It’s an all-encompassing fever that holds us hostage until we answer its call. It’s coffee;
And hot or cold, black or light, sweet or bitter, with or without milk, we love it all and we want more.
How does that lovely liquid end up in your cup? We give you the low-down on the process of getting to coffee. And, like most things in life, when taken in excess it can have negative effects on our body, but caffeine also has beneficial effects. Let’s discuss those, as well as a few popular coffee styles. And we wouldn’t be Dine in the City if we didn’t list the best coffee fix venues in Dubai!
From bean to cup
Coffee bean production is a 2000-year-old worldwide industry, not far behind in value to petroleum. There are two main types of beans, Arabica, whicb was first produced on the Arabian Peninsula, and Robusta which has much more caffeine.
The coffee cherry fruit as a whole is not valuable; only the bean is necessary for coffee. There are two colors in the beans: red and green. The red has more aroma, lower acidity and therefore produces better coffees.
Most beans are picked by hand, which means its not a fast process, also because the pickers are skilled at separating green and red beans.
Once picked, the bean is removed from the cherry. The bean is soaked, scrubbed, rubbed and washed to remove excess residue. The beans are then dried on big slabs until they contain only 12% of their original water content and the fermentation process begins. The better beans are aged for 3 to 8 years, while the rest will be roasted within a year. They dry, crack and go brown, releasing their flavorsome oils.
A few weeks later, the beans are ground. Huge grinders crush them to uniformly small sized particles, whilst choppers produce a less even-sized particle. Turkish coffee is made by pounding the beans into a fine powder.
Brewing is the last step, and there are four elements involved: boiling, pressure, gravity and steeping.
Boiling water is poured onto the coffee grounds, then filtered and finally settles. The pressure of the water as it is pushed through the grounds determines the style of coffee: higher pressure means espresso, whilst lower pressure is more traditional coffee. In drip coffee makers, the gravity of the water as it hits the grounds and filters through influences the flavour. Steeping relies on bags of grounds. The more perforated the bag, the easier the water can penetrate.
A cup a day keeps the doctor away
Scientists have turned up interesting facts on caffeine. Caffeine blocks the effects of a neurotransmitter in the brain (adenosine) that influences how tired we feel. This is why caffeine works so well to keep us awake. It also encourages the release of dopamine, which makes us feel happy.
Studies have show that drinking caffeine-containing drinks like coffee and tea helps protect people from developing liver diseases. People who drank more than 2 cups of coffee a day had a 44% lower chance of showing actual liver damage compared to those who drank no caffeine. Another study demonstrated benefits of coffee with regards liver disease. This study found that drinking 3 cups of coffee a day could lower the risk of death from liver cirrhosis.
Irrespective of liver disease, caffeine still has other advantages. Caffeine has been shown to potentially enhance short term memory. Researchers found that there was an increase in brain activity in those parts of the brain associated with memory and attention.
Everything does have a flip side though. After all, the balance of our brain chemistry is unique. When addicted to and/or under the influence of stimulants like caffeine, we lose sensitivity to our own natural stimulants (dopamine and adrenaline).
In addition, about 20% of the population has adverse effects to caffeine such as cardiac arrhythmias, excessive urination, insomnia and withdrawal headaches. If you have ulcers, be warned, because caffeine causes higher acidity levels in the stomache.
Crank it up
Because caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, mobilizes various hormones that are involved in metabolic processes, improves muscle contraction, and improves the use of fats and carbohydrates for energy it seems like a no brainer to drink coffee before exercising.
But, and this is a big but, how you use it is very important in whether you’ll get maximum performance benefits from caffeine in the context of exercise, so take note of the results of numerous studies in order to fully understand how caffeine use can benefit your exercise program.
Findings included that athletes involved in explosive style sports such as sprints and boxing do not appear to benefit from caffeine use, whilst endurance athletes involved in long distance cycling, running and swimming do see a notable improvement in their results if caffeine is consumed. In general, reaction time is improved, which may still be helpful in explosive sports. Caffeine use also stimulates fat loss.
The optimum caffeine consumption is around 3.0 mg per kg of bodyweight, or around 2 cups one hour before commencing exercise. Notably, if an athlete hasn’t had caffeine for a few days, performance is improved when taking caffeine. It takes the body around 6 hours to reduce the caffeine in the body to 50%, and effects also last around 6 hours.
Luigi Bezzera, the owner of a manufacturing business, was looking for a way to brew coffee faster. He figured if he added pressure when pouring the water over the grounds it would speed things up. Espresso turned out to be a better, fuller tasting cup of strong coffee, as well as a much faster process. The term “Espresso” means fast in Italian.
Desidero Pavoni, who purchased the rights from Mr. Bezzera for the espresso machine, was extremely successful in marketing the product and that causes espresso and espresso machines to be bought in large quantities.
