Online editor Colin Armstrong knows that life is better with coffee. Here are his top five places to get your caffeine fix
Forget instant coffee, we’re taking on every AeroPress, chemex and cafetière to find the best cup of joe in the city.
Not up to date with the latest lingo and cool coffee contraptions? Let us be your guide.
Blacksmith Coffee Company
The drink: Long black
It’s a simple drink, but that’s why we like it, plus when the only ingredients are coffee and water there’s no hiding when it comes to the quality of the beans. Luckily for us, Blacksmith baristas take quality seriously and the beans are packed full of flavour.
The ambiance: It’s a relaxed environment, great for students cramming before an exam, reading a book or just escaping from the busy city centre.
Would we go back? Definitely, if on Saadiyat Island.
NYUAD, Saadiyat Island. Sun-Thu 7.15am-10pm, Fri 9am-8pm, Sat 9am-9pm. Contact: 02 642 2088, facebook.com/blacksmithcoffeescompany
The drink: Hario cold drip
Hario what? Wait, let me explain. It’s a Japanese glass coffee maker that extracts all the flavours from coffee beans by steeping them in water, delivering you a cool, smooth cup of coffee. Does it look like it belongs in a lab? Yes. Does it make an excellent cup of coffee? You bet.
The ambiance: Small, modern and hipster cool, Dose Café is definitely more of a grab-and-go coffee spot with limited seating, but don’t let that put you off.
Would we go back? In a heartbeat.
Off Delma Street, between Muroor Road and Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed St. Daily 7am-midnight. Contact: 02 441 9888, instagram.com/dosecafe_uae
The drink: AeroPress filter
Effectively a giant coffee syringe, an AeroPress involves a rapid brewing process that uses air pressure and results in a smooth and perfectly filtered cup. Easy to use and a delight to drink, this is for coffee lovers who have no interest in milk, sugar or other distractions from the beans and the water.
The ambiance: Less terrifying than the name suggests, the cool and welcoming
café is a great spot to chill after a workout, before heading to the office or when you want to catch up with a friend.
Would we go back? We don’t even need an excuse.
Off Abu Dhabi – Al Ain Road, near Princess Cars showroom. Sun-Wed 7am-11pm, Thu-Sat 7am-midnight. Contact: 02 555 7146, steroidcafe.com
Art House Café
The drink: Turkish coffee
Bitter, gritty and thick, sometimes a good Turkish coffee just hits the spot. Perfect for sipping alongside breakfast, or as a pick-me-up after lunch, this is a proper coffee drinker’s drink and it’s not for the faint-hearted or uninitiated.
The ambiance: There’s quirky and then there’s the Art House Café. With its eclectic and colourful furniture, objects and ornaments, this upcycled gem of a spot feels like an art installation, which is apt as it’s attached to an art gallery.
Would we go back? Without a doubt; but we’ll visit the exhibitions next door first.
Etihad Modern Art Gallery, Al Bateen. Daily 9am-11.30pm. Contact: 02 666 0145, facebook.com/arthousecafead
No 57 Boutique Café
The drink: Maroccino con Nutella
Forget the fancy name; essentially this is an espresso with a lovely dollop of your favourite chocolate and hazelnut spread mixed in. Yes, it’s incredibly indulgent but it’s also incredibly satisfying, with the perfect marriage of strong, bold coffee and sweet, velvety Nutella to satisfy your sweet tooth and give you a caffeine kick.
The ambiance: Cool, clever and chic, this is a hipster hangout if we’ve ever seen one – and the food is pretty special, too.
Would we go back? You better believe it.
Building two, Al Marasy, Al Bateen. Sun-Thu 8am-11pm, Fri-Sat 9am–midnight. Contact: 02 441 6100, no57.co
Just brew it
In his quest to learn more about making the perfect cup of coffee, Colin speaks to Emirati entrepreneur, barista and coffee connoisseur Ibrahim Al Mallouhi about coffee’s role in UAE culture and bridging the gap between coffee cultivation and your cup.
Where did your love of coffee come from?
I always had a passion for coffee since childhood when I used to watch my grandmother buying green coffee beans, roasting them and then brewing coffee. This triggered my curiosity to learn, develop my skills and build a solid knowledge in speciality coffee.
What part does coffee play in the heritage of the UAE?
The Arabs in the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf have embraced Ethiopian coffee
for many decades. It became a symbol of hospitality at palaces, homes, social gatherings and celebrations.
Over the years, people experimented with coffee and developed the brewing recipe by adding cardamom and saffron to give the coffee another exquisite taste.
Also, a great achievement was recently accomplished at the UNESCO Intangible Heritage Committee where Arabic coffee was officially recognised. And this cultural heritage, that’s passed down through generations, is also represented in our currency on the one-dirham coin.
How important is the roasting process to the overall quality of the coffee?
A well-roasted coffee brings out the best flavours and aromas of the bean. Because it’s fresh, the flavour is at its optimal taste and is lively and sweet.
Freshly roasted coffee also protects the integrity of the coffee bean. You don’t taste the rancid bitterness of bulk-roasted coffee that has been sitting in a warehouse.
My love of coffee is driven from passion and insistence on seeking perfection in all the details.
For coffee novices, what drink would you suggest they try?
I recommend trying a light roast in a milk-based coffee served in a 7oz cup; this will balance the strength of the coffee combined with the perfect natural sweetness of milk. Otherwise, if you don’t like milk in your coffee, I would suggest trying a filter brew from whatever the available origin is, to give the best flavour.