I’ve decided to ask some thought leaders in the UAE specialty coffee space about their thoughts on the current state of specialty in the country and their predictions for the future.

Our first entrant into this debate is Shehzeen Jamil, co-founder & managing director of Sippy, the UAE’s leading online store for specialty roasters. Sippy ticks all the boxes for me. A great selection of the best local (and international) coffee roasters. Awesome customer service. And quick delivery.

It’s a nice little bonus that she is also one of the few people I really enjoy talking coffee over a coffee with. So it’s super appropriate then that she’s the first participant in this new series.

These are her thoughts:

About 10-15 years ago there was a distinct gap between commercial coffee and specialty coffee. The latter being synonymous with luxury and catering mostly to customers who had above-average knowledge of origins, roast levels, processes, brewing methods, etc. The commercial giants reigned over the smaller specialty shops and captured the masses. Today, the number of specialty roasters and cafés in the UAE has grown exponentially.

Specialty is no longer only deemed as luxury but rather resonates with characteristics such as high quality, superior taste, sustainable and artisan among others. The pandemic has also played a big part in broadening the customer base of home brewers and we’ve seen a major uptick in demand for locally roasted specialty coffee beans and increased curiosity of the farm to cup journey. Coffee drinkers are getting curious. I don’t see the specialty wave decelerating anytime soon.

In fact, we’ve started to notice commercial giants also entering this space and I am quite confident that the two will start merging over the years. Specialty cafés will gain enough popularity and backing that they will stop being small independent coffee shops and start becoming big global chains (prime example: Blue Bottle) and the behemoths in coffee such as Starbucks will start investing more in their specialty line and concept stores (example: Starbucks Reserve). In the near future, the specialty cafés and commercial cafes will happily coexist and the gap will not be as visible. Brand affinity will majorly drive demand for one over the other.

Thank you for weighing in Shehzeen.

Connect with Shehzeen on instagram and Linked In.

If you’d like to share your thoughts, please comment below. If you’d like to be part of this series, please email your thoughts and photo to hello@fltrmagazine.com.