changing the UAE specialty coffee scene

Social distancing and it's lasting effect

COVID-19 continues to dominate local and international news, with plenty of headlines dedicated to how it will change the world as we know it, from the impact on lasting consumer habits developed during social distancing, to the effects the World’s interconnected economies, markets and supply chains will be faced with in the aftermath.

To give healthcare providers time to respond, social distancing is paramount to slow the spread and give us time to develop a vaccine. Here in the UAE, the government has acted swiftly and decisively to control and mitigate the advance of the virus and kept the majority of us safe. 

With many people staying at home and traveling heavily restricted, businesses in the hospitality and retail industry have been heavily affected, our local roasters, who, in the main, operate with local independent coffee shops and luxury hotels, doubly so.

And, even with the raft of economic stimulus introduced by the government and relief packages announced for UAE SMEs, the International Coffee Organization predicts that COVID-19 could impact out-of-home consumption and coffee supplies not just in the short-term but for the rest of the year across the whole coffee supply chain, from bean to cup!

On the coffee industry and COVID-19, popular coffee personality and World Barista Champion, James Hoffmann, in a video posted on his youtube channel explains that if several coffee roasters lose business, this could also result in green bean importers and exporters losing out, which will result in coffee producers eventually not getting paid.

He acknowledges roasters are at a slight advantage (as most of them have an online presence and might see an uptick in online sales) but cautions that as wholesale sales have been impacted, these sales might not be enough. He says to consumers, “Your purchasing from roasters directly really is so valuable to them right now… Buy local if you can.

Coffee communities response to COVID-19

As a result of having to halt face-to-face interactions, UAE roasters are tailoring their offerings to safely offer their customers access to coffee beans and drinks through online and Whatsapp ordering channels. While cafes have increasingly turned to delivery services like DrivUDeliveroo, Pik, COFE and Sippy for prepared beverages for those of us who still need that signature caffeine fix.

While most are concentrating on the immediate local market, some are going further and tapping into the social power of coffee to bring communities together and have some fun. The World Home Coffee Brewing Championship by Dubai’s Moka 1450, is one such initiative encouraging amature homebrewers to show off their skills and inspire the community at large by sharing tips and techniques while offering a competitive and creative outlet for competitors to pass some well-spent time during isolation.

To enter, all you need to do is upload a video to Instagram showcasing your home brewing technique, using the #homecoffeebrewingchampionship hashtag, and tag @mokha1450 and @whcbchampionship.

New to brewing? Read our brew guides for some helpful tips and technique before you enter.

Abu Dhabi roasters Mina Roastery, Oryx Coffee and Gosto Coffee and Al Ain’s Refill Coffee have partnered with the global I’m Not a Barista online campaign encouraging customers to brew their coffee at home. Using the hashtag #brewathome the campaign encourages roasters and baristas to maintain interest in their business and promote online sales by sharing tutorials and tips and promoting discounts using social media.

Cropster, who help coffee roasters by providing roasting software are helping their  coffee supply chain members shift focus to online sales with the launch of their online webshop called Shipsbeans featuring Cropster members. In the UAE, Three Coffee (Dubai) and Oryx Coffee Roasters (mentioned above) are available on the shop, with talks ongoing to expand the service to any coffee-related business in need. 

What you can do

We’re in a tight spot for the industry but there are ways you can help and keep our local businesses afloat and support their staff during the COVID-19 crisis. Here are a few ways you can support your local roasters from Perfect Daily Grind.

  • If your local roaster offers online sales and local deliveries, consider making a one-off purchase from them, or subscribe to a monthly service if they offer one.
  • With social distancing likely to last a long time, birthday parties and other celebrations are unlikely to take place soon. Gifting someone with a bag of coffee beans or even accessories is a great gift that doesn’t require personal contact.
  • If your local roastery doesn’t have an online store, consider purchasing a gift voucher from them which can be redeemed at a later date. 
  • If your local roastery offers takeaway coffee without face-to-face contact, consider creating a suspended coffee movement, where you pay for an extra coffee in addition to your own. These free coffees can then be gifted to those in need.

If you’re a coffee drinking customer and have the means to do so, maintaining your consumption of high-quality, traceable coffee using the above measures will help you enjoy your favourite beverage safely – and ensure that those responsible for getting it to you will be able to do so into the future.