Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Hipster’ coffee brews up change in Qatar’s capital



‘Hipster’ coffee brews up change in Qatar’s capital

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A customer sips a cup of coffee at the Flat White cafe in Qatari capital Doha’s Tawar Mall on June 8. AFP

‘Hipster’ coffee brews up change in Qatar’s capital

Doha’s Tawar Mall looks much like any of the other unremarkable shopping centres dotted around Qatar, but tucked away in one of its corners, a tiny cultural revolution is taking place.

There you will find Flat White, Qatar’s first attempt at a hipster cafe.

Customers can buy drinks such as a V60, Aeropress or Ginger Latte, selecting coffee beans from Colombia, Tanzania or Peru, then sit and drink while perusing a book.

Or they can just sip and admire the brutalist decor, all trendy bare concrete walls and dangling contemporary lighting.

In the background are the familiar sounds of drinks being prepared by baristas on machines costing €2,600 (around $3,500).

“We didn’t have this hipster style, this is what was missing in Qatar,” says Nasser al-Nuaimi, who co-owns Flat White with his wife Maryam.

‘We sleep anytime’

Nuaimi, 35, is a coffee fanatic who developed a passion for the Western-style version of the drink while on his travels, especially in the United States.

An international insurance executive, he discovered speciality coffee shops while on business trips – and decided to try to bring the culture back home.

He opened the first Flat White in 2012, and now there are three dotted around Doha.

“After 5pm in Europe, people won’t drink coffee [but] have a beer.

“Here coffee is our passion, we drink it anytime, we sleep anytime,” he says.

The international-style coffeeshop is packed with customers and notably they are almost exclusively Qatari – men wearing traditional white robes and women in black abayas – in a country where locals barely make up 10 percent of the population.

“We like the coffee, the atmosphere, the energy,” says Shamma, 19, a student drinking cappuccino and eating cheesecake with her friend Muneera, also 19.

“I have been to speciality coffee shops in London and I really liked them. This is bringing that here,” she says.

“It is becoming more of a social construct than just having a coffee.”

Seated nearby are engineers Mohammed and Jassim, both 34, who say Flat White has made them appreciate a different style of coffee.

“They are choosing beans from special places. We realised what we used to drink was not coffee,” says Mohammed, referring to more prevalent Western brands.

Arabic coffee has been a mainstay of drinking culture in the region for thousands of years.

Jassim says people still drink it widely but prefer to make it at home.

Prices are not cheap. A Chemex coffee, made in a specially designed glass flask, costs 26 Qatari riyals (around $7).

A recent study by financial services group UBS found that a cup of coffee in Doha is the most expensive in the world, costing an average of $6.40.

First vegan restaurant

Speciality coffeeshops are springing up all across the capital.

In the Qanat Quartier, an upmarket area featuring a small-scale Venice-style neighbourhood, cafes with names such as Volume and Artist Cafe have popped up.

The burgeoning “hipsterism” is not confined to coffee either. A speciality breakfast cereal shop is opening, as well as Qatar’s first vegan restaurant.

And its reach extends beyond the Gulf state, with Qatari-owned coffee stores in London – in the exclusive Mayfair area, dubbed the Qatar Quarter by the British press – as well as a gastro-burger restaurant close to the Qatari-owned Harrods.

But as with most things in Qatar at the moment, the food and drink sector has been affected by the year-old Gulf political crisis, in which Qatar’s neighbours have cut off all ties, accusing it of backing terrorism and being too close to Iran – charges it denies.

Qatar previously relied on its neighbours for much of its imports, and has had to radically adjust its sourcing.

As part of moves to cut back the country’s reliance on imports, Qatar now reportedly wants to open its first coffee-roasting plants because of high local demand.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM imposes nationwide Covid restrictions, curfew over Delta scare

    Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28 instructed the municipal and provincial authorities nationwide to strictly enforce Covid-19 measures including curfew for two weeks from July 29 midnight through August 12 to stem the new coronavirus Delta variant. The instruction came shortly after he issued a directive

  • Two luxury hotels latest quarantine options for inbound travellers

    The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 has designated two luxury hotels as alternative quarantine options for travellers who wish to enter Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport – Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence and the Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh. In a notice detailing guidelines issued

  • Provinces on Thai borders put in lockdown amid Delta fears

    The government has decided to place several border provinces in lockdown for two weeks in a bid to prevent the new coronavirus Delta variant spreading further into community. According a directive signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28, the provinces include Koh Kong,

  • Delta spreading in Kingdom

    Cambodia has so far detected more than 200 cases of the highly contagious coronavirus Delta variant, with 109 found on July 31 and August 1. The Ministry of Health has expressed deep concerns that the variant may have already reached communities and be spreading as some of the cases

  • US' Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines arrive

    The first batch of 455,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine donated by the US touched down in Phnom Penh on the morning of July 30. They are part of the total 1,060,100 doses the US has pledged to provide to Cambodia through the World Health Organisation-led (

  • China denies Mekong hacking

    As the US and its allies joined hands last week to expose what they allege to be China’s Ministry of State Security’s malicious cyber activities around the world, the attention also turned to Cambodia with the US Department of Justice claiming that four