JEDDAH: A coffee institute in the Kingdom is aiming to streamline the coffee industry and capitalize on surging consumption of Saudi products, its founder has told Arab News.
The spike in interest led to the opening of the Arabic Coffee Institute, the first center of its kind in the Kingdom, which will help entrepreneurs from the region pave their way professionally. The institute was launched in Jeddah last year and is the first to be licensed by the Ministry of Culture.
According to a report by global business analysts Euromonitor International in January 2022, coffee consumption in Saudi Arabia grew by 4 percent per year between 2016 and 2021 and is forecast to increase by a further 5 percent annually up to 2026, reaching an expected consumption of 28,700 tons each year.
Although the Kingdom is best known for its traditional coffee, gahwa, which is served with dates and highlights the Saudi style of hospitality, the science behind specialty coffee has attracted hundreds of Saudis to take a step ahead in the coffee industry.
Al-Mohanad Al-Marwai, ACI co-founder and CEO, worked to elevate the institute from thought to reality. “The idea of the institute is 12 years old, but we started a few years ago. Its proof of concept is five years old,” he told Arab News.
ACI aims to develop the coffee sector by qualifying Saudi youth and enriching local talent. Al-Marwai said: “It is the first institute of its kind in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world, with a special focus on training those interested in the field of coffee based on international curricula by a team of experts, researchers and trainers. We cover the whole value chain from the seed to the cup provided to the consumer and after that, including research and development.”
The institute has received endorsements from the Saudi Technical Vocational and Training Corporation and is authorized by four international coffee associations including AST, Coffee Quality Institute, the Coffee Skills Program and Specialty Coffee Association.
ACI is currently under the umbrella of Coffee Lights company, which is specialized in the operation of coffee shops, consultation, training of staff and baristas, as well as the import and export of coffee.
The ACI aims to become one of the leading international coffee organizations in the Middle East and will be launched this year in Riyadh, the Eastern Province and Jazan. The institute has plans to expand to other countries in the Arab world, including the UAE, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan.
Through leading the institute, Al-Marwai offers Saudi cafes a transparent supply chain of authentic specialty coffee to be served to the public. Over the past 12 years, Al-Marwai has founded eight companies in Saudi Arabia, Uganda, the UK and the US.
“There are only 30 certified coffee instructors distributed among the Kingdom. ACI has 13 of them — most of which have been trained at ACI, At a world level, there are only around 3,000 Certified Q Graders, of which ACI has 4,” Al-Marwai said. CQIs are professionals skilled in the sensory evaluation of coffee quality.
“With over 2,000 trainees enrolled, within 2023, ACI aims to receive 50,000 trainees as we have more than 70 courses of international standards to offer,” Al-Marwai added.
The institute offers accredited, customized and online training courses, as well as institutional solutions and consultation services. Courses cover brewing, barista and sensory skills, as well as coffee farming and roasting.
Speaking of coffee roasting as one of the integral aspects in the world of specialty coffee, Al-Marwai said it is just “the tip of the iceberg.” There are many sensitive skills, standards and operations behind roasting coffee that should be acquired before rushing into the business as it costs a whole crop, he added.
“We don’t just teach roasting as a technical skill, we teach roasting as a business to make sure that trainers succeed and make money,”Al-Marwai said.
Under his leadership is Ash Cafes and Roastery in Jeddah, a place known for its high-quality coffee and appealing ambiance, and which was also listed recently by the Ministry of Tourism as one of the top five cafes in the region.
After only one year of launching the institute, a series of significant partnerships and MoUs were signed with the government and private sectors seeking to enable Saudi youth to contribute economically and achieve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
Last year, in line with the goals of the Culinary Arts Commission, the Ministry of Culture, the Saudi Coffee Company under the umbrella of the Saudi Coffee Year 2022 and ACI signed a cooperative agreement with Community Jameel to launch a program to develop the coffee sector with the aim of qualifying Saudi youth in the industry.
ACI also signed an array of partnerships with Al-Hokair Group, the Saudi Coffee Company, Bunyan and the University of Prince Mugrin to accommodate different coffee-related aspects such as education, hospitality training, development of standards and metrics, research and development, and more.
The institute took part in the first “Coffeethon,” a technical challenge that was conducted in Riyadh for six days in December. The event highlighted the framework of the coffee production chain and devised projects to serve the industry.
Recently, ACI signed an agreement with Jazan Chamber to implement several development and training programs in the region’s coffee industry and support coffee farmers.
The institute is also planning to launch a coffee magazine to highlight the latest trends in the industry for the Saudi community.