Tuesday 31 January 2023

DUBAI – Emirati duo join more than 40 regional baristas at Speciality Coffee Challenge

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A pair of budding Emirati coffee baristas will confidently shoulder the hopes of an expectant nation at the inaugural Speciality Coffee Challenge – an elite new coffee-making championship being held on the fringes of next week’s (9-11 November) Speciality Food Festival at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).
Fully accredited by the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE), the Speciality Coffee Challenge will see more than 40 baristas from across the UAE and GCC go head-to-head in a series of skill-based brewing, pouring and creativity competitions. Among the contenders are UAE hopefuls, Amna Alharmoodi and Osama Balshalat.
Having seen her passion for coffee flourish after enrolling in local barista training schemes, Alharmoodi, a security department professional in the telecommunication sector, is eager to impress.
“As an extension to the wider coffee culture, coffee tasting is an integral part of Emirati life,” she said. “Having grown up in the UAE, it is not surprising that more and more cafes keep popping up in the city – the demand is strong. I have a dream of crafting my own flavoured blend of coffee and perhaps, one day, even owning a coffee shop – maybe that journey will take its next step at the Speciality Coffee Challenge.”
To triumph, Alharmoudi will have to negotiate tough competition from some of the region’s leading baristas – including her compatriot, Balshalat, a maintenance engineer in a subsidiary of ENOC Refinery.
“I have loved coffee since childhood,” he said. “I entered the field professionally three years ago and I’m always searching for knowledge relevant to coffee-making and the process of roasting. I’ve been experimenting and developing my own signature blend of coffee; hopefully my creativity will impress the judges and I can go on to represent the UAE in the global coffee-making industry.”
With research by Euromonitor predicting the domestic coffee market will be worth AED409 million (US$112 million) by 2017, growing international interest in the UAE’s burgeoning café culture is evident in a 350% increase in coffee-specific exhibitors at this year’s Speciality Food Festival, the Middle East’s only gourmet and fine food exhibition.
“It is abundantly clear that local and international coffee chains understand the revenue potential of the UAE market. As a result, global brands are constantly exploring opportunities to gain or increase their foothold in the market,” said Trixie LohMirmand, Senior Vice-President, Exhibitions & Events Management, DWTC. “As an alternative to dining out, coffee shops are perceived as casual venues for socialising among most of Dubai’s multinational resident demographics and the Speciality Food Festival gives new and established brands a chance to meet local distributors, wholesalers and franchisers in a dedicated industry setting.”

First International White Truffle Auction
Elsewhere at the Speciality Food Festival, a partnership between DWTC and the Marche Region in Italy will see the first-ever ‘International White Truffle’ charity auction take place on the show’s opening day (9 November) at 4pm via a Skype feed from the Truffle Fair in Acqualagna, Italy.
With hundreds of delicious white truffles – handpicked a day before the auction – due to go under the hammer, the quantity, sizes and prices of the truffles will only be determined by the crop. Industry experts are predicting prices to range between a minimum of €1,300 (AED 6,071) per kilo up to a maximum of €2,500 per kilo.
With limited seats available, the event will be attended by several regional ministers from Italy, as well as Dr. Ferdinando Fiore, the Italian Trade Commissioner to the UAE. All proceeds will go towards to a newly-formed fund delivering educational, cultural, agricultural and culinary student exchange programmes between the Marche Region and the UAE.
Offering even greater networking and selling opportunities, the Specialty Food Festival is open from 10am-6pm on November 9-10 and 10am-5pm on November 11. The show will run adjacent to the Sweets & Snacks Middle East and SEAFEX, which are the region’s only dedicated sweets and confectionery foods exhibition and a dedicated seafood trade show for the food and hospitality industry respectively.
The three niche food shows are for trade and business professionals only. General public and persons under the age of 21 will not be permitted entry. Registration is available at the show upon proof of trade status.

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