Inside Abu Dhabi's coffee culture

We look at the capital's love affair with the drink Discuss this article

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Coffee has been an important part of Arabic life for centuries and café culture has long been one of the most popular pastimes in Abu Dhabi.

But the last couple of years has seen new trends emerge on the scene – from latte art to cold brew and from in-house roasts to speciality beans, we explore the places and drinks that are just the cup for the city’s coffee connoisseurs.

Here are 22 places that are ruling the roast.

Al Meylas
The bright and airy lobby lounge at Four Seasons does a lot of things brilliantly (afternoon tea, ice creams and, yes, coffee). It’s speciality is a cross between coffee and dessert, keeping the sweet-toothed and the bitter out there happy. Check out the crème brûlée latte with its caramelised crust. Take it outside onto the terrace and look over towards the Abu Dhabi skyline – it’s pretty sweet.
Dhs37. Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Island (02 333 2222).

Alba
The swish lobby lounge in The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi seems as good a place as any to sip on a cappuccino laced with gold. The hotel chain is one of the first to lay claim to the afternoon tea tradition in the capital and the venue is perfect for such a leisurely, classy pursuit. This cappuccino is sprinkled with 22-carat gold and comes with two macarons, a gold caramel éclair and jasmine-flavoured water. We’re not sure the Time Out Abu Dhabi team is quite up to the sheer class needed to indulge in this, but plenty of you out there will be.
Dhs75. The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, Khor Al Maqta (02 818 8282).

Bentley Kitchen
The restaurant and bar had an overhaul at the beginning of 2018 though continues to impress with its food and drink offerings, as well as its friendly and knowledgeable staff. Popular during the day, as well as at night, its range of flavoured lattes are a good choice, and good value, too. Choose from vanilla, caramel, cinnamon and more.
Dhs16. The Galleria, Al Maryah Island (02 626 2131).

Berri’s
Who remembers having a Coke float as a kid? Just us? Surely not. For those who were deprived of such luxuries, it is essentially a glass of Coke with a scoop of ice cream in it (and if we were lucky we’d also get some Cadbury’s Dairy Milk grated on top). Anyway, nostalgia aside, there’s something about the Cold Brew Float at Italian restaurant Berri’s that tickles our fancy. It’s a glass of cold-brew coffee topped with vanilla ice cream. So it’s kind of what we were on about earlier, but a bit more grown up.
Dhs24. Beach Plaza, Al Muneera (02 643 9555).

Café 302
Our reigning Best Café is one of the few places to serve Kyoto Coffee in the city. The prep takes place in a stunning machine, the beans are distilled for hours to extract as much flavour as possible. Single drips of ice-cold water pass through the concentrated coffee extract, the coffee is then refrigerated again. The taste is a lot more subtle than regular coffee and is best served over ice.
Dhs32. Al Maha Arjan By Rotana, Hamdan Street (02 610 6666).

Café Bateel
A venue steeped in Arabian tradition, Café Bateel is a great place to try proper Arabic coffee with the Signature Qahwa, which is served in a dallah flask with local dates.
But for a twist on the usual, we recommend the Caffè Dhibs, which is a layered drink with date syrup, topped with whipped cream. Wonderfully indulgent.
Dhs24. The Galleria, Al Maryah Island (02 565 0244).

Central Grounds
The cool, casual spot off the lobby of Marriott Downtown offers more than freakshakes, it also does some pretty mean coffee. We love the Kyoto Drip Coffee, a cold-drip version that originated in Japan. It’s stronger than normal coffees so it’s served over ice here. It’s made by using a low drip over ground coffee for up to 12 hours. The filter removes any acidity and bitterness, leaving a smooth taste. At Central Grounds you can choose from eight different single-origin beans.
Dhs30. Marriott Downtown Abu Dhabi, Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street (02 304 7777).

