From Riyadh to Dubai, why is good coffee in the region so expensive?

A cup of coffee from Dubai-based Nightjar costs $5. File/Instagram@nightjar.coffee
A cup of coffee from Dubai-based Nightjar costs $5. File/[email protected]
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Updated 19 April 2021

From Riyadh to Dubai, why is good coffee in the region so expensive?

A cup of coffee from Dubai-based Nightjar costs $5. File/Instagram@nightjar.coffee

DUBAI: Buying a cup of coffee in the Gulf can be quite expensive.

Coffee lovers often bemoan the fact that their latte costs double in Dubai or Riyadh what it does in other countries.

What we might not realize, however, is that we are paying for a lot more than milk and beans in that cup of coffee.

Last week, social media was set alight by a complaint over the price of a $7 flat white in Dubai. Coffee lovers from Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar chimed in on whether the cost was justified. It begs the question: Why is coffee so expensive in this region?

We spoke to cafe operators to find out.

Leon Surynt, owner of Nightjar Coffee, one of Dubai’s most popular coffee brands and cafes, said that it is “really hard” to keep his coffee affordable.

Nightjar imports its own beans directly from farms around the world, roasts them at its Alserkal Avenue roastery and sells to hotels and cafes across the country. 

“You need to have multiple avenues, which is a bit of online, a bit of wholesale and a bit of cafe, to make money here,” Surynt says. 

“We live in a society that has a low tax rate, but we also have many compliance costs.”

If we were to break down the cost of a latte at Nightjar ($5), Surynt says, the ingredients — milk and coffee — and the cup only account for about $1 or 20 percent. He estimates that staff wages and expenses, on the other hand, make up a whopping 30 percent, while rent is another 15 percent. Other overheads, such as government fees, marketing, admin and logistics mean his profit from that one latte is about AED 4 (or $1). And that’s not accounting for the cost of delivery aggregators, his salary and kitchen operations.

“There are a lot of hidden costs here,” Surynt said. 

The story is the same for many others.

Samer Harkous, business development manager for Cypher Coffee, supplies hundreds of cafes in the UAE and overseas with green and roasted beans. 

Cypher does not operate a cafe but offers samples at its roastery.

When pricing Cypher’s products, Harkous said rent and municipality fees must be built into the price of beans, and a profit needs to be made on top of that. The cafe selling those beans must then add on its own costs.

And roasting beans is a costly — and difficult — process.

Equipment is imported from overseas. Each bean requires a different roasting method, which is meticulously recorded on charts by staff, from monitoring the necessary temperature and gas levels to listening for the “first crack.” 

Beans themselves command a range of prices. Cypher’s most expensive roast is from Yemen (up to $136 per kilogram) and its cheapest, and most popular, is from Brazil (between $16 to $82 per kilogram). 

Brazilian beans are therefore used by cafes wanting to keep costs down. More expensive beans, usually used by specialty coffee houses, will command a higher price.

Ali Al-Fahad, founder of Earth Roastery, which was established in Kuwait in 2014 and has spread across the region since, adjusts his coffee prices depending on the country he operates in. 

He said that Kuwait is the most expensive and logistically difficult location for a cafe business, while Dubai is the easiest and cheapest. That is why it took them until 2019 to open a café. Before that, he was solely selling wholesale coffee beans.

“Business here is very risky. Very few people can be successful,” he said. “When we opened the coffee shop, we understood that.”

Al-Fahad said their highest costs go on salaries and visa costs, followed by rent and logistics.

“Customers travel. They want the same quality and experience as they have in Europe. But to be on that level, you need to invest more.”

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by (@crustandcrema)

Cyrus Woo, deputy director at Bahrain’s Crust and Crema, said pricing was a “sensitive” subject when they opened.

“We had to be very careful. We only had other coffee shops to compare to, so we did market research and then did our own costing.”

Of the $4 it costs for an Americano or $5 for a latte, Woo agreed that what the customer is mostly paying for is staff salaries.

“If you factor in how much of the coffee and milk you’re going to use for one drink, those are the minimal costs involved,” Woo said.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by (@crustandcrema)

“You’re paying for the atmosphere, overheads, marketing, utilities, rent, insurance, equipment and labor costs. The market is saturated, and baristas are in high demand, so you have to pay more for them.”

Woo said that while coffee makes more money than food at a cafe, for coffee to be profitable, a cafe has to “sell a lot.”

“We are a for-profit business. We need to be able to survive, but we don’t want to be greedy. 

“I hope that when people come in and have coffee, they appreciate there’s a lot more involved, that they’re paying for the experience.”

So, when you’re handing over $7 for your latte, lamenting the expense, remember: You’re not just buying a coffee. You’re paying for your surroundings and for your barista’s wages. And actually, for $7, that’s pretty reasonable.


