What’s hot in your cup?

Sabine Karam, Beirut team man­ager and con­sul­tant at Hodema Con­sult­ing Ser­vices, delves deep into the world of cof­fee beans and tea leaves to bring us the lat­est trends in both bev­er­ages

Hospitality News Middle East - - CONTENTS -

Java, joe, brew and jamoke: while not all of us can of­fer a pre­cise def­i­ni­tion of these words, we will un­doubt­edly have come across what they rep­re­sent, which, in sim­ple terms, is a cup of cof­fee. The drink of many names is, af­ter wa­ter, the most com­monly con­sumed bev­er­age on the planet, com­ing in all shapes and forms, from the Ital­ian espresso, the French press pot and the Ir­ish cof­fee made with whisky, to New York’s trendy Espresso Mar­tini. The Mid­dle East can pride it­self on pop­u­lar­iz­ing the 'kah­weh' be­fore it crossed the seven seas. Long a sym­bol of Ara­bic hos­pi­tal­ity and an in­te­gral part of any so­cial gath­er­ing, each coun­try has its own in­ter­pre­ta­tion; Kuwait and Saudi Ara­bia add saf­fron to the heav­ily roasted beans, while in Le­banon the bev­er­age is mixed with car­damom.

Cof­fee ri­tu­als were pretty much set in stone un­til the early 2000s, when the U.S. gi­ant Star­bucks es­tab­lished it­self in the re­gion and turned con­sump­tion habits up­side down. The cof­fee revo­lu­tion ground its way across the Mid­dle East, with more in­ter­na­tional fran­chises, such as Costa Cafe and Sec­ond Cup, fol­low­ing suit. Many lo­cal brands were then cre­ated and de­vel­oped, in­clud­ing Café Younes and Moka & More in Le­banon, Dr. Café in Saudi Ara­bia, and Kava & Chai and Ba­teel in Dubai.

This ex­pan­sion helped to pro­duce an un­par­al­leled growth in the vol­ume of cof­fee sales across the re­gion of 6 per­cent in 2016, ac­cord­ing to Euromon­i­tor In­ter­na­tional, in­clud­ing a record av­er­age an­nual growth of 25 per­cent over the last five years in Saudi Ara­bia.

With re­gional cof­fee con­sump­tion on the rise, growth will re­main high in the com­ing years. The UAE, in par­tic­u­lar, is ex­pected to de­liver a strong per­for­mance, with growth in fresh cof­fee sales fore­cast to peak at 11 per­cent be­tween 2017 and 2021. All in all, the Mid­dle East’s cof­fee in­dus­try is ex­pected to reach USD 4.4 bil­lion by 2021, ac­cord­ing to Euromon­i­tor In­ter­na­tional.


Black cof­fee is old news; to­day, it’s all about new brew­ing tech­niques and grad­ing your cup of java. In other words, the in­dus­try is de­vel­op­ing spe­cialty-grade cof­fee, not to be con­fused with ‘gourmet’ or ‘pre­mium’ va­ri­eties. The in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized stan­dard is that of the Spe­cialty Cof­fee As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica (SCAA). Rec­og­niz­ing cof­fee that scores at least 80 out of 100 in its ‘cup­ping pro­to­col’, the SCAA guar­an­tees qual­ity through all stages of pro­duc­tion, from seed to cup. Brands with spe­cialty busi­ness mod­els, such as Kalei Cof­fee Co. in Beirut, Raw in Dubai and 92 De­grees in Jed­dah, are there­fore in­creas­ingly gain­ing a name as ‘go-to’ des­ti­na­tions. Even Star­bucks has had to jump on the band­wagon, opt­ing to in­tro­duce spe­cialty cof­fee on its menu to meet in­creas­ing de­mand. The in­dus­try also faces a grow­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cern, sim­i­lar

to that which pushed wine and choco­late pro­duc­ers to be­come more trans­par­ent about their pro­duc­tion modes. To­day, the cof­fee we drink is prompt­ing a range of ques­tions: can we source the beans and how are they se­lected, pro­cessed, ground, roasted, blended and brewed? Our caf­feine fix has now been el­e­vated to a whole new level, a new ex­pe­ri­ence en­hanced by creative sto­ry­telling, build­ing a new world around the cup and fea­tur­ing a nar­ra­tive of many faces, from lo­cal pro­duc­ers and im­porters to roast­ers and baris­tas.

Cof­fee shops like The Back­burner in Beirut or Stomp­ing Ground in Dubai are there­fore chan­nel­ing their ef­forts into in­vest­ing in their baris­tas, with a spe­cial fo­cus on mak­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence a per­sonal one. In essence, cof­feemak­ers now pro­mote the bean as an ar­ti­sanal prod­uct rather than a com­mod­ity. The Third Wave Cof­fee con­sid­ers the java as caf­feinated art, with out­lets of­fer­ing a smaller va­ri­ety of cof­fees on their menu, but of higher qual­ity. Sip in Beirut, Com­mon Grounds in Dubai, Draft in Riyadh and Cup Couch in Jed­dah are all tak­ing this suc­cess­ful route.

