Creating a real brew-haha: The trendsetting Jeddah coffee shop

Brew92°: A perfect place to hang out for the day. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj )
Updated 19 July 2018

Creating a real brew-haha: The trendsetting Jeddah coffee shop

  • Brew92° has been generating a lot of buzz since its soft opening in July 2016
  • The team at the cafe sources beans from some of the best growers and suppliers in the world, then roasts them in their own private roastery

JEDDAH: Coffee aficionados in Jeddah have probably heard the name Brew92° whispered in reverent tones as a suggestion for the perfect place to hang out for the day, or just to pop into for a quick caffeine fix.

The specialty cafe has also introduced Saudi Arabia to the world of coffee bean auctions. In June 2018 it paid $105 for a pound of Gori Gesha beans at the annual Gesha Village Coffee Estate auction in Ethiopia, the highest price ever paid for African beans.

Brew92° has been generating a lot of buzz since its soft opening in July 2016, attracting coffee drinkers of all ages to try its consistent and powerful blends. The team at the cafe sources beans from some of the best growers and suppliers in the world, then roasts them in their own private roastery. 

Arab News was given a special behind-the-scenes glimpse of the process to see how the beans are prepared and processed to make the perfect cup of coffee. All of the roasts they create are tasted blind, for example, without the tasters knowing the origin of the beans, to avoid any bias in their opinions on the taste and quality. “There’s no absolute, there are only guidelines,” is the motto the team behind Brew92° live by.

The idea for the place came from co-founder Abdul Aziz Al-Musbahi, who often frequented a coffee shop when he spent a few years in London studying and decided he would like to open a branch in Saudi Arabia. The owner declined to do so but instead offered to teach him all he knew about coffee beans and roasting.

Later, Al-Musbahi met business partner Hussain Ibrahim and suggested opening a roastery. Instead of immediately finding premises and starting work, Al-Musbahi set about finding and recruiting the best talents, before starting to develop the brand. He built and invested in a solid, capable team, the members of which trained with coffee consultants.

“I’ve been in this field since 2005,” said Ibrahim. “What I learned in the two years with Brew92° beats what I learned in the 10 years before it and the 10 years ahead.”

The name of the place, he added, was decided during a trip he and Al-Musbahi took to Dubai.

“The perfect water temperature for brewing is between 90 and 96 degrees Celsius; 92 is kind of in the middle — and it is the year in which Abdul Aziz was born.”

The team’s creative mastermind, Mohamed Bamahriz, has a theory about why the cafe is proving so popular.

“It’s because we’re addressing our customer’s five senses,” he said. 

Bamahriz noted: “We have our customized music playlist based on the time of the day and what sort of ambiance the customer is looking for whenever they come here, be it early in the morning or with slumped shoulders after working hours.”

“We also tailored our decor to be visually friendly and cozy,” he said and added: “Our visitors not only enjoy the coffee, they get to smell it and be completely submerged within the experience.”

“A month from now, we will also be introducing fashionable merchandise, which is something they can touch. We want to create a brand but we don’t want it to be niche and exclusive. Just like (our intention for) specialty coffee when we first introduced it, we want it to be for everyone; we want to create a sense of community and we want to prove that we can all coexist.”

He said that something he loves about Brew92° is that he can look around and see a man wearing a thobe sitting next to another in shorts and a third in a suit, while girls in niqabs sit side by side with others wearing the hijab and those who not — and it does not matter at all because everyone is equal.

The cafe also aims to be a trendsetter, rather than just following them.

“We’ve created quite a bit of hype with our salted caramel drink,” said marketing director Nidal Taha. It is called Halawa Bagara in Arabic, named after the popular caramel fudge that has a special place in the childhood memories of millennials. “We invented it by mixing coffee with it — after all, we’re not a juice shop,” added Taha.

“Many cafes are now trying to recreate it,” said Ibrahim. “Suppliers are bringing caramel sauces from all over the place. Our aim is to make it a signature drink everywhere, just like the Spanish introduced the Spanish latte — we want our drinks to reach the rest of the world.”

