Ingredient Focus: Coffee

The regional coffee industry's challenges and changing demands from consumers



A1000 from Franke

Coffee machines from Franke are inspired by restaurant operators. Franke Kaffeemaschinen’s A1000 machine has a dosing station for six flavours and two types of milk, with any nutritional/allergen information able to be indicated on the new display. It has an automatic cleaning system which guarantees a sparkling clean machine daily. Available in black or white.

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OptiBean Touch

Launching this month, Animo’s OptiBean Touch is one of the new generations of intelligent espresso machines. It has an easy-to-use touchscreen and intuitive user interface, and stores up to 24 recipes. Personal strength preferences are easily adjustable. OptiBean Touch is also energy efficient and has A+ energy label.


Coffee Planet’s chemex is a pour-over style manual brewing gadget that is simple to use and retains the flavour complexity in each coffee, available via the company’s online shop and priced at US$67 (AED 245).

Melitta’s new espressos

Melitta Professional Coffee Solutions has launched three espressos for the UK market: Espresso Blend, crafted for a milk-based coffee experience; Espresso Samba, consisting of 100% Arabica coffee beans sourced from some of the most sought after regions within Brazil; and Espresso Nature, which is 100% Arabica and 100% Rainforest Bod Alliance Accredited coffee.

Pellini Top

One of La Marquise International’s best selling products is Pellini Top, a blend of high-quality Arabica coffee, made from coffee beans that have been selected directly from their countries of origin. The slow-roasting process and controlled ripening enhances the taste and aroma of the Pellini Top, giving it a delicate combination of flower and honey scents along with cocoa and liquorice scents, according to La Marquise International’s in-house professional barista, Armiel Alkuino.


Growth and challenges

La Marquise International’s in-house professional barista Armiel Alkuino tells Caterer Middle East that coffee quality awareness is growing very fast in the region, and attributes some of this to the International Coffee & Tea Festival, which has been held for the past eight years in Dubai.

“Today coffee shops and restaurants are willing to stand out by offering speciality coffee experiences. At the same time, consumers are becoming more aware of coffee quality and, therefore, becoming more demanding. Just couple of years ago consumers in the UAE tended to drink only dark roasted commercial coffees mixing it with some sugars and syrups but now you will see people drinking coffee in their different filter methods, including cold drip coffees, and consumers have their own favourite coffee origins,” he comments.

Coffee Planet managing director Rob Jones agrees that “coffee culture has increased significantly in the Middle East”, making it one of the fastest growing markets in the world for coffee consumption.

“We have observed first-hand how consumers’ knowledge and appreciation for good quality coffee is constantly improving. For example, last year more than 19,000 tonnes of coffee were sold in the UAE and according to Euromonitor, the region represents 8% or $6.5 billion, of the $85 billion spent on coffee globally — this number continues to increase,” he adds.

It’s not all smooth sailing, however, as Melitta Professional Coffee Solutions head of coffee — Horeca Division Alaster Siddle reveals.

“Currently the coffee market is a victim of the global political uncertainty with regards to pricing. The commodity prices for Arabica and Robusta are fluctuating hugely, and when combined with the US dollar exchange rate, some roasters are finding it hard to manage their cost base. This has resulted in some of the biggest branded coffee houses looking to increase their prices for drinks sold, in the region of $0.15 per drink,” he shares.

Coffee famers are facing difficulties and this will have a knock-on effect for operators in the future, as Mokha 1450 co-founder and managing director Garfield Kerr explains. “Within the global coffee market generally, warnings that coffee farmers continue to suffer have become more acute as the International Coffee Organization (ICO) recently reported what has been known all along that coffee farming is not a profitable enterprise. As a result, the next generation of potential coffee farmers are choosing different paths of employment in hopes of making a better living.”

Kerr adds: “This will force large buyers as well as small roasters to adjust their purchasing practices in the near and long-term as demand for coffee continues to rise and coffee supply continues a negative trend without potential of meeting those demands.”

Sharing his thoughts, Raw Coffee Company co-owner Matt Toogood says: “This growing season has seen some interesting results, in the form of higher prices and lower qualities in African coffees. Politics is having a big influence this year. However, the really good news is that because of high prices from the normally popular growing areas, we are seeing different and really interesting coffees that don’t normally make the speciality market. Myanmar for example, has just produced its first speciality crop with the assistance over the last four years from a USAID sponsored project.”

Growing quality awareness

In terms of quality awareness in the coffee sector, Siddle says changes in recent years have been driven by an increased understanding of taste profile rather than an awareness of quality: “Globally the coffee palate is broadening and this allows for more sophisticated coffee varieties to be sampled, enjoyed and developed. This consumer-led need to satisfy a broader taste has allowed previously under-valued robusta variants to become highly sought.”

As the trend for speciality coffee continues to flourish amongst consumers in the region, brands are turning to local coffee companies for freshness and quality at competitive prices, according to Jones. He comments: “We believe it is also beneficial for brands to work with local suppliers, where appropriate, to help sustainability.”

