In Dubai, A Caffeine Rush

Coffee culture in Dubai goes beyond chic coffee shops and crazy-colored drinks. Coffee is deeply rooted in the city’s culture and serves as a symbol of hospitality in the home.

Countries around the world celebrate their own National Coffee Days at different times throughout the year. In Brazil, the biggest coffee producer, it is celebrated on May 24 while in the USA, the biggest coffee consumer, on September 29. But when it comes to coffee, every day and any time will do. But first, coffee, right?

To try and unify all the coffee celebrations across the globe, the Member countries of the International Coffee Organization and their coffee associations chose October 1 as International Coffee Day. Think of it as another excuse—as if you needed it—to visit your favorite coffee bar.

With that in mind, we take a look at the coffee culture in Dubai, which goes beyond chic coffee shops and crazy-colored drinks. Coffee is deeply rooted in the city’s culture and serves as a symbol of hospitality in the home.

Every home has its own individual style with different ingredients, incorporating both roasting and preparation,” says Khalid Al Mullah, owner of Dubai Coffee Museum. Roasting ranges from lightly roasted, cinnamon or dark. When it comes to specific ingredients, some families add cardamom, and if they have a special guest coming in, they also add saffron and rose water.

It’s not just about where you drink coffee, but how you drink it in Dubai. If coffee is served in the Majilis—meaning a private place where guests are received and entertained—first the most respected or elder is served. “If the gathering is family or common people, coffee is served respectfully and always by the right hand,” says  Al Mullah. “Serve with the right hand, and received with the right hand.”

In an Emirati home, Arabic coffee is served in a small cup with no handle, called a fenjan, and used to create a culture of community and chatter. Hosts who serve their guests with a halfway full cup are offering hospitality and inviting their guests to stay; those who receive a full glass are not as welcome.

Visiting Dubai? Khalid Al Mullah offers some useful tips and etiquettes to keep in mind.

THE BURJ AL ARAB AND THE JUMEIRAH BEACH. Roman Logov

Time for Coffee

Women prefer to drink their coffee in the morning in their house, and then enjoy a cup with their husbands after the early morning prayer, which is called the Fajr or dawn prayer. This is roasted, ground and then brewed, and also around 11am or 12 noon. In the evening, many guests (particularly male) will also meet and drink in the evening at their male Majlis.

Bedouin have different coffee behavior. When you visit and first arrive, before they serve the meal, they serve Arabic coffee with fruit (Qahwah) to caffeinate you before anything other than pleasantries are discussed. More coffee and dates are usually also served after the meal.

OLD TOWN DUBAI. Igor Ovsyannykov

Cup Half Full

First a server pours a small serving of coffee to warm up the cup and also to welcome and ensure the guest will stay longer. The second and subsequent times he will serve more.

If he should pour a full cup the first time, that is disrespectful as it means he is suggesting it will be a quick visit or meeting. Dates are placed on the table or on front of the guest. The server continues to offer coffee unless the guest shakes the cup from left to right to indicate that they have had enough.

In other places, if you need a favor from a government department or someone important, if you put the a full cup down while on the table, it indicates that you will not leave until the business or favor is fulfilled.

Tea Please

If you do not like coffee or you do not want to drink, you must let your hosts know first and say no thank you, rather than not drink the cup that’s served.

Outside the home, the city is also exploding with a variety of both traditional Arabic roasters and hip, independent cafes that offer a delectable range for your next caffeine fix. If you’re visiting the city and want to know more about the Dos and Don’ts on drinking coffee, Kim Thompson, owner of Raw Coffee Company, which roasts Fair Trade, organic beans in-house, offers classes on coffee preparation for patrons.

A TRADITIONAL COFFEE ROOM. Courtesy Dubai Coffee Museum

Where to Drink Coffee On Your Next Dubai Visit

Between gallery hopping
Raw Coffee Company

Learn the trade at Raw Coffee Company, where veterans of the homegrown coffee scene roast organic and beans with Fair Trade approval daily in their warehouse roastery. Located in the arts district of Dubai, patrons are welcome to take a class on coffee preparation or simply enjoy some of the 15 single-origins and five unique blends at this specialty café.

For the serious coffee fans
Mokha 1450

Part boutique, part coffee shop, Mokha 1450 is an intimate place with exceptional coffee. What’s on offer? “You can savour original Heirloom Ethiopian Geisha, Jamaican Blue Mountain grade 1 Ultra-premium beans and an incredible Yemeni coffee from the Sabree Mountains farmed by a co-operative of female farmers,” says Thompson.

To soak up the history
Dubai Coffee Museum

Learn about the origins of coffee, its rich history rooted in Arabia and how it has evolved. This museum is a must-see, according to Thompson, for anybody who is remotely interested in the very long and interesting history of coffee. Of course, finish off your visit at the museum with a tasting of traditional Arabic qahwa at the in-house café.

For the extravagant coffee drinker
The Brass

Boasting one of the most extensive coffee menus in the city, The Brass offers way more than the basics, including Lavender Honey Latte, rosewater-infused white coffee, and a dairy-free Coconut Latte. Aficionados can take it a step further and nominate how they want their coffee delivered: via French press, siphon, cold drip or pour-over.