Eat Greek Kouzina
Coffee is a big deal in Greece, according to some spurious website we glanced at, Greeks are the 15th biggest coffee drinkers in the world. Traditional Greek coffee, which is served at Eat Greek, is similar to Turkish coffee, made in a traditional ‘briki’ and served in a small cup with a head of foam and granules in the bottom. Here it is imported from Greece and slow-roasted in heated sand. Be prepared to wait up to ten minutes for it to be served, but when you do get it, it’s worth the wait.
Dhs24. The Galleria, Al Maryah Island (02 309 2323).

Hooked
We’re not suggesting you get the boat to Nurai Island just for a cup of coffee, but if you do fancy a day of secluded luxury then aren’t many places better than Zaya Nurai Island. There’s a bunch of great restaurants and beach bars there, but seafood restaurant Hooked is pretty special. They serve a top Turkish coffee, too. Order it with milk and it’ll take the bitterness down a notch. Not many cups come with such a great view.
Dhs35. Zaya Nurai Island (02 506 6274).

Icons Coffee Couture
This place has got coffee in its name, so it really should do a mean cup of Joe. Thankfully it does. The chic venue is a great place to try healthy cakes and sandwiches (the waffle burgers are pretty cool) and when it comes to drinks it’s just as impressive. Try the chemex here, the hour glass-shaped carafe that uses a pour-over method to create the brew (that means there’s a filter, with ground coffee in it, and hot water is poured over the coffee). It makes for a very clean cup. At Icons you can choose to have organic house coffee or whatever the single origin coffee of the month is.
Dhs30. Deerfields Mall, Al Shahama (02 564 6022).

jones the grocer
One of the city’s favourite delis and cafés, jones the grocer does the job pretty much every time of day, and with outlets all over the city you’re never far away from one, either.
If you happen to be in need of an early-morning caffeine fix, however, the nitro coffee is pretty much guaranteed to jolt you from your slumber. It’s slowly filtered and infused with nitrogen, giving it a slightly frothy, fizzy finish. It’s great with a dash if citrus, too, which is handy because jones uses its own single-origin bean infused with citrus.
Dhs25. Various locations including Garden Plaza, Al Raha Gardens, Khalifa City (800 56691).

Joud Café
Another venue to prove that Al Barteen is one of the most up-and-coming and happening areas in Abu Dhabi, Joud Café is a relative new one on us, but since we found it, we’ve been impressed. A homely, but classy interior, good service and a fantastic knowledge of coffee make it a must-try spot. We’re recommending the Aeropress here. Ground coffee is steeped for up to two minutes then quickly forced through a filter using a plunger. It makes for a rich, full-bodied coffee.
Dhs25. Al Bateen Park, Khaleej Al Arabi Road (02 666 0572)

Le Café
We couldn’t put this list together without mentioning the famous Palace Cappuccino. The coffee is sprinkled in 24-carat gold flakes and served alongside a date and dark chocolate (with a glass of water cleanse your palate, too). We’re not suggesting you try this one every day, but everyone should give it a go at least once.
Dhs76. Emirates Palace, West Corniche (02 690 7999).

Lobby Lounge
Another fancy lobby lounge and another high-end brew. The Coffee Spice is made especially for Jumeirah at Etihad Towers by German chef Alfons Schuhbeck, whose restaurants have earned two Michelin stars. It includes Arabian spices such as cardamom and cinnamon and works perfectly with lattes and cappuccinos. What we really recommend, however, is ordering a Camelccino (you guessed it, made with camel milk) and getting the spice mix sprinkled over the foam.
Dhs40. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Corniche West (02 811 5666).

Majlis Lobby Lounge
The Southern Sun’s lobby is a high-ceilinged, airy venue, perfect to relax in. As well as the usual teas and coffees it now offers
a Red Espresso range, which we’re sure isn’t available anywhere else in the city. Made with rooibos tea, it’s caffeine-free and has ten times more antioxidents than the traditional tea version of the same drink (and five times more than green tea). This could be the ideal way to get the taste of coffee but without the rising stress levels and sleepless nights that caffeine brings some of us. You can get it as an espresso, Americano, cappuccino, or iced.
From Dhs21. Rosewood Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Island (02 813 5552).

