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Check Out the Evolution of Coffee Culture in 5 Arab Countries

posted on: Dec 14, 2020

Photo by Thani Alzyadi

By: Safa M. Qureshi/Arab America Contributing Writer 

“The Middle East represents one of the world’s modern coffee culture hot spots, with high growth prospects for major chains across many markets and burgeoning opportunities on the horizon for the specialty coffee sector,” says Young

By comparison, in a study from 2017, the US ranks as the largest consumer of coffee with a record volume of 607,000 tons of coffee brewed per year. This is followed by Brazil at 425,000 tons, an Germany following closely at 424,000 tons. According to Allegra World Coffee Portal’s Project Café Middle East (2019), the coffee market globally is seeing positive growth with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.8% a year until 2023.

Specialty Coffee

The Middle Eastern coffee market is experiencing a skyrocketing growth of imports, and its younger generation is making the push for specialty coffee. In fact, the younger generation loves their specialty coffee. Some examples of sweet, specialty coffees are Spanish lattes, pistachio lattes, and saffron lattes. 

Specialty coffee being made at a Qatari cafe – Instagram

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE are predicted to be the fastest-growing coffee consumer markets in the Middle East over the next half-decade.

In this next section, we will mention the new coffee trends in five Arab countries. Let’s get started!

1. The United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The UAE’s capital of Dubai is also home to a number of independent coffee shops offering Arabic-style coffee. In the UAE, it is traditionally served in a long spouted jug, or “dallah,” and can be served black or brewed with cardamom and saffron, often accompanied by dates, dried fruit, and nuts. It is polite to serve elders first by filling small, handless cups a quarter of the way to the top. This is very common in religious functions across Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Qatar. Since 2015, this practice has been protected by UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage register.

Pictured above is a dallah (دلة‎) with demitasse cups called فنيان‎.

Today, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has one of the most developed coffee shop markets in the Middle East. Their  consumers are increasingly attracted to a growing and independent specialty coffeeshop sector. One of the most well known shops in the UAE is L’ETO, which is a UK based coffee shop/breakfast and brunch restaurant with five locations across the UK and seven locations in the Middle East (UAE, Kuwait, and Qatar). 

What an interesting way to have a Spanish latte!

Pour over condensed milk and another milk of your choice over iced, coffee cubes. Never drink watered-down coffee again!

2. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has a relationship with coffee unlike anywhere else in the world. The industry expanded in Saudi Arabia in recent years. According to one source, “the young generation is typically the new coffee consumers for blended coffee and coffee with additives like milk and flavored syrups. The old generation is loyal to the old style of coffee like Turkish coffee or espresso.”

Giant stuffed animals are placed at tables in Half Million | هاف مليون coffee shop to promote social distancing.

According to Allegra, the liberalization of Saudi Arabia’s economy under the government’s 2030 Vision is expected to significantly boost the country’s food and beverage sector. 

Saudi Arabia’s rapid, flourishing economy in the coffee consumer market plays a big role in recent growth. It is a huge country with a population of over 34 million, and a couple of months ago they took an important step. Previously, businesses had to segregate their male and female customers. While many businesses still segregate, others are starting to relax the rules. 

This is the Red Velvet Latte at 8oz Coffee – Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

8oz Coffee is a well-known specialty coffee shop in Saudi Arabia. They have unique flavors such as Rose Latte, Red Velvet Latte, Pistachio Latte, and Saffron Latte.

A Variety of specialty flavors from 8Oz. Coffee.

3. Kuwait

Food and drinks are an important aspect of Kuwaiti culture. While tea is often served with mint or saffron after lunch, coffee is always prepared for visitors. Whenever a guest is visiting a Kuwaiti home, the first thing that is traditionally served is Arabic coffee. Similar to other countries in that region, saffron and other flavors are among the popular additions.

Lotus Freeze from Dose Cafe.

Younger Kuwaitis, however, tend to gravitate towards specialty cafés as important places to socialize. In a country where alcohol is illegal, the alternative beverage of choice is coffee, and consuming caffeine is their first go-to.

What’s this in the picture above, you may ask? Just your favorite cup of sweet, nostalgic brews. It’s what’s called the café con helado (coffee with ice-cream), found exclusively at CAF Cafe. While their headquarter cafe is in Kuwait, there are franchised locations in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and Bahrain as well.

4. Qatar

Pictured above is a “Drink in Love” (coffee) with a serving of chocolate pudding in front of a beautiful view of The Pearl.

Volume Cafe is located at The Pearl in Qatar. They are known for their specialty and signature coffee, as well as their desserts. Qatar is no stranger to coffee and its blends, just as the other countries we have mentioned. It is used for every single cultural event, as well as casual get togethers amongst friends, family, and colleagues.

5. Bahrain

There are many locations across the Arab States. Pictured above is Arabica – Dubai, City Walk.

Arabica needs no introduction. This Japanese franchise is simple, yet modern. They make small cups of coffee with no option for larger sizes, but even that compact cup will deliver the exact hit of caffeine you need to go about your day.

Their cafe latte is velvety, and one drink that many are drawn to. But the most popular drink they offer is the Spanish latte. Just order their standard latte, pair it with their fudgy, sea-salted brownie and that’s the way to start your day or take a well-deserved mid-day break.

The Future of Coffee

The coffee industry in the Middle East is expected to see a growth of USD 4.4 billion by 2021, which is proof of the fact that consumption is only going to increase in the future.

Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Coca-Cola-owned Costa Coffee are the three biggest players in the Middle East (with over 9,000 shops in the region as of 2018). In short, there has been significant growth in speciality coffee shops. Have you tried any of these specialty coffee shops during your travels in the Arab World? Tell us about your experience in the comment section.

Check out Arab America’s blog here!