For real coffee lovers, it is always caffeine and chocolate

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Druze man serves coffee.
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Bibimbap
Updated 27 April 2017

For real coffee lovers, it is always caffeine and chocolate

“Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death and sweet as love.” — Turkish proverb
A three-day coffee and chocolate festival held recently by Caffeine at Emaar Square-Jeddah Gate brought out Jeddawi coffee and chocolate addicts to savor all things C8H10N4O2 (for the uninitiated, that’s caffeine).
The Caffeine Festival featured blends of Arabic coffee, including types from Damascus, Ramallah, Riyadh and Amman. And we learned that chocolate is the most common additive, either sprinkled on top or added in syrup form, while other flavors can be included such as cinnamon, nutmeg and Italian syrup. One type of Saudi Arabian coffee at the event was almond coffee — one of the most popular traditional hot drinks served in the Hijaz region during the cooler months. It contains milk, almond, rice flour and cardamom.
But a serious omission at the festival was the absence of Turkish coffee (or Armenian coffee depending on how you identify your morning cuppa). This was a serious snub to Arabs who believe that quaffing black liquid that has the same consistency as motor oil is just short of paradise.
If true Turkish coffee drinkers felt slighted at last weekend’s event, they didn’t let on, because most people left the festival with enough energy to clean the house until 4 a.m. or feverishly work on their poetry, in which nobody will read or listen to, until the crack of dawn.
As one Saudi woman put it as she was leaving the festival Saturday: “Coffee is a passion and part of Saudi tradition.”
Saudi coffee culture was celebrated as visitors were offered the chance to taste blends of Arabic coffee, including blends from Qassim and Hejaz.
The place was as much for desserts as it was for coffee lovers and all vendors were glad to provide visitors with their special products.
“We tried to make it unique yet traditional by adding extra new toppings instead of only serving grained almonds,” one exhibitor told Arab News.
“Oreo, lotus, cookies, pistachio and hazelnut were added to coffees to entice customers.”
The event also featured Saudi folklore and dancing along with traditional songs and children’s activities.
Asmaa Dubaie, 41, showed off her inventive approach toward chocolate.
“I mixed new flavors into the chocolate as a hot drink, such as cardamom and flowers added to all types of chocolate ­­— white, dark and milk chocolate,” she told Arab News.
Dubaie said she was trying to keep everything organic by creating “chocolate free of hydrogenated oils.”
The fun part that attracted most of the attendees was the special laser lighting along with the most recent American hip-hop songs, the amazing folklore dancing in addition to the dancing fountain. People were enjoying their time.
“Having such an event changes how Saudi Arabia is viewed by people around the world. We can have fun in Saudi Arabia,” another attendee commented.
Arwa Tallal Azhari, CEO of the event and founder of the Across Culture Association told Arab News: “We called the event ‘Caffeine’ due to the caffeine included in coffee and cocoa and tea. We gathered the startup businesses related to the theme, but not specializing in coffee or even espresso.”
The General Entertainment Authority, Mix FM, Sky for Lighting and Careem supported the event.
On the third and last day, the number of visitors exceeded the expectations.
“We expected only 3,000 to attend, however, surprisingly, on the third day, the number of attendees reached around 5,000 visitors. We could not let more people in,” Azahri said.

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Small spaces, big dreams: UAE foodie turns balcony into farm

Updated 21 September 2020

Small spaces, big dreams: UAE foodie turns balcony into farm

MUMBAI: An organic farm started by Sharjah-based Professor Anu Ranade has become a testbed to examine different plants and how they react to severe weather conditions in the UAE — and the green-fingered faculty member has even taken to feeding friends and neighbors with her home-grown goods.

Ranade has grown and harvested more than 40 varieties of tomatoes, in addition to numerous crops in the community farming area, such as cabbage, ginger, mustard, turmeric and mangoes to name a few.

Her farming story began in 2009, when she started missing her hometown and the joys of gardening due to the lack of outdoor space in her apartment in Ajman.

Sharjah-based Professor's farming story started in 2009. Supplied

Not one to be held back, she set out to find ways to pursue gardening in complex settings and weather conditions. She built a small oasis using containers, trellises, vertical and railing planters and started growing plants such as aloe vera, tomatoes, curry leaves, mint, Indian basil and string beans on her balcony.

After landing a job as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sharjah, she moved to a new apartment in Sharjah with enough balcony space to grow a number of plants.

Not one to be held back, she set out to find ways to pursue gardening in complex settings and weather conditions. Supplied

“I started growing several more kinds of vegetables and fruit on the balcony that even inspired my neighbors and friends. In 2019, I grew eight different varieties of tomatoes in the balcony, which yielded more than 20 kg. What started as a hobby slowly turned into an obsession and inspired me to try my hands-on terrace gardening. Luckily, my husband is also extremely passionate about gardening. Together as a team, we used all the extra space available on the terrace of our apartment above the 21st floor.”

She built a small oasis using containers, trellises, vertical and railing planters. Supplied

They recycled wooden planks, car tires, refrigerator racks and milk cans and created raised beds to grow more than 50 different types of nutritious fruits and veggies, some of which you may not even see in a local grocery store.

Last summer, the Department of Sustainability at the University of Sharjah offered to support her by building a 225 square meter plot in addition to allowing some open space inside the campus for community farming.

The Department of Sustainability at the University of Sharjah offered to support her. Supplied

A small part of the harvest that is unsuitable for consumption always goes to composting, as the couple actively follow a zero food waste at home rule. She has also set up a community composting center at the College of Medicine where she is currently working, “In eight months, I have produced more than 700kg of compost and fed it to my plants. Otherwise, all of this kitchen waste would simply end up in the landfill,” Ranade said.