No.FiftySeven Boutique Café
This cool waterfront café in Al Bateen has got to be one of the most stylish places to have breakfast or lunch and catch up with friends. The food is routinely excellent and often bang on-trend (check out those charcoal pancakes). The coffee is a big part of what they do, too (espresso and Nutella, anyone?) and we recommend going for a cooling iced cappuccino. It’s just perfect to sip on the terrace outside.
Dhs20. Al Marasy, Al Bateen (02 304 8064).

Orchid Lounge
Dusit Thani is a hotel with a brilliant assortment of flavours and tastes running throughout it – from The Capital Grill steakhouse to Benjarong, the brilliant Thai restaurant. Providing the perfect blend of East and West, the Dusit Iced Coffee is served with the hotel’s signature dessert, the pandan cheesecake. Made with the juice of pandan leaves, the brilliant green cake is a must-try at the hotel. Keeping with the dessert theme, the iced coffee is served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Head to the hotel’s lobby lounge and terrace, Orchid Lounge to find it.
Dhs34 (plus Dhs30 for cake). Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi, Sultan Bin Zayed The First Street (02 698 8137).

ParKafe
Sometimes a simple, strong, bitter espresso is all that will do, and for those occasions we head to ParKafe. Okay, it’s perfectly located right next to our office at Park Rotana, but that doesn’t automatically mean the coffee is good (but it is). It’s a Lavazza coffee and the hotel has been told it serves the best Lavazza of all Rotana cafés in the country. Order it and marvel at the crema on top. Then drink quickly and get on with your day.
Dhs25. Park Rotana Abu Dhabi, Khalifa Park area (02 657 3319).

Shay Madhboot
We were delighted to discover Shay Madhboot in 2017. The small, cosy café specialises in breakfast and karak and we can’t get enough of the shakshouka of a weekend morning.
It’s all super value, too, and was named Highly Commended Budget restaurant at our 2017 Restaurant Awards. Being influenced by local tradition means it also serves a mean coffee. The Arabic Qawah can be found on the opening spread of this feature, but here we’ll focs on the Turkish coffee. For those who don’t know, it comes in a small metal pot and is poured into an equally small cup.
It’s dark and very, very strong. Adding sugar is no disgrace with this one.
Dhs6. Muroor Road (02 621 7323).

Skinny Genie
This gluten-free café and takeaway is perfect for a light lunch and it does some great drinks, too. Check out the skinny latte for a healthier way to reach your caffeine buzz. Make sure you return the cool jar it comes in – everything at the venue is recycled and reused. Just two of the reasons we love this place.
Dhs22. Siemens Building, Masdar City (02 418 2525).

SprÜngli Boutique and Café
This Swiss chocolatier has been in business for around two decades, and you don’t get to hang around for that long without being good at what you do. While chocolate might be the speciality, the coffees aren’t to be sniffed at, either. The cappuccino is a classic choice here, served simply, with great Italian coffee and frothed milk.
Dhs21. The Galleria, Al Maryah Island (02 621 9229).

Sukkar Dose
The tiny dessert parlour (check out the rolled ice cream) is a lovely little spot, and ever since we visited it to shoot a video we’ve been craving its goodies. There’s a new menu in place now and some new coffees available, too. We like the Gardenia, named after the tropical coffee flower. Here it’s blended with the barista’s speciality vanilla syrup.
Dhs27. Al Nahyan Camp, Al Nahyan (02 491 0007).

The Lobby Lounge
The striking Marriott Al Forsan hotel serves up some striking food and drinks across its outlets, but if you’re in need of a pick-me-up with a dash of style, you could do a lot worse than checking out the lobby lounge and ordering yourself a caramel latte. Made with premium Arabica coffee, it’s finished with a drizzle of caramel sauce and given an artistic touch courtesy of one of the expert baristas’ latte art skills.
Dhs24. Marriott Hotel Al Forsan, Al Forsan International Sports Resort (02 201 4131).

By Paul Clifford
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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