Cappuccinos are one of the most popular varieties of coffee. The name comes from the Capucini, a Roman Catholic order of monks, who had dark brown robes and drank cappuccinos in the morning with their breakfasts.
Combining espresso, hot milk and frothed milk seems simple, but there is more to it than that. A traditional cappuccino has a foam layer of about 1 cm, whilst “light” or “wet” cappuccinos have more milk added to the espresso. ”Dark” and “dry” cappuccinos have less milk. Cinnamon or cacao can be added on top for an additional flavour dimension, bringing out more of the nutty and dark flavours of the beans.
The frothed milk acts as an insulator and keeps the coffee warmer for longer. An iced cappuccino simply means pouring the warm, freshly prepared cappuccino over ice.
Cappuccinos are not to be stirred, and once drained the cup should still have some foamed milk sticking to the bottom. This indicates the cappuccino was prepared well.
Ristretto is the crème de la crème of the Espresso – literally. It takes the first three quarters of the espresso, when the coffee is expected to be the strongest and most flavoursome. Also called a short espresso.
Lungo is when you can’t get enough – it’s an espresso plus another half espresso.
When people order extra shots of espresso in their drinks, it’s not just an added espresso, more grounds are also packed into the filter to add flavour.
No caramel. No chocolate. No whipped cream. No no no. Just a shot of espresso and some frothy milk.
A latte is similar to the cappuccino in that it has espresso, hot milk and frothed milk. But the latte has much more hot milk than a cappuccino, making the flavour of the espresso milder and softer.
Some people couldn’t handle Espresso strength and started adding hot water to it. Voila – the Americano was born.
A mocha is a latte with chocolate syrup mixed in the coffee. Insider tip – chocolate milk and chocolate syrup is said to help relieve sore muscles more quickly!
Found on the menu of the more hipster café, the flat white has its origins in Australia. It’s a double ristretto topped with milk – i.e. the coffee is stronger and more pungent than in a cappuccino or latte.
Be warned – cold brew is not iced coffee. Hipsters will give you a look that could kill if you imply that. Instead, cold brew is coffee made with cold water instead of hot water, and steeped for specific durations to get different strengths of the coffee and flavours to come out. The cold water tends to make the brew less bitter and acidic.
Everyone loves vintage and retro and so the French Press is now back. Ground coffee, hot water and a plunger. The aroma is supposedly more intense as the process is less destructive to the grounds than in other types of coffee.
Adding some Oomph
We mentioned cacao and cinnamon on top of cappucinos, which bring out the flavours of the beans and roasting. Mixing cocao in your coffee of course also gives it another energy boost.
Another popular ingredient is ginseng. It creates alertness, and strengthens the immune system. Even more exotic ingredients are found in the barista competitions globally. Think melted pepper-gel, lavender syrup, white pepper, sage leaves, egg yolks and curry.
Now, for the fix
RAW in Al Quoz
This one has been around for a while now, catering to cafes and restaurants all over Dubai from their industrial warehouse, with a small café tucked inside. The setting makes it unpretentious and laid back.
Mokha 1450 in Al Wasl
Going back to more traditional types of coffee and methods of preparing them, Mokha 1450 is a good place to try different roasts. The décor is cute too.
Common Grounds at MoE
Tom & Serg are at it again, with another lovely spot. Great coffee and cakes to match. A good re-fueling stop during a marathon shopping session.
Attibassi in Satwa
Italian expertise reigns supreme at this haunt. And – the reigning UAE champion barista comes from Attibassi and can do some amazing latte art. Have your Instagram ready.
The Sum of Us on Sheikh Zayed
This is a more sophisticated place so don’t walk in if you are unsure about your coffee stuff. They do have amazing sourdough though…
Cremolata at Jumeirah Fishing Harbour
Cremo-what? Well exactly. Tucked away in Jumeirah Fishing Harbour this place has a few secrets: the view, the gelato AND the coffee.
Roseleaf at Dubai Garden Centre
Some foliage, old Parisian style chairs, salads, sandwiches and cakes AND good coffee. What more do you need?
Espresso Lab in Jumeirah
Owned and run by an Emirati entrepreneur, Espresso Lab is artisanal and friendly. And home made, fresh bread is just the cherry on the icing.
Brew Café in Umm Suqeim
Lots of different roasts and baristas that know what they are talking about, and eager to share their knowledge.
Stomping Grounds in Jumeirah
In a grand villa in Jumeirah, Stomping Grounds does endless coffee variations as well as some experimental ones that involve gas. The food isn’t bad either!
Coffee is one of Lime Tree’s gems that no one seems to talk about. Of course they have a lot of gems to cover with their carrot cake and triple chocolate brownie and their…where were we? Oh yes – Lime Tree has amazing coffee. Nutty sweet are words we’ve heard to describe it and on Friday and Saturday mornings there’s nothing we like more.