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

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Banteay Meanchey gunfight sees 15 Thais arrested, three officers injured

    The Banteay Meanchey Military Police have arrested 15 Thai suspects and their accomplices after a gun battle between two Thai groups caused injuries to three police officers in the early hours of November 21, local authorities said. National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy said that according to

  • PM: Do not defile Tonle Sap swamp forest or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered police to arrest anyone – including government officials – involved with the deforestation of the flooded forests surrounding the Tonle Sap Lake because it is an area important to the spawning of many species of fish, among other reasons. Speaking in a