Major luxury retailers announce removal of popular brand due to alleged ‘anti-Palestine’ comments

Major luxury retailers announce removal of popular brand due to alleged ‘anti-Palestine’ comments
Cult Gaia is a Los Angeles-based label founded by Jasmin Larian. Instagram
Updated 17 May 2021

Major luxury retailers announce removal of popular brand due to alleged ‘anti-Palestine’ comments

Major luxury retailers announce removal of popular brand due to alleged ‘anti-Palestine’ comments

DUBAI: Harvey Nichols Kuwait announced this week that they will no longer be stocking Cult Gaia products after the Los Angeles-based brand’s founder, Jasmin Larian, made comments on Instagram that were deemed by many on social media to be “anti-Palestine.”

Her post, which she shared with her 28,200 Instagram followers read: “I am seeing so much misinformation on social… One-sided and spreading hate. Please educate yourself on the full story before reposting. I’m praying for everyone on both sides who are a victim of this violence.” She also reposted a photo depicting the words “I support Israel’s right to defend itself.” 

Many in the region perceived her post as taking an anti-Palestine stance and engaging in “bothsidesism,” and urged local department stores and e-tailers to stop selling Cult Gaia products.  

In response to the backlash her post garnered, Larian, who is Iranian-Jewish, later shared: “I realize I am part of the problem by failing to share both sides.” She added, “I also want to be clear that I am in support of the Palestinian people and their rights but not of the leadership that uses them to incite violence and hatred for Israel and Jews. In a perfect world, Israel should be a place for all people and all religions.” However, a number of retailers have already made the decision to remove Cult Gaia from shelves.

Harvey Nichols in Kuwait took to Instagram on Monday to announce their decision to stop stocking the ready-to-wear label. “Our dear followers, due to the current escalation of events, the decision has been made to remove Cult Gaia from Harvey Nichols,” said the statement.

Galleries Lafayette in Doha followed suit, replying to a user calling for the boycott of the brand in an Instagram direct message that they are “in the process of taking the necessary action.”

Ounass, a leading luxury e-tailer in the region, has also stopped selling Cult Gaia products on its online platform as well as Bloomingdales Middle East.

The death toll in Gaza has climbed to a total of 197, including at least 58 children and 34 women, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Since the beginning of the Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip this week, at least 1,235 Palestinians have been injured, with the number expected to rise, the health ministry said.


Meet the Arab fashion brand supporting women through menswear

Meet the Arab fashion brand supporting women through menswear
Updated 17 May 2021

Meet the Arab fashion brand supporting women through menswear

Meet the Arab fashion brand supporting women through menswear

DUBAI: While Arab womenswear designers continue to take the international fashion scene and celebrity red carpets by storm, menswear is still a work in progress. Understanding the need to fill the gap in the market, cousins Abla and Raneen Kawar launched ARAK, creating unique designs for men and also shining a spotlight on Arab culture. 

With sustainability and community at the forefront of the brand’s ethos, ARAK is a social enterprise, empowering local women and preserving their fading culture. Here, the duo discusses their label, fusing fashion with technology, and why showcasing Middle East traditions is so important. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ARAK Studio (@arak.studio)

Tell us about the idea behind ARAK.

We launched ARAK (meaning “I see you”) with the aim to preserve our Arab heritage by using artisanal skills and techniques in the production of our pieces, namely cross stitch embroidery. We grew up in a family that values sustainability and caring for the environment, so it’s important for us to carry out those values. 

Why focus on menswear?

We noticed the visible gap in the market, particularly with Arab menswear brands. So, we wanted to fill that gap by incorporating traditional Levantine embroidery through our designs. As part of our sustainability efforts, we only want to offer consumers garments that are not offered in the market today.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ARAK Studio (@arak.studio)

You say ‘each garment narrates a wider narrative,’ how so?

Each collection we produce has an overarching narrative, which the designs are inspired by, and then each piece has a hidden narrative to tell – the story of the woman who spent endless hours creating it.                                                                                                                                  

Most of your artisans are underprivileged women in Jordan, why was this important to you?    

Part of ARAK’s ethos is female empowerment. We provide the women with jobs and the opportunity to be financially independent and to help them provide for their children, all from the comfort of their own home. It was important to support these women and destigmatize the taboo around women working in traditionally conservative households.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ARAK Studio (@arak.studio)

How does your relationship work with the local NGO in Jordan?

ARAK works with a local NGO based in Amman, for the production and operation of embroidering the pieces in order to ensure quality and consistency. The local NGO launched in October 2020, aiming to help women build sustainable income as well as build their skills professionally. They work with a not-for-profit academy which offers 100 percent free artisanal courses for members in a bid to continue advancing their skills. We offer the women work with fair wages and ethical working conditions.

