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
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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.”


Blood donation in the Middle East: The gift of life that is easy to give

Updated 14 June 2019
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Blood donation in the Middle East: The gift of life that is easy to give

  • World Blood Donor Day observed on June 14 to raise awareness of the life-saving importance of blood donation
  • Regular, voluntary donors are vital worldwide for adequate supply of safe blood and blood products

DUBAI: Blood donations in the Middle East have been described as “the gift of life” as the region struggles to cope with the demands posed by conflicts, humanitarian emergencies and the medical needs of a growing population.

International health experts have called on regular donors to step forward to mark World Blood Donor Day on June 14.

This year’s campaign focuses on blood donation and universal access to safe blood transfusion, and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), more donors are needed “to step forward to give the gift of life.”

Those who benefit most from blood donations include people suffering from thalassaemia, a blood disorder that affects hemoglobin and the red blood cell count, as well as victims of road accidents, cancer patients and sickle-cell disease patients.

Experts say while the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have launched numerous initiatives to raise awareness of the lifesaving importance of blood donation, there is an increasing need across a wider region for regular donors.

“Many countries in the region face challenges in making sufficient blood available while also ensuring its quality and safety, especially during humanitarian emergencies and conflicts,” Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean, told Arab News.

The GCC countries say they collect in total more than 10 whole blood donations per 1,000 population per year, or about 1 percent, Al-Mandhari said.

According to WHO, blood donations by 1 to 3 percent of the population are sufficient to meet a country’s needs. Even so, achieving self-sufficiency is a daunting challenge for many countries.

Al-Mandhari said that more than 90 percent of the blood is collected from voluntary, unpaid donors, aged from 18 to 44, with an increasing proportion of repeat donors. What is more, blood demand is unpredictable and even differs with each blood type. “For example O- blood can be given to patients with all blood types. But AB+ can only be given to patients with AB+,” he said.

Then there is the issue of short shelf life.

“To be ready to help patients in all hospitals, countries aim to stock usually six days’ worth of each blood type at all times,” Al-Mandhari said. “Since blood has a short shelf life — a 42-day window — and cannot be stockpiled, blood banks are forced to depend on donors to help maintain stocks.”

WHO’s most recent report on blood safety and availability points to “gaps in the key elements of national blood systems” in the Middle East.

A Saudi donor flashes the v-sign for victory as he gives blood in Jeddah. The Kingdom has one of the highest rates of repeat donors in the region. (AFP )

While GCC countries have taken steps to keep stocks at optimum levels, other countries in the Middle East are lagging behind international standards. The WHO report shows wide variations in annual blood-donation rates among countries, ranging from 0.7 per 1,000 population in Yemen to 29 per 1,000 population in Lebanon.

Al-Mandhari laid out the solution in a few easy steps: “Governments need to provide adequate resources, and put in place systems and infrastructure to increase the collection of blood from voluntary, regular unpaid blood donors, provide quality donor care, promote and implement appropriate clinical use of blood; and set up systems for oversight and surveillance across the blood-transfusion supply chain.”

On the positive side, Saudi Arabia recorded a rate of 13.8 per 1,000 population, with a healthy spread across all age groups. The country also has one of the highest rates of repeat donors (91 percent) in the region. According to the WHO report, the proportion of repeat, voluntary, non-remunerated blood donation in the Kingdom is 65.3 percent, which “will keep the prevalence of transfusion-transmissible infections among blood donors at much lower levels than in the general population.”

In recent years, Saudi health officials have introduced a number of measures to ensure adequate stocks in blood banks, including those run by the Ministry of Health and dedicated centers. These include a large facility at King Fahad Medical City (KFMC) and the country’s Central Blood Bank.

In the Kingdom, to be eligible for blood donation, donors must be aged over 17, weigh more than 50 kg, and have passed a brief medical examination. The health ministry recently launched Wateen, an app designed to ease blood-donation procedures and help ensure facilities across the Kingdom have adequate quantities of blood by 2020.

KFMC officials say that every day at least 2,000 units of blood components are needed to sustain a minimum supply for patients at the facility and other governmental and non-governmental hospitals in Riyadh. Donated blood components are essential for the management of cases involving cancer, sickle-cell disease, organ transplant, surgery, childbirth and trauma, to name just a few.

The situation is not very different in the other GCC countries, which also need more donors.

In the UAE, Dubai Blood Donation Center, which accounts for roughly half of the total blood collected in the emirates, frequently highlights the urgent need for donors. In 2018 alone, it ran 635 blood-donation campaigns, which resulted in 63,735 donors and a collection of 50,456 blood units.

While all blood types are needed, negative blood types are in greater demand due to their rarity. “There is a continuous demand for all blood types as blood lasts for only 42 days. So donors are always needed to come forward to replenish these stocks,” Dr. Mai Raouf, director of Dubai Blood Donation Center, said.

“People can donate blood every eight weeks, with each donation potentially saving up to three lives,” she told Arab News. 

Given that transfusion of blood and blood products save millions of lives every year, and the fact that “regular donors are the safest group of donors,” the importance of encouraging people to return to donate blood, rather than be one-time donors, can hardly be overemphasized, experts say.

“Without a system based on voluntary, unpaid blood donation, particularly regular voluntary donation, no country can provide sufficient blood for all patients who require transfusion,” Al-Mandhari said.

“WHO is calling on all countries in the region to celebrate and thank individuals who donate blood — and to encourage those who have not yet donated blood to start donating,” he said.