Jones adds: “We have noticed an ongoing shift towards coffee quality in areas including the sourcing of the beans and training for baristas to ensure the end consumer receives a great cup of coffee.”

Kerr makes the point that while coffee shops are buying better quality single origin coffees, the focus on quality and on delivering “an amazing cup” is uneven. “A lot of cafés are still trying to get their footing before they can truly master their craft, and provide the same cup of coffee one would expect from a Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) trained and certified barista in most coffee capitals. However, the potential for the UAE to become a coffee destination is quite good as these cafés will eventually acquire the expertise to deliver quality on par with a cup of coffee you would get from an SCA certified barista in London, Melbourne, or Auckland.”

Alkuino tells Caterer that a focus on well-educated baristas is now “a must for coffee shops”. He remarks: “Baristas are not only preparing coffee drinks, but also educating customers on what coffee they drink: beans origin, altitude the coffee grows at and flavours that this parameters bring out in the beans.”

Raw’s Toogood agrees, adding: “Speciality cafés are trendy of course; however it’s much easier to call yourself speciality than have a speciality coffee.

“In the Middle East, the barista role is becoming a recognised profession rather than an allocated task — this will see the quality of coffee served improve quickly. The Specialty Coffee Association of America and the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe merged to lose an “i” and become the Specialty Coffee Association. This will be exciting over the next few years as programmes like coffee education and training will be globalised providing more, much-needed, consistency and hopefully better skilled baristas.”

Alkuino highlights the promotion of speciality coffee by so-called third wavers growing around the world. “The third wave coffee is a movement that considers coffee as an artisanal product like wine rather than a commodity. Third wavers are endorsing improved plant growing and harvesting, fair trade, roasting in small batches and large focus on coffee preparation,” he says.

Demands on suppliers

Apart from high-quality coffee beans at reasonable prices, clients are looking for “full coffee solutions” to ease their operations, reports Alkuino. “That would include coffee supply, coffee equipment supply and maintenance and comprehensive barista training,” he says.

Siddle also says that due to the current political and economic climate, suppliers are under increasing pressure “to manage their business through expertise, foresight and experience to protect consumers/F&B outlets from the fluctuations on price and supply”.

He explains: “Historically, the immediate response of the supply chain to price increases was to look to exchange origin type A with a less costly origin type B. This was to keep the customer price within tolerance. However, as taste is becoming much more the driver for blends, the ability to swap is less of an option. This is because, price and quality do not vary as dramatically as was once the case. Coffee roasters, and all parts of the supply chain, need to be able to take a longer term view on sourcing. This is to ensure that, as green coffee is such a vital part of the cost structure within each cup of coffee sold, their chosen coffee supplier has sufficient heritage combined and principlws to not always put their own interests first.”

Top trends

Alternative brewing methods

Consumers are getting more adventurous with their coffee orders, evidenced by the growing popularity of alternative brewing methods. Coffee Planet’s Jones elaborates: “One of the most notable trends aside from speciality grade coffee, is the increased demand for freshly-roasted coffee as well as cold brew and nitro coffees. This is great for us, as we roast and pack our own coffee in Dubai, which also allows us to quickly adapt to any prominent coffee needs, such as the current strong appetite for unique single origin and microlot coffees. Cold brew is suited to speciality coffee as it emphasises the delicate nuances and aromas of the bean and we expect to see this type of coffee continue to grow in popularity. Another trend worth mentioning is the rise in demand for alternative brewing methods. Exploring brewing gadgets creates new ways to enjoy speciality coffee as it emphasises distinctions in taste from gadget to gadget.

Kerr says Mokha 1450 Coffee Boutique currently offers more than seven brewing methods, ranging from the Cezve/Ibrik or sand burner commonly called the Turkish method — “the original method of preparing coffee that was pioneered here in the Middle East hundreds of years ago” — to the siphon, aeroPress, and chemex, to name a few. “A number of cafés have begun to increase their brewing options and there are a number of very new and interesting brewing gadgets coming on line and a lot of cafés are experimenting with them,” he adds.

Filter coffee

Siddle from Melitta Professional Coffee Solutions says filter coffee is “always a little bit of a fashion statement within coffee houses” and, across Europe, filter coffee is developing, as it allows for speciality drinks to be served whilst not affecting the core products from an operational perspective.

He continues: “The US and Far East markets have always been led by filter/drip coffee. Flavoured and multiple varieties of decaf are served in this format.”

Alkuino from La Marquise agrees that various types of filter coffee preparation is a trend, and says: “You can choose from pour over, immersion, vacuum and, don’t forget, cold drip where coffees are steeping for more than eight hours to create light and fruity flavours.”

Dietary changes

Dietary concerns and the ‘free-from’ movement are becoming increasingly important for suppliers and operators to take into account. “Away from taste, and driven by dietary needs, soya milk and other less lactose-based products are rightly becoming much more mainstream and the market is beginning to adapt flavours to accommodate,” says Siddle.

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