The dining and food landscape of Dubai is one often seen as a world where money is no object, with five star hotels outdoing each other with celebrity chefs and the most luxurious ingredients imaginable at every turn.
But for every Gordon Ramsay or Joel Robuchon venue in palatial surroundings serving premium cuisine, there are also businesses focusing on more affordable quality, but still with premium ingredients. Two female entrepreneurs have made great progress in this particuar food and beverage space, focusing on the highest calibre of two popular products: coffee and chocolate.
The Raw Coffee Company
Where it all happens for The Raw Coffee Company is in a funky warehouse in the dusty backstreets of an industrial park in the Al Quoz area. It’s somewhat off the beaten track, but that doesn’t stop a steady stream of customers driving over for what one calls ‘The best flat white this side of Sydney’.
As a New Zealander, owner and founder Kim Thompson may have preferred that they said ‘This side of Auckland’, but she gives an enthusiastic tour of her bustling business with a modest smile.
“Our beans are all organically certified, roasted by origin, and available to sample from our warehouse roastery either as single origins or blends. We quickly realized coffee is not just about the beans and how much care we put into roasting them. It’s also about the support and training we can give to the baristas, and finding equipment manufacturers we want to align ourselves with.”
The impressive space is fitted out with an espresso bar, a brew bar, coffee sacks stacked around a living wall, a mezzanine with comfy sofas and great wifi. So far, so predictable. But the heart and soul of it all, as she demonstrates, is the roasting room. This is where the magic happens and where the business has grown substantially since launching back in 2007, now finding itself as one of the UAE’s premium coffee consultancies: “Even though the UAE has a long coffee culture, the specialty coffee market is in its infancy here so it’s a very exciting time for us.”
Another entrepreneur making waves from modest beginnings is Emirati Aysha Al Hashimi. She swapped her job at a bank to launch the luxury chocolatier back in 2013 and has since seen the business go from strength to strength since. The backdrop of the swish Jumeirah neighborhood is more relaxed with a definite seaside feel, while the interior looks decidedly Gallic.
That makes sense when you meet the most perfectly named chocolatier, the impossibly young-looking but very talented…Coco. Yes, that’s his real name. With years of experience already under his belt, the young Frenchman leads classes that provide insights into the history and process of creating chocolate, explaining each step, from cocoa bean to bar.
He makes the notoriously difficult tempering look like child’s play and also oversees the production of their award-winning products available online and in the on-site café.
In May 2013, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, approved a Tourism Vision for 2020: by 2020, Dubai will welcome 20 million visitors per year. In 2012, Dubai welcomed 10 million visitors for the first time, so the Vision requires a doubling of this figure to meet the 2020 target.
That’s an awful lot of extra flat whites and chocolate brownies, so the future looks even sweeter for entrepreneurs like Kim and Aysha.