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Dubai is the new global hub for tea and coffee

Did you know that coffee and tea tasters are some of the most highly paid jobs in the world? And that UAE is one of the largest re-exporter of tea in the world with a 60 per cent share?

Visiting the coffee centre at the heart of Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) in Jebel Al is a surprising experience: the unmistakable aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans wafts through the air.

The DMCC Coffee Centre’s Premier Training Campus is certified by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) and offers professional courses in grading, green and sensory analysis, baristas and brewing and roasting techniques. Nearly 1,000 baristas have benefited from it.

The massive facility not just offers a raft of customised services for the storage, roasting, packaging and delivery of coffee, it also conducts certified barista training courses to help coffee enthusiasts master the art of making the perfect cuppa. Dubai Coffee Centre has emerged as a one-stop shop for international coffee giants and aspiring baristas alike

Today, coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages globally. Between 2018 and 2019, a staggering 165.35 million coffee bags, each weighing 60kg were consumed worldwide, up from 158 million bags in the previous year. Coffee and tea tasters are some of the most highly paid jobs in the world.

Buoyed by the overwhelming response, and the recent visit of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice- President and Prime Minister of UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, the DMCC Coffee Centre has now decided to raise its game.

Earlier this month, DMCC’s executive chairman and chief executive officer Ahmed Bin Sulayem announced plans to increase capacity threefold, with an eventual goal of processing 20,000 tonnes of green coffee worth over Dh360 million.

“It’s one thing to go after the target, it’s another to go where the target will be in the coming years,” said Bin Sulayem, who has been spearheading one of the world’s biggest free zones for the past 19 years, managing 17,000 businesses across various sectors including precious metals.

There was a great deal of scepticism when he launched the DMCC Tea Centre 15 years back. What’s the point of having a tea centre in a city which doesn’t grow even a single blade of tea leaf, many wondered.The DMCC is the largest site for re-exporting tea globally with an enviable market share of 60 per cent with annual exports of about 48,000 tonnes.

Teas from 13 different tea-producing countries are processed at the purpose-built facility and scores of companies including some of the world’s biggest tea producers and brands use it as a base for their operations.

“I am inspired by Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin model. Just as he turned Godolphin into a global thoroughbred breeding and horse racing operation I want to turn DMCC into a world leader of commodity trading, import and export of coffee and other agro commodities like cacao, chilies, spices, pepper, and cardamom,” said the Bin Sulayem.

Recently, DMCC and Amazon Webservices teamed up to run a three-day workshop to look into the possibility of using blockchain technology to track the provenance of coffee beans and to trace coffee as it flows and is transformed along the supply chain.

In keeping with his vision, Bin Sulayem is sparing no effort to support new entrants to the coffee industry. The latest of many such moves is his Coffee Entrepreneurship Programme.

Success stories

Arjun Katyal, of McLeod Russel, the world’s largest tea-growing company, said the DMCC Tea Centre has an important role in their success story.

“We have been member since 2011 and have seen first-hand the expertise, experience and vision that has shaped the success of this facility,” he said.

Maria Pavani of Tres Marias Coffee Company said there couldn’t have been a better place to set up their business. “From climate-controlled warehousing, roasting and packaging facilities to specialised services like sample evaluation and quality control, it has everything What else could one possibly ask for,” he said.

Raphae Menakbi of Sedna Coffee said they chose the place because of its world-class infrastructure and ease of doing business. “The trust we reposed in DMCC was certainly not misplaced.” he said.

Bin Sulayem said the success of member companies has prompted them to launch what he describes as the third wave of the coffee movement. “We don’t want to rest on our laurels. We want to get more people involved and support more Emiratis looking to launch and grow their coffee concepts,” he said. DMCC’s executive director for commodities and financial services, Sanjeev Dutta, said what sets them apart is their ability to connect demand and supply and create a vibrant marketplace.

Over 800 new companies joined DMCC in the first half of 2020 with a noticeable uptick in the months of May and June despite overall softer business climate. Bin Sulayem said they have barely scraped the surface of their potential. He said; “We are always hungry, open to new ideas, looking to innovate and go beyond our job description.

So if you are looking to get into coffee or tea businessor become a professional coffee or tea taster you know where to go.

Patrizia Marin

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