Startup of the Week: Saudi students wake up to delights of new coffee shop

Updated 11 September 2019

Startup of the Week: Saudi students wake up to delights of new coffee shop

RIYADH: Students and workers in Jeddah are waking up to the cultural delights of a new community coffee shop venture.

Coffee & in Jeddah has been set up by three friends with marketing backgrounds to offer quality drinks in a personal, homey, local cafe environment.

The coffee house in the city’s Al-Fayha’a district is within walking distance of Dar Al-Hekma University and King Abdul Aziz University, and its owners aim to cater mainly to students and professionals.

“Whether you are looking for a place to finish your school project, or just want to enjoy some time on our patio between classes, we are here for you,” said joint owner Nada Akhonbay.

Her partners in the business, Essam Akhonbay and Ali Azhari, are both veteran marketers with fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies such as Procter & Gamble, Abudawood, and Basamh.

Their love of good coffee, board games and books were the inspiration behind the shop and influenced its design.

The trio studied abroad where they enjoyed the experience of visiting neighborhood coffee shops and decided to recreate a similar haven for students in Jeddah to relax and get their daily caffeine fix.

In contrast to big multinational coffee shop chains, Coffee & aims to be all about culture and community. “Our goal is to make our customers feel at home by providing quality services and recognizing our regulars by name,” Akhonbay added.

She said they sought to enhance the richness of their interactions with customers and each other and that everyone was welcome.

“We pride ourselves on serving carefully crafted coffee drinks made from 100 percent organic coffee beans, along with non-caffeine drinks. My personal favorites, exclusive to Coffee &, are the red velvet frappe and red velvet latte, which are perfectly sweet with a hint of coffee.”

As well as providing a place for customers to relax, study or work, visitors can also enjoy playing a range board games from around the world while sipping their favorite drinks.

Although the menu consists mainly of coffees, a variety of juices, sandwiches and desserts are also available.

“The next time you come to Jeddah, please stop by to experience the real college campus independent coffee shop, managed and owned by locals,” said Akhonbay.

It is located at Abdullah Sulayman Street in Jeddah’s Al-Fayha’a district. Coffee lovers can follow them on Instagram

Farm to table: Lebanese initiative ‘From the Villages’ celebrates local talent 

Updated 20 October 2020

Farm to table: Lebanese initiative ‘From the Villages’ celebrates local talent 

DUBAI: In an act of solidarity with Lebanon’s villagers, farmers and local artisans, a group of innovative Lebanese graduates are operating an online platform that provides a wide array of their homemade products and crafts to those residing mainly in Beirut, as well as other cities across the country. 

At a time when a number of businesses were closing down, “From the Villages” was born from the COVID-19 lockdown in May. It all started through a fateful conversation between a few individuals who wanted to share good quality produce and foods from their southern, fertile village of Deir Mimas with others.

“Because people in their villages don’t find markets to sell (at), we thought why don’t we sell this food online?” the e-platform’s managing partner Hani Touma told Arab News. “By using technology and having a platform, they can sell their products and reach a wider range of customers.” 

The team designed their website and launched a couple of days later, with a few available items. Today, its offerings have expanded and clients can access a variety of 25 product categories, which include herbs, dairies, jams, olives, syrups, distillates, soaps and pottery. An eco-friendly project, all of the products are minimally packaged and locally made by nearly 50 artisans and farmers, living in 20 villages, mostly from the south.  

“We’re working with real household people,” said Touma. “Some of the ladies that we work with are 60, 70 years old and this is their only job. It started as a fun project and now it’s growing. We’re helping a lot of the suppliers and they’re having regular income, although it’s going up and down because of the economic situation in Lebanon.” 

Prior to the spread of COVID-19, Lebanon was already suffering from decades-long mismanagement and a financial crisis, in which citizens couldn’t access their bank savings, unemployment and inflation spiked and the Lebanese Lira devalued exponentially. 

In addition, Lebanon stands far from its full potential when it comes to local agricultural production as it imports more than 80 percent of its food items. The efforts of Touma, his business partner Sari Hawa, along with their tightly knit team of experts, are amongst the latest aiming to cultivate a culture of homegrown food concepts through grassroots initiatives.  

“Now, even the products imported have started to be missing from the supermarkets,” explained Touma. “I think this was why ‘From the Villages’ grew very fast, because people were not able to find some of their food – like jams, for example. They were all imported from outside. But now, you have a local product available directly at your doorstep.”

Following the deadly Beirut port explosion on Aug. 4, the “From the Villages” team suspended operations for a month and is currently slowly picking up again by carrying out deliveries twice per week. “Everything is working against us,” said Touma, “but we’re trying to stay on the ground and fix everything.”