In