Explore the tastes of Turkey at The Globe

Updated 17 April 2019

Explore the tastes of Turkey at The Globe

  • The Hilton Istanbul Bomonti’s restaurant takes diners on a journey through the country’s unique cuisines

ISTANBUL: No meal in Turkey is complete without an indulgence of some sort — pide bread soaked up in the creamy, tart sauces of Iskandar kebab in the city of Bursa, perhaps, or a rich, minced meat Börek at the famed Meşhur Sarıyer Börekçisi by the Bosporus. Turkish cuisine is abundant in historical, regional, and seasonal influences. There is so much to devour and relish.

Robyn Eckhardt, author of “Istanbul and Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey,” notes that there are two defining features of Turkish cuisine: locavorism or seasonality, and variety.

“Diets are determined by a region’s topography, climate, and what the land provides,” Eckhardt says. “Across Turkey, we find unique landscapes — salt and alkaline lakes, ocean coasts, and soaring mountains, all packed into a relatively small country. Also, Turkey borders several seas and countries, including Greece, Armenia, and Syria.”

She adds that culinary boundaries form the backbone of local diets. In the Black Sea region, hamsi pilavi (anchovy pilaf) is a specialty. With Syrian influences, the Hatay province’s staple dishes are hummus and muhammara. “In Kars, you are likely to eat piti (lamb and chickpea stew, spiced with turmeric and baked in an enamel metal cup). Piti originated from what is now Azerbaijan.”

“It should also be noted that thanks to rural-to-urban and east-to-west migration, some previously purely local dishes are now found everywhere in the country, like lahmacun (Turkish pizza) and mercimek corbasi (lentil soup),” Eckhardt says.

To learn more about Turkish cuisine and its defining ingredients, I visited the Hilton Istanbul Bomonti Hotel and Conference Center’s in-house restaurant, The Globe. In a live-cooking session, sous-chef Şenol Türkoğlu shares a few recipes from the restaurant’s new menu, “Local Tastes from Seven Regions.” The menu features local produce and specialties from seven different regions of Turkey.

First up, the Turkish mezze. “Vegetables cooked in olive oil (known as zeytinyağlı) are common in the Mediterranean regions of Turkey and make up a significant part of Aegean cuisine. Finely chopped herbs sourced from Izmir are mixed with thick yogurt and topped off with a generous drizzle of olive oil in the roasted Aegean herb and homemade yogurt dip,” Türkoğlu tells me.

The city of Çubuk in the Ankara region is renowned for its pickling. The Çubuk-style Gherkin Pickles pay homage to this specialty by using gherkins sourced from Çubuk, pickled with dill and vinegar, and served with red peppers. The Tarsus hummus (made with high-quality chickpeas brought in from Tarsus city in Mersin province) and Turkish muhammara (made with tahini, walnut, and allspice) look ordinary, but pack surprisingly piquant flavors.

Although Aleppo is to the south of Gaziantep, antep kibbeh at The Globe is distinctively different from its Syrian counterpart. With an outer shell that is crisper than usual, it comes immersed in a light, meat broth and a dollop of yogurt.

A personal favorite is the smoked eggplant with crumbled beyaz peynir (white cheese) from Ezine, in the Çanakkale province; the flavors — including a sprinkling of pistachio — work wonderfully together.

The pièce de résistance, though, is an Antalya-special kuzu tandir (lamb shank). Using the choicest shoulder cuts, Türkoğlu lathers on simple seasoning including mustard paste, cumin and coriander seeds, salt and pepper, and places the shank on a bed of regional vegetables. After six hours in a traditional oven, the dish is transformed into a delicacy that once graced the tables of the Seljuk Turks. “Now, it has become a celebratory dish that is reserved for feast days, special occasions or national holidays, like the Eid celebration,” he says.

There is no better way to describe my culinary experience than the words of the Turkish novelist, Abdülhak Şinasi Hisar: “Do not underestimate the dish by calling it just food. The blessed thing is an entire civilization in itself!”