In ad­di­tion, brew­ing tech­niques and prepa­ra­tion meth­ods are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated, with siphon cof­fee brew­ers brew­ing cof­fee from glass cham­bers us­ing a vac­uum process. There is also the ‘pour-over’ cof­fee method, de­vel­oped by the Che­mex cof­feemaker. With this man­ual, pour-over style, glass con­tainer cof­feemaker, ev­ery­thing is made by hand, while a pa­per fil­ter re­duces the cof­fee oils to im­prove the taste. An­other al­ter­na­tive brew­ing tech­nique is the cold drip cof­feemaker. Here, a me­tal valve con­trols the drip and the cof­fee flows through the stain­less-steel fil­ter, pro­duc­ing a clean, rich brew.

Hun­gry for tea

It might be com­monly agreed that cof­fee fu­els the world, but tea wor­ship­pers cer­tainly aren’t be­ing ne­glected.

The camel­lia sinen­sis has ex­tended its reach across all con­ti­nents to be­come a daily fix for mil­lions. Like cof­fee, it comes in dozens of forms, the main va­ri­eties be­ing Earl Grey, Masala Chai, Green, Mint and Iced Teas.

De­spite the avail­abil­ity of so many op­tions, black tea still has the up­per hand glob­ally, and the Mid­dle East is no ex­cep­tion, although the world­wide health and well­ness trend has shone a spot­light on green and matcha teas. The leaves of these in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar va­ri­eties are packed with an­tiox­i­dants, flavonoids and other bi­o­log­i­cally ac­tive sub­stances, known to have many health ben­e­fits.

While Saudi Ara­bia is home to the re­gion’s most de­voted tea lovers, many oth­ers across the GCC are turn­ing to tea as an al­ter­na­tive to cof­fee and car­bon­ated soft drinks. In the UAE, green tea and black tea are ex­pected to record growth rates of 10.3 per­cent and 6.2 per­cent re­spec­tively be­tween 2017 and 2021. Many lo­cal and fran­chised tea­houses are open­ing in the re­gion to meet this de­mand, such as TWG tea by Twin­ings, and Fort­num & Mason and Ara­bian Tea House in Dubai. How­ever, growth rates re­main well be­low those wit­nessed across the cof­fee busi­ness.

Back to the leaf

Trends in the tea seg­ment dis­play a num­ber of par­al­lels with the cof­fee in­dus­try. One such ex­am­ple is the grow­ing in­ter­est in sourc­ing, fu­eled by a rel­a­tively young con­sumer mar­ket that’s ready to pay good money for spe­cialty teas and is cu­ri­ous to know more about the prod­uct in terms of qual­ity, ori­gin and how it’s con­tribut­ing to sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

Less main­stream and more so­phis­ti­cated brands, such as Kusmi Tea and Tea­vana, are thus set­ting foot in the Mid­dle East, although their de­vel­op­ment re­mains mod­est. In a sign that the seg­ment re­mains at an early and frag­ile stage of de­vel­op­ment, sev­eral brands across the re­gion sell­ing tea as a sin­gle prod­uct, such as Argo Tea, have closed some of their branches. Awan Tea in Beirut is one of the few sur­vivors. How­ever, the leaf is still ex­pected to per­form well in the com­ing years, with global de­mand for tea on the rise. In­no­va­tions, such as readyto-drink tea in bot­tles, cold-brew and kom­bucha (a fer­mented va­ri­ety), are also di­ver­si­fy­ing the of­fer. For now, how­ever, cold-brew­ing is the only trend that has man­aged to es­tab­lish it­self in the re­gion. This in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar in­ter­pre­ta­tion in­volves ex­tract­ing fla­vors from the tea it­self, al­low­ing for an au­then­tic taste that dif­fers from the re­sult of hot brew­ing, which can scorch the tea and cre­ate a bit­ter taste. Cold tea that’s freshly brewed and cre­ated from or­ganic leaves along with other su­per­food items, is re­plac­ing the canned or pow­dered iced tea made us­ing tra­di­tional meth­ods in many F&B out­lets. In other devel­op­ments, bub­ble tea is prov­ing to be a pop­u­lar trend in Asia and North­ern Amer­ica. Although it has yet to fully take off in the Mid­dle East, some brands, such as Meito in Le­banon and Oman, are push­ing the con­cept.

With so many ideas hit­ting the mar­ket, from light herbal teas to strong, thick black cof­fee, you’ll def­i­nitely find your hot bev­er­age groove this win­ter, whether you’re a bean or a leaf lover. While cof­fee is set to re­main ahead of the game, tea def­i­nitely still has much more to re­veal, so have your cup at the ready!

Our caf­feine fix has now been el­e­vated to a whole new level, a new ex­pe­ri­ence en­hanced by creative sto­ry­telling, build­ing a new world around the cup

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