ARAK’s designs also fuse tech with tradition, tell us more.               

Today’s world is shifting towards being more tech-dependent. So, it was a no brainer that the initial step we would take as a brand was to implement a woven QR code attached to each garment. Our QR code allows purchasing customers to track how to care for their garment, be introduced to who made it, and identify our transparent practices. We hope to integrate more tech-savvy solutions to our brand in the future.   

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ARAK Studio (@arak.studio)

What was the inspiration behind your SS21 collection?                     

Re-discovering our country from a new lens, particularly appreciating the little things as well as the beautiful landscapes that we took for granted pre-COVID-19. The designs in this collection, translate the beauty of the Jordanian landscape through embroidery.                              

What’s your opinion on the representation of Middle Eastern talent in the fashion industry?

The region is filled with incredible talent, many that are yet to be discovered. We believe that representation of the Middle East for what it is still has a long way to go to be perceived in the light it deserves. ARAK aims to do that by making sure all our work is supporting local talent, from the production down to the photographers, models and anyone involved in the creative process of our journey.


Miss Universe 2021 contestants dazzle in designs from the Middle East

Miss Universe 2021 contestants dazzle in designs from the Middle East
Demi-Leigh Tebow wearing Michael Cinco at the Miss Universe 2020 finals. Instagram
Updated 17 May 2021

Miss Universe 2021 contestants dazzle in designs from the Middle East

Miss Universe 2021 contestants dazzle in designs from the Middle East

DUBAI:  Filipino couturier Michael Cinco seems to be a favorite when it comes to beauty pageants. Miss Universe fans will recall that the Dubai-based designer created the gowns that Pia Wurtzbach and Iris Mittenaere, who were crowned Miss Universe in 2015 and 2016, respectively, wore to take home the crown.

This year, he was tasked with designing the dresses of some of the contestants, such as Nova Stevens of Canada, for the Miss Universe 2020 finals, which took place on Sunday evening at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, South Florida.

He also designed the dresses that Miss Czech Republic Klara Vavrushkova and Romania’s Bianca Tirsin wore to the preliminaries on May 14.

Miss Czech Republic stunned in a Michael Cinco gown at the preliminaries. Getty Images

Stevens announced the news weeks ago by posting a photo with the renowned designer on Instagram.

 “Boss! Michael Cinco needs no introduction! So grateful to have you as my official gown designer for Miss Universe,” she wrote alongside a heart-eyed emoji.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by NOVA (@thenovastevens)

Stevens wasn’t the only designer to don a frock by the Dubai-based label during the televised Miss Universe 2020 finals.

Demi-Leigh Tebow, who won Miss Universe in 2017, channeled 1930s Hollywood glamour in a gown designed by the Filipino talent during the 69th edition of the pageant in Florida.

Olivia Culpo wore an embellished Zuhair Murad gown to host the Miss Universe 2020 competition. Getty Images

Tebow served as an expert analyst and correspondent during the event which was co-hosted by the Miss Universe 2012 titleholder Olivia Culpo and American actor Mario Lopez.

For the occasion, Culpo chose a design from Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad. The fashion influencer opted for a pink, heavily-embellished gown with a single shoulder from the Arab designer’s Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection.

Couturiers from our neck of the woods had a big night.

Rabiya Mateo, who represented the Philippines wore two glamorous creations by Dubai-based Amato for the preliminary show and for the finals.

Miss Philippines Rabiya Mateo wore a gown designed by Amato at the 2020 Miss Universe prelimenary show. Supplied

In March 2021, it was announced that the annual competition would be returning with a live broadcast after a number of safety precautions were put in place.

 Twenty-six-year-old Andrea Meza from Mexico was crowned Miss Universe 2020, while Miss Brazil, Julia Gama, was the runner-up and Miss Peru, Janick Maceta Del Castillo, secured third place.


Saudi author takes an intimate look at facing death in lauded novel 

Saudi author takes an intimate look at facing death in lauded novel 
Updated 17 May 2021

Saudi author takes an intimate look at facing death in lauded novel 

Saudi author takes an intimate look at facing death in lauded novel 

CHICAGO: The youngest writer —and the first debut author — to be shortlisted in the history of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction is Saudi Arabia’s very own Aziz Mohammed for “The Critical Case of a Man Called K.” Hailing from AlKhobar, Mohammed’s novel follows a young man named K whose is hyper-aware of the monotony of his life. Everything, up until now, has been predictable, but when fatigue sends him to the hospital, K learns that he has leukemia. Translated into English by the award-winning Humphrey Davies, the story of K is a tale that takes an intimate look at a young man’s life when he is faced with illness and death.

