For the Love of Coffee

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Yea. There's gonna be a lot of lattes in this one. 

It’s no secret, I love my coffee, if you were to walk a mile in my shoes you would most definitely end up in a small, cozy coffee shop - Before the latest hotspot in the city for dinner, of course.

Now, I’m a huge coffee snob, but if I’m being perfectly honest, I definitely don't consider myself a coffee connoisseur, I'm learning with each cup but Dubai seems to be obsessed with coffee shops nowadays and hey, I'm not complaining. It's quite possibly my favorite trend so far. But such a fast expansion also means a drop in quality, so you definitely have to filter through the rubbish.

To me, going for a cup of coffee is about so much more than just the coffee, it's a ritual. I love to immerse myself in the coffee-shop culture, the interiors, the baristas and the atmosphere. It's safe to say, many hours of my week are spent in coffee shops and my love for this beloved liquid magic knows no bounds. 

And for the love of coffee, I have narrowed down my 13 favorite cups in the city, not for snobbery, but for the appreciation of a good cuppa.

{Note: The below list is not in any particular order.}

1. Qahwaty

Mirdif 35 is seriously litt and this coffee shop is a big reason why. A neon sign flashes “life begins after coffee” and a Pinterest-worthy ceiling complete with greenery, bright teal fabric, exposed piping and one of the best Piccolos in town. Using a mix of Windrose and Cafe Rider coffee beans, the latter has a roastery in Dubai (see no. 5), whereas the former is based in Oman. Special shout out to barista Taufik Fadhlan who makes it perfect everytime. Not much option for food or pastries on site though so do keep that in mind.


2. Stomping Grounds

The perfect space if you fancy both food & coffee - Basically the kinda place you disappear to with your laptop for the day. Stomping Grounds is home to Specialty Batch, an in-house roastery that also supplies to other cafes in Dubai and uses a variety of single origin beans that rotate regularly - Costa Rica is a personal favorite and Guatemalan a close second. The scones are freshly baked to order served with the REAL clotted cream & jam, the chia pudding in my opinion is the best in Dubai but way too good to be healthy. Scared to ask what's in it so if you do, don't tell me! Ignorance is bliss in this situation. 


3. Brew Cafe

A hole in the wall, super cozy, with a raw wooden rustic finish. This place is a must visit for me and I always make sure I pop in when it's on the way to, well, anywhere really. Almost any brewing method you can think of is available and beans which rotate regularly. Not to mention they use Valhrona chocolate for their mocha coffee and small bites! My favorite being the chocolate peanut butter pretzel balls (I highly recommend trying them - they're addictive). Baristas Ian and Majah are always ready to answer any questions you may have and their signature “Dirty White” is a never ending obsession of mine. A shot of espresso and steamed milk over ice with a sprinkle of ground coffee. Not many seats to sit on though, but most definitely worth a visit.


4. Chemex Lab

Calligraphy that will give you table envy, a well kempt library, incredible lighting, the perfect cuppa and desserts from different home bakers. One of my favorite new openings this year stocking beans from the Underdog Project based in Greece. I could sit here for hours sans-company. The flat white is exquisite and a few savory options available as well to nibble if you're feeling peckish. Truly a magical spot, try the Ethiopian, you won't be disappointed.


5. Cafe Rider

In-house Roastery, warehouse feels, Rockstars, speedy wifi and Motorbikes, you know you're in for a treat when you walk in here. With a variety of espresso based beverages, manual & alternative brewing, specialty tea, smoothies, fresh juices, and food served all day, this place has got you covered. The pour over is a personal favorite and the beans are consistently roasted each time I go. With a very unique vibe this space is worth a visit.


6. Roseleaf

Probably the most cozy of all, especially the sunroom seating that's hidden away in the back of the Garden Centre on Sheikh Zayed Road . Roseleaf has teamed up with Nightjar Coffee that roasts its carefully selected beans in Al Quoz. With a large pastry & savory selection, mismatched china and a very interesting stack of books to flip through, it was love at first site.


