What's so SPECIAL?
EXPLORING SPECIALTY COFFEE SHOPS IN THE CAPITAL
Coffee shops are opening a dime a dozen all across the city- everyone claims to sell specialty beans with the best flavors and aromas - and at a hefty price tag too! We explore the many cafes and ask some hard questions to find out what the craze is all about!
WHAT IS SPECIALTY COFFEE!?
Before you give away your hard earned money to sample some of these specialty coffees- lets know more about what this term even means! According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) its all about single origin coffee from farm to cup. Single origin refers to the beans grown in very specific regions as the microclimate and composition of soil influences the distinctive flavor & aroma of the beans. You may keep hearing about Columbian, Ethiopian, Indonesian or even my favorite- Kenyan & Vietnamese coffee. Arabica, Robusta and Liberica are species of coffee - they can be grown in any of the regions and are considered specialty as long as they are grown exclusively within one region without any mixture or contamination.
Why should you care? Because each single origin coffee has a very distinctive flavor, taste & aroma. The chart below summarizes the characteristics of coffee from each region. From my travels across the world, I have sampled many single origin coffees and each tastes different from another.
WHY SO EXPENSIVE?
Single origin coffees come at hefty price tags as their redeeming quality lies in their traceability. The only coffees that are qualified as specialty are ones that are imported directly from the source. Most of the coffee shops in the UAE serve blends- a calculated mix of different single origin coffees to give you the perfect balance of flavors suited to the local palate. But the individual beans are single origin, bought directly from the source but combined and roasted locally in the many roasters of UAE (Cafe Rider, Blacksmith). Anything "single" implies the highest quality - single malt, single grain- its limited quantity and high demand, coupled with trade fees drives up the cost of the end product. For your reference, the most expensive single origin coffee is the Indonesian Kopi Luwak- which are top quality beans that are cautiously selected and filtered by the Luwak cats. And it costs- AED 2500 per kg!
So is AED 30-40 per cup worth it? I definitely think so! Add to that the stunning ambiance and the hours spent over a cup of coffee- it seems worthwhile. The coffee shops in UAE are myriad - ranging from takeaway joints to gorgeous cafes. We help you maneuver through some of the top joints in Abu Dhabi!
Serving up coffee beans from a local supplier, this brand celebrates all things “local”. In terms of the taste, this is honestly one of the top, no BS coffees I have had in the Capital. Perfectly roasted with the right acidity, balanced by your choice of milk (mine will always be 🥥). To me this place represents the 21st Century Central Perk of Yas Island- ordinarily a very quiet district, it comes alive in this coffee shop which is always bustling.
If instagram cafes are your thing- @bncafe.ae is the place for you. The contrast of industrial greys and bright rose gold accents is a treat for the eyes. One of the prettiest places- you almost feel like you’ve stepped out of Abu Dhabi! .
The Bnicolo is my absolute FAVORITE! I am a connoisseur of all things Saffron- and nothing is more painful then watching cafes use cheape sugary syrups to add artificial flavor. Bn cafe balances the true flavor of saffron with the bitterness of their beans without compromising either flavors.
@aptitude.ae was one of the first few specialty coffee joints in The Capital. I was (and still am) absolutely addicted to their Iced Saffron Latte. I still believe there are a rare few that do the iced version as well as them. You must try their Rose Latte and Pretzel Affogato.
Check out their new location at the Louvre on Saadiyat Island! Another picture perfect Instagram Cafe in the Capital
Coffee lights up every nerve in my brain- and specialty coffee lights up my day! Blacksmith is another gem hidden at NYUAD campus in Saadiyat Island. Serving up some of the most EPIC silky brews using local made Mirzam chocolate- this place is a definite winner for the top nook to get lost in. They also serve delish & indulgent dishes & desserts from Nolu's
Did you know that Waterlomon serves Blacksmith specialty beans? You can customize it with Almond or Coconut milk as per your liking as well 💁🏼♀️ .
✅ Canal Views
✅Great food ✅ Amazing Coffee
It’s always Coffee O’Clock at Snooze - a coffee concept that’s located in a container at Umm Al Emarat Park - they serve up some of the most delish hot & cold brews. A must try are their Limited Edition drinks- Popcorn Latte, Black or Lavendar Watermelon and Cotton Candy Icecream Sandwich 💯
A true hidden gem in a lush green setting- coffee worth every sip! .
Adorable 3D kitty, bear and wolf foams in the Capital? Find them at Cafe Artea in Al Seef Village Mall. It is the go to place for all things unique - a cozy quaint cafe with amazing dessert and coffee/tea options. Try their Kashmiri Teas and Karak range! Definitely a must try!
As the name goes, Ovenlys are experts in baking sweet & savory desserts. And whats more- they're baked fresh in store EVERYDAY! Their Love Latte is a mix of Rose & Lavender Lattes. Be careful though- it can be extremely sweet!
LOVE ROSE LATTE
A powerhouse of specialty coffee located in Al Muneera Beach Plaza, it serves up special blends curated by La Brea from Los Angeles. Whats better is that the Barista is extremely knowledgable about the overall taste of each blend and knows what flavors to add to create masterpieces! Love Rose is an AMAZING example where the sweetness of the Rose syrup is brilliantly balanced by the bitter notes of well roasted South American blend
Ushk was one of the first to have Lavender lattes in the Capital. It wasn't my favorite TBH because it tends to be extremely sweet. But lately I go back daily to grab their Lotus Latte. Why? Because it isn't just Lotus Biscoff butter added to coffee- they add the actual biscuit!
Would it be a list without Arabica? ``the ONLY place in the Capital that serves Specialty coffee true to its meaning! Beans straight from the source and roasted locally- I am addicted to the Kenyan Latte!
I love strong espresso with a hint of milk and the Cortado is just that- equal parts strong espresso and milk to reduce that acidity. What I love even more about Caffe Nero at Yas Mall and The Galleria have the perfect ambience where I spend hours enjoying these lazy winter days ❤️
This review is the personal opinion and carefully curated rantings of Sara K- the brainchild of the blog "It's Your SAY". We visited each shop of our own accord and provided highly filtered reviews for each spot. All imagery is her own and is copyrighted- please email for permissions before reuse.
This list is, in no way, the only or the top cafes -in Abu Dhabi! With the rate of expansion of cafes across the city, this list shall keep on evolving! But for now- these cafes have gone me over by their sheer taste, concept and ambiance! Let me know if you think other cafes belong to this list- I would be delighted to visit them and update the list!