K is introspective almost to the point of exhausting himself. He has a mother who has always taken care of him but equates reading books to being as harmful as smoking, a father who dies before he finishes high school and a sister and brother who do everything they are asked to do. K, on the other hand, fights the tedium while attempting to be a good son. Pulling references from his favorite authors, such as Kafka, Hemingway, and Tanizaki, he feels his life as an IT graduate, which was the chosen career path for financial reasons, is not what he wants to do, and he longs for something different.

Through K, Mohammed has created a character who is sensitive to how his presence affects everyone around him, as if he can see his sound waves rippling through people and altering them. He longs for inspiration to write a novel, but the environment does not concede to exploration or anything out of the ordinary.

Mohammed’s debut novel is a darkly humorous look into the life of a man who desires more in life when he is diagnosed with leukemia. The journey into illness is intimate and distressing, watching someone’s world turn upside down while at the same time offering an alternative to the mundane and predictable. There is rawness to life when faced with death, duty bound mothers, sons, and daughters, the tension and love between children and parents, and the fragility of the system when love and tradition don’t always move parallel to one another.

 


Guinness names Saudi girl Ritaj Al-Hazmi, 12, youngest book series author

Guinness names Saudi girl Ritaj Al-Hazmi, 12, youngest book series author
Updated 17 May 2021

Guinness names Saudi girl Ritaj Al-Hazmi, 12, youngest book series author

Guinness names Saudi girl Ritaj Al-Hazmi, 12, youngest book series author
  • Ritaj Al-Hazmi has already had three novels published and there are two more in the pipeline

MAKKAH: Ritaj Al-Hazmi, 12, has won the title of the “Youngest Writer of a Novel Series” in the world with the Guinness World Records after publishing two novels.

She published her third novel this year and is currently working on two others.

Al-Hazmi grew up reading fiction and fantasy and was inspired to be a published writer in 2016 after her father took her to a bookstore and wanted to see her books on the shelves along with big names.

She was motivated to write for her age group as she said that most of the books were targeted at those either older or younger than herself.

Ritaj Al-Hazmi

“From the day I set my eyes on reading, I’ve discovered what I wanted to be when I was a bit older. I wanted to connect myself to the world by reading, writing, sharing ideas, insights and opinions,” she said.

The young novelist wanted her first book to be fiction. “I knew that I wanted my book to have an idea to help the readers run toward their dreams without giving up. I always believed that my writing would help persuade them to do just that.”

After finishing the draft of her first book, she sent it to an editor who told her that it needed to be a lot more detailed than she had first thought. Giving up was not an option for her as she had already finished her first draft.

Her father insisted that she take some courses to learn about this genre and how to master it. After completing serval courses, she rewrote the whole draft.

“The courses were from Writing Mastery by Jessica Brody. I started to write what I learned about — from hooking the readers, to fiction structure, to great ingredients for fiction writing, to methods such as the Save the Cat method (STC),” she said.

HIGHLIGHTS

● After finishing the draft of her first book, she sent it to an editor who told her that it needed to be a lot more detailed than she had first thought. Giving up was not an option for her as she had already finished her first draft.

● Find a publishing house that was willing to publish Al-Hazmi’s book at her age was a challenge — until she signed a contract with a publishing house in January 2020.

Al-Hazmi completed her first book, “Treasure of the Lost Sea,” at the end of 2018, sent it to the editor and began writing her second novel, “Portal of the Hidden World.” Both her books were published in 2019.

“I was able to attend Riyadh International Book Fair and signed my first book there. At that time, I was interviewed by one of the well-known TV channels, MBC, and talked about my writing journey,” she said.

Find a publishing house that was willing to publish Al-Hazmi’s book at her age was a challenge — until she signed a contract with a publishing house in January 2020.

During the same year, she also planned her third book of the series. “Since I read some blogs on the future, I guessed it would be a good topic for my main characters to look through. Because most of the series talked about magic powers, I knew some change would be good considering the main characters would be trying something new.”

Al-Hazmi usually plans the title of the book before writing it, however, that changed several times thoughout the writing process until she finally decided to name it based on the theme “Beyond the Future World.”

While writing her third book of the series — as her parents looked for new courses for her— Al-Hazmi decided to hold her own workshop. She began working on the presentation slides, planning the content, points of discussion and, most importantly, how she could deliver the knowledge to those who were coming to learn.

“After I got ready and introduced the workshop, I was amazed to see all those children coming to learn. Throughout my workshop, I learned a lot of things,” she said. “One of the most important things to do after learning is teaching others what you know, remembering what you have learned, and why you decided to do so.”

“Beyond the Future World” has had a significant impact on Al-Hazmi, she said, noting that she had a “very memorable” journey with the book.

“My message for everyone — especially those my age — dream big, do it now, don’t wait till later. Ideas come and go, so do opportunities,” she said.