Apr 28, 2018
Like many things becoming a fad overnight, coffee chains are the new favorite trend. Locals have invested heavily into extraordinary concepts and boutique coffee shops that have become a hit with Saudis and expats alike.
As opposed to franchising, young Saudis are investing in original concepts and pushing the homegrown scene forward. This week we explored some of the most creative concepts including Medd, Cup and Couch, Toqa, Zanjabeel, Bafarat, Brew 92 and Deera café to see what’s brewing. The purpose was to find a local chain that serves the best latte or one as good as Seattle’s Starbucks. We struggled but discovered some gems along the way. We noticed that latte’s aren’t a prerogative nor their main focus, but that the Saudi coffee society is more about impacting the culture. With many owners managing or even working as baristas, the new culture brings a positive and progressive change. Local coffee shops infuse coffee with the local culture and not the other way around. They promote art, music and literature by serving as a platform for dialogue, social interaction, workstations for some during the day and even hosting special events during the evenings. There is a focus on healthier options, a greater inclusion of local flavors and outstanding desserts all across. Conclusively, even if the latte is nothing compared to your current favorite, there is something for everyone at each of these outlets. Be it the location, set-up, desserts, food or just the vibe, you are bound to find something to please your senses.
Where the owners are baristas and coffee is sourced from organic farms. Most people who walk in are either friends or friends of friends. There is a strong emphasis on brewing techniques and you might be schooled if you make an uneducated speculation. Personally, the coffee is too strong and may not be the best choice for those who like it with milk. The corniche branch is where the ‘cool kids’ hang out. They come prepared with skateboards, laptops and creative tools. It is packed almost throughout and is definitely a place to be seen, network and socialize.
We Liked: The Americano. The ambiance is everything.
Location: Beach Tower, North Corniche
(+966) 12 613 2122
Grounded in a traditional and sophisticated setting, Toqa serves stupendous concoctions of drinks and desserts that are bound to blow your mind. Ever heard of a caramel popcorn coffee, or saffron, rose and cardamom infused latte? Thought so.
With super high settings on privacy, it acts as a great spot for women and families who like to go enjoy coffee together. They seem keen on remaining secretive and have a strict no-photo policy. The staff will watch your every move. They take it very seriously. But once you move past the intimidation, your senses are in for a treat.
We Liked: Salted caramel, saffron and cardamom lattes. The beautiful and arsty handcrafted luxurious desserts remain undefeated.
Location: Al Salamah
(+966) 56 631 1101
The Deera experience is about gathering people around coffee and dates in an environment that helps revive the traditional coffee culture and its history.
Designed with local flavors, the green and white are reflective of the traditional mood board. They’ve got carom and cards to kill time. It’s a quiet space in the morning so you can enjoy the privacy and have uninterrupted meetings.
We Liked: Arabic coffee with dates.
Location: Prince Sultan Road
(+966) 12 263 2150
Is a popular coffee joint with a special place for arts- even if it means doodling on their cups as part of a competition. With a brewery section downstairs, you can buy or choose from the assorted coffee flavors. Bafarat was established in 1952 by the late Omar Bafarat, the then Makkah-based company imported coffee, tea, and spices into Saudi Arabia before introducing the contemporary coffee space.
We Liked: Arabic coffee and raspberry tart.
Location: Al Rawdah
(+966) 12 691 2433
With a new branch on Prince Sultan Road, Brew 92 has worked hard to reinvent itself for the local art and fashion enthusiasts alongside coffee artisans of course. This is where the cool kids hang. Even the baristas sport trendy jumpsuits.
Their Khaldeya acts as a cozy spot for people who want to work and grab a bite. When it comes to coffee, the flat white was a flat zero but the new Stranger Things menu is strangely appealing and a much needed addition to the menu.
We Liked: The Coconut Rush iced latte.
(+966) 12 606 1142
Looking over the Jeddah corniche, the stunning marbled and wood interiors reflect the owner’s relaxed attitude. Their latte may be ordinary but the café is a great place for women to gather around delicious local desserts including the freshly-made date cake and masoub with bananas and cream.
We Liked: French coffee.
Location: Corniche Road
(+966) 12 655 9816
Cup and Couch
If you are one of those people who like to work or read at a coffee shop, then this is your spot. Although the calm remains only in the mornings. Gratifying desserts, delicious coffee blends and a friendly staff are its major strengths. The place is owned and run by brothers Abdulrahman and Hamza Ashgan, along with their cousin Ahmed Ashgan who are adamant on making their place feel like home.
Location: Salamah District
(+966) 59 727 3474
Cup and couch- Latte with hazelnut milk)
Toqa- Salted Caramel and cardamom latte
Zanjabeel- French coffee
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette