Break the chains: Great coffee outside of Starbucks

XO Coffee Boutique. (Supplied)
Updated 05 February 2019

Break the chains: Great coffee outside of Starbucks

DUBAI: Whether you like it hot, cold, black, white, dairy-free, foam-free, with extra whipped cream, or any of the other combinations on offer, there’s nothing like a great cup of coffee to set you up for the day. Dubai has witnessed a surge in superb homegrown café concepts in recent times, set up by local java aficionados-turned-entrepreneurs. So the next time you’re out and about in the emirate, give the big-name chains a miss, and get your caffeine fix from one of these local artisanal spots.

Mirdif 35, 60C Street
From the café itself to the creations within it, Qahwaty is a work of art. Tucked away in a small shopping center in Mirdif, the concept was founded by a trio of Saudi partners, led by founder Ahmad Bakheet. This small coffeehouse, which launched in 2016, sources its beans from local roasters, including Seven Fortunes and Cypher.
Our tip: Order something a little out of the ordinary — the Insta-pic alone is worth it.
Open Sunday to Wednesday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Thursday to Saturday 8 a.m. to midnight.

Home Bakery
The Galleria, Al Wasl Road
Okay, we’ll get to the coffee in a minute, but if you’ve never been to Home Bakery before, then the first thing you need to do is purchase one (or, say, five) of their Chewy Melt cookies — the finest in the world. (As self-confessed cookie monsters, we take our gooey, chocolatey bakes seriously, and don’t make these kinds of claims lightly.)
Founded by Emirati sister-brother duo Hind and Abdulla Al-Mulla in 2014, Home Bakery specializes in homemade-style desserts and specialty coffee, with beans sourced from Brazil, Colombia and Ethiopia. The Spanish Latte is a winner.
Open daily, 7 a.m. to midnight.

Emirati Coffee Co
One Third Dubai, Dar Wasl Mall
For Mohamed Ali Al-Madfai, coffee is more than just a venture; it’s part of his heritage. The co-founder and CEO of Emirati Coffee Co. has a keen eye for sourcing the best beans, trading directly with 82 coffee-producing countries — a skill he no doubt picked up from his grandfather, who used to trade coffee in the 1930s.
Al-Madfai first launched a roastery in 2017, followed by a coffee shop in 2018. It’s said to be the first local brand to control the full supply chain — from farm to cup — ensuring sources are ethical and sustainable.
Open weekdays 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and 8 a.m. to midnight on weekends.

Farmers Coffee
Wadi Al Amardhi Street, Al Khawaneej
One look at Farmers Coffee’s Instagram account (, and you’ll want one of their clever creations, pronto. Dubbed a “third-wave coffee shop” by its Emirati founders Faisal Ibrahim Ahil and Faisal Salem Al-Marri, Farmers launched in May last year, and has fast cemented itself as one of the places to be seen out and about in Dubai. The ‘coffeepreneurs’ support regional suppliers, sourcing their beans from Saudi’s Camel Step Coffee Roasters, whose beans are fair-trade.
Open weekdays 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. (midnight on Thursdays), and 8.30 a.m. to midnight on Fridays, and to 11p.m. on Saturdays.

API 1000, Building C, Al Safa
Nostalgia is the brainchild of Maitha Bin Byat, an Emirati who wanted to set up a concept built around “a philosophy of creating experiences for the community around a curated offering of specialty coffee, hand-painted chocolates and pastries.” Nostalgia opened in 2017, and its baristas include two champions: the 2018 champion of the Brewer’s Cup, and the 2016 winner of Latte Art.
Open Sunday to Wednesday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Thursday to Saturday 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

XO Coffee Boutique
Al Amardi Street, Al Khawaneej
XO’s Instagram account ( is a must-follow for any coffee lover, and the taste is just as good the visuals. Emirati founder Mohammed Al-Zaabi — who named the coffee bar after his favorite childhood game (aka tic-tac-toe) — wanted to create an open space that, much like playing board games, encourages conversation between barista and coffee drinker. XO Coffee Boutique serves three brands of specialty beans: Barcelona’s Nomad, Cupping Room from Hong Kong, and World Roasting Champion Gardelli from Italy.
Open weekdays 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. (to 1 a.m. on Thursdays), and 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekends.


Baking contest to whisk up golden business opportunity in Saudi Arabia

Updated 22 February 2019

Baking contest to whisk up golden business opportunity in Saudi Arabia

  • Jeddah-based concept store Crate teams up with online bake-house Bakery M to find the next top baker
  • The winner of The Golden Whisk competition will receive an all-inclusive brand-building package

JEDDAH: A Saudi baking competition offering a golden business opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs has been launched.

Crate, a Jeddah-based concept store which aims to empower enterprising locals, has teamed up with acclaimed online bake-house Bakery M, to find the next top baker through The Golden Whisk contest. 

High startup costs have led many new businesses to operate exclusively online through social media platforms such as Instagram. 

However, Crate, through its flagship store in Jeddah’s Al-Salamah, offers new businesses a retail location to showcase their products to local consumers.

The winner of The Golden Whisk competition will receive an all-inclusive brand-building package created by Crate, Bakery M, and graphic design firm LOUD.

“We proposed the idea to Mariam (Bakery M founder Mariam Alhaddad), and she fell in love with it instantly,” said Crate co-founder and CEO, Rayan Fadul. “Our goal is to provide the winning home-baker with all the right tools to establish their independent brand in the market.”



Aspiring bakers can register for The Golden Whisk by visiting Crate’s Instagram page (@crate.ksa), where a link to the application form can be found in the company’s bio section. Registration is open through Feb. 26.

Finalists will be narrowed down to a pool of 20 candidates and these bakers will present their dessert samples to an esteemed panel of three judges: Mariam Alhaddad (@bakerym), Basma Elkhereiji (@basmaelkhereiji), and Raneen Joudah (@raneens.table). Judging will be based on taste, presentation, quality, originality, and the passion of bakers during their dessert presentations.

Ten lucky bakers will then go through to a grand final on March 17.


Marketing exposure

The winning contestant will be hosted by Bakery M at its booth at Crate, where their winning dessert will be showcased for an entire month to help with initial marketing exposure.

During the month, LOUD, a sister company of Crate, will conduct branding services such as logo designs, photography sessions, and professional packaging services. 

Crate will then offer a complimentary three-month package to the winner, where they will be allocated their own independent space within Crate to further establish their bakery brand.

“We want to bring the talent out from within you and give you a head start on your bakery brand,” said Alhaddad. “This competition is meant to help you shine. Keep in mind, individualism is key. You want to be recognized? Be original. Refuse ordinary,” she added.

Online bake-houses in the Kingdom have been a growing trend in recent years, and The Golden Whisk contest aims to capitalize on this by stirring up competition among them and in the process cooking up some delicious innovative treats. 

“We are so happy to create this opportunity through this competition,” said Fadul. “We are moving an unknown baker from their home, to their own space in an established storefront, having their business brand properly formed, and offering them great marketing exposure — with the seal of approval from Bakery M herself.”