JEDDAH: Coffee has always been an integral part of Saudi society; no gathering is complete without a dallah, a traditional coffee pot, sitting on the table ready to fill guests’ cups.
In the past decade, however, growing numbers of Saudis, especially among the young, have been venturing outside the house to savor a cup of joe. Cafe culture has been on the rise in the Kingdom, with people turning to coffee shops for everything from a catch-up with friends to a quiet work session.
Saudi-based content writer Mirah Mohammad often finds herself heading to a nearby cafe to get work done. Growing up, however, coffee shops were far from common, she said.
“In the beginning, people would go there for a social gathering, but then friends began making plans to group study, and the next thing I know I am seeing all of my friends and even family at cafes.”
Coffee is more than a beverage; it is a catalyst of change and conversation. So it is no surprise that cafe culture was born in Makkah, according to Mohammad Bakhrieba, co-owner of Noug cafe, with people gathering to socialize and discuss religious topics.
“The cafe culture was initially rooted in Islam. It was always the place where the fabric of society strengthened,” he said.
As cafe culture evolved, so did coffee production and presentation, giving rise to “specialty coffee.”
According to Bakhrieba, it is a “movement that takes care of coffee at each step, from the plantation to the roasting and the distribution.”
Bakhrieba said that coffee is “all about the details.” Owning a cafe is no small feat. “It’s not just about providing the beverage but also the experience, and that was my passion. I liked combining it together under the umbrella of culture.”
Mariam Hakami, a 22-year-old barista at Noug, attributes the popularity of cafes to the youth. “If you notice, it is mostly the youth that is surrounding this culture, from the staff to the customers,” she said.
Her decision to become a barista was informed by the saying: “Do what you love.”
“Coffee is something I love, and I pour love into each cup,” she said.
That is true for most young adults in the Kingdom and around the world. “These are the people who have the same ideas and the same goals. So, I think I will give the credit for popularizing cafes in the country to the youth,” Hakami said.