Coffee focus: Boncafe discusses new trends
Boncafe Middle East sales & marketing executive Axelle Bouquet discusses coffee trends
Boncafé Middle East sales & marketing executive Axelle Bouquet speaks about the trends and challenges surrounding coffee in the region - and why baristas are the 'new wave of sommeliers'.
How popular would you say coffee is in the Middle East region?
Coffee is extremely popular in the Middle East region. It is an integral part of Arab society. Born in Ethiopia, it came to the region from Africa in the early 16th century — first to Yemen and then to Mecca, Cairo, Syria, and then, in the mid-16th century, to Turkey.
It is an answer to various purposes; coffee shops used to be a forum for political debates, having a cup of coffee with an elder family member is a sign of respect in certain families and if you have been working in the Middle East for long enough, you won’t deny its importance while conducting business and maintaining good relationships with customers and prospective clients.
Which kind is the most popular?
Consumers are increasingly interested in authentic high-quality products, leading to a stronger demand for premium products within standard fresh ground coffee and standard ground coffee pods. Another fact we noticed when conducting coffee tasting for new clients, is that most of them first ask to try espresso and black coffee, and then move to latte and cappuccino.
From our coffee options, our two best-sellers are Café Espressa, which is our top gourmet espresso composed of 100% Arabica beans from South America, and Grande Cru, also composed of 100% Arabica beans but from single Brazilian origin.
Is sourcing coffee a challenge?
Sourcing coffee isn’t a challenge for us. We have our own plantations in Hawai, Brazil and Vietnam, so we are not really experiencing obstacles with regards to supply chain. What could be a challenge is to meet the requirements and regulations of the various countries we export to.
What kind of training is required to ensure proper handling of coffee?
To name a few: technical capabilities of our service technicians, operations, cleaning procedure of the machines, coffee knowledge, latte art training, etc.
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What trends are you noticing emerging with coffee, in the region and globally?
From a product point of view, a few of the main driving trends in our sector this year include: cold brew, iced coffee, ready to drink cold coffee beverage bases, innovation for the coffee lovers and barista in terms of machine technology, grinders, compatible capsules, number of flavoured syrup modernisations, signature drinks, organic and fair trade coffee culture, launch of the professional coffee machine for home use the La Marzocco Linea Mini.
From a consumer and market point of view, we saw a Western-style coffee culture penetrating hot drinks in the United Arab Emirates, as chained coffee shops, independent cafés and high-end specialist coffee outlets increased their presence in the country.
This increased the awareness of a Western coffee culture and shaped an on trend and modern image of drinking coffee. The Western-style coffee culture is also becoming more popular and very fashionable among consumers in the United Arab Emirates who previously preferred Arabic/Turkish coffee or tea. Young Arab expatriates or locals especially like the fashionable image of HoReCa chains such as Starbucks and Costa and the luxurious ambience of Italian-themed cafés.
In an attempt to replicate the café experience at home or at the office, consumers are increasingly interested in authentic high-quality products through off-trade outlets, leading to a stronger demand for premium products within standard fresh ground coffee and standard ground coffee pods.
We answered to those trends through the launch of the very successful professional coffee machine for home use the La Marzocco Linea Mini and its Lux D grinder; the world’s first automatic coffee tamper, PuqPress; the revolutionary B&W 4 compact from Thermoplan which guarantees the outstanding performance of its sister models in only 228mm; the development of Boncafe high quality capsules which are compatible; additional Cremesso automatic capsule machines for home or office usage which provide finest coffee and experience “made in Switzerland”; and iCafe and iChoco, which are Boncafe frappes drinks
How long can coffee be stored and are there any precautions required when handling coffee – anything to be aware of that could affect the flavour or quality?
There’s almost an indefinite number of factors that could affect the flavour and quality of coffee. The most obvious one includes the origin of the beans, the region the coffee is cultivated (weather, altitude, humidity), coffee roasting procedure and conservation of the beans (shelf life).
Never store your coffee in the fridge as it will absorb all the odours. A closed pack can be stored up to one year and an open pack in a bean hopper can be used for up to two days. An open pack with beans still inside can be used up to 10 days if the pack is hermetically closed but fresh ground coffee will last only one hour.
Other parameters have to be taken into account such as the coffee machine itself, its calibration and the one of the grinder, the temperature of the milk and the pressure applied when tamping. The list could go on for much longer!
Are there any specific challenges in using coffee?
A correct calibration of the coffee machine and grinder is paramount in the quality of the coffee and is the greatest challenge.
Is being a barista in the region a viable career?
Unlike wine sommeliers, being a barista hasn’t always been taken seriously - it was more seen as an in-between job, something you would do to meet both ends while studying for instance. However, things are changing and with the coffee industry growing, the rise of specialty coffee shops and number of competitors, coupled with the emergence of numerous opportunities such as the world barista championship, baristas are now counted as fully recognised professionals. Moreover, with alcohol consumption restricted in the Middle East, one cannot help comparing them to 'a new wave of sommeliers'.