof­fee Planet has also be­gun man­u­fac­tur­ing cof­fee capsules for Ne­spresso ma­chines, now pos­si­ble af­ter Nestlé’s patent for the tech­nol­ogy ran out.

“In the last few months, we’ve been through a re­brand­ing process, we launched the capsules at the be­gin­ning of this year and we’ve dou­bled the size of our fa­cil­ity - it’s been a busy time.”

Piled high around the fac­tory floors are 69kg sacks of green beans from every cor­ner of the globe. ‘Nicaragua, El Bosque’ reads one la­bel. Re­tail­ing for Dhs54, it tastes like ‘dessert in a cup’, with hints of choco­late, al­monds and caramel.

El Bosque, like all of the va­ri­eties in the fac­tory, be­gan life in­side a fruit hang­ing from a cof­fee tree.

When ripened, the cof­fee cherry, as it is called, is usu­ally picked by hand. In­side each cherry, are just two beans. They are dried, milled (they’re green by this point) and shipped to the roast­ery in Dubai.

Af­ter an ex­haus­tive qual­ity con­trol process - “some com­pa­nies have been caught out by for­eign ob­jects in batches”, Jones says - they are roasted at up to 205C.

Then they are ready to be bagged up as whole beans or ground to cof­fee pow­der.

In a world of cof­fee gi­ants like Star­bucks and Costa, com­pe­ti­tion must be in­tense. But Jones says that Cof­fee Planet has a geo­graphic ad­van­tage, at least in the Mid­dle East and Asian mar­ket.

“It’s very dif­fi­cult to com­pete with the big­gest cof­fee com­pa­nies in the world, so we fo­cus on qual­ity and man­ag­ing the en­tire sup­ply chain our­selves. “We travel to ori­gin, we get to know the farm­ers, use the best roast­ing equip­ment.

“But one of the com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tages we have is fresh­ness.

“Some of the big­ger brands won’t be roast­ing lo­cally. If you look at some of the well­known la­bels on the shelves, es­pe­cially con­sumed in this mar­ket, it’s been roasted overseas.

“By the time it’s shipped, dis­trib­uted, sold and then tasted, it could be six months’ old.

“The mes­sage we al­ways try to get across is that cof­fee is a food prod­uct, and you al­ways want to con­sume food as fresh as pos­si­ble, cof­fee is no dif­fer­ent.”

Some cus­tomers will won­der how much they need to spend to get a good cof­fee, and af­ter Dhs25 or so, does it get much bet­ter?

“Our re­tail bags sell from about Dh­s20Dhs25 for 250g bag, but that goes up to about Dhs175 for the same sized bag of pri­vate la­bel cof­fee - this is es­sen­tially the wagyu beef of cof­fee,” Jones says.

The firm is tight-lipped about its pri­vate la­bel clients, who present the cof­fee with their own brand­ing. But if I or­dered a reg­u­lar cof­fee in the Ar­mani Ho­tel, would I be get­ting the wagyu beef batch?

“If you or­dered a cof­fee there you may well be get­ting that,” he laughs.

EX­HAUS­TIVE PROCESS: Work­ers test the beans at Cof­fee Planet’s fac­tory in Jebel Ali

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