7. Espresso Lab

The Espresso Lab is exactly that, a team of extremely precise coffee chefs at work and an artisan company to the core, in a brand new location tucked away in D3. No food, sugar or wifi on site so it attracts only the hardcore coffee addicts. They have a tasting board of coffee which is well worth a try if you're interested in trying what the latest technology in the specialty coffee industry has to offer. Using beans roasted locally at Grandmother coffee roastery in Al Quoz, their future expansion plans include a second location featuring a boutique roastery where caffeine junkies can experience the full framework starting from green coffee beans to the final cup.


8. Goldbox Roastery

Hidden away in Al Quoz Barsha. First and foremost a roastery with wooven fabric coffee sacks stacked high on warehouse shelves with a ping pong table and a let-the-coffee-do-the-talking kind of community feel. This place is truly special with extremely friendly service. Just tell Dean what you're looking for and he's sure to sort you out (P.S. They also barter cups of coffee for baked goods. You know - just in case you're into that kind of stuff).  Training and in-house quality control courses also on offer for newcomers to the coffee industry.


9. Cremolata

An award winning tiny gelato shop at the fishing harbor and the last place you would think of to grab one of the best cups in town! This space is my favorite in the winters when the weather allows you to sit outdoors by the water and watch the fisherman do their thing. The coffee notion is called Coffee & Story, and uses beans of various origins from different micro roasters in the UK (always exciting when Guatamala is on rotation).


10. Mokha 1450

Screams arabic tradition and hospitality with hand-carved wooden tables and a small plate of dates served with each cup. Home of Ethiopian Geisha and exceptionally rare single origin beans, all 100% Arabic, direct trade, crop to cup service. Mokha being a port in Yemen where the heart of the coffee culture first took place in 1450. Naturally this space goes back to the source focusing heavily on the twin origins of coffee - Ethiopia and Yemen, to emphasize where all coffee comes from and where coffee begins its journey to drinkers across the globe.


11. Sum of Us

This Aussie style, two-storey, urban, industrial café with exposed ceilings is always buzzing, has its own roastery, a mean acai bowl and some of the best sourdough in town. Really can't go wrong with all-day dining and good coffee. Home to Encounter Coffee which sources Arabica beans from around the globe - A counterpart of the Bull & Roo Company.  You can chose from almost 20 different house-blends of coffee, but don’t miss the cold drip! A personal fave.


12. 20 Grams

Our new local. Located in the heart of Nad Al Hamar this minimalistic coffee shop serves up 20 grams of all you'll need. I was a bit double minded about having this 200m away from our house but after I got over the guilt of spending 20dhs on a flat white almost every single day; the fun of having a speciality coffee shop that is consistently serving up fantastic cups right next to home, is just too much fun! 80% of the clientele is residing in Nad Al Hamar and are repeat customers, which means bumping into neighbours and exchanging gossip about what else is opening around the corner while complaining of something that's out of stock at the supermarket, makes it feel all the more familiar. 20 grams is currently using different single origins roasted at Windrose, a micro-roaster located in Oman. The flat white is well worth it - 20 grams of goodness.


13. Nostalgia

We were all very upset when this tiny stall in the middle of JBR closed down. But it's back bigger and better than ever in a much more central location. One of the few coffee shops using the Slayer espresso machine and not to mention a sizeable pastry display, home made ice-creams and a large variety of modern bonbons, making this speciality coffee shop truly unique. Using beans roasted locally at Grandmother coffee roastery in Al Quoz (the same owner as The Espresso Lab) and currently home to 2015, 2016, and 2017 UAE Barista Champ Lyndon Recera - You're pretty much guaranteed a good cup! Probably one of the more commercial coffee shops on my list but it never disappoints and most definitely has the best latte art I've come across in Dubai thus far. 


So there you have it. My 13 favorite cups in the city. I’ll keep adding to the list as the coffee shop scene expands. In a city where homegrown concepts are not nearly as common as international chains, there's something very refreshing about exploring the cafes because all of them are brought about by local talent. Some inside garden centres, warehouses, gyms, roasteries and even shopping malls. All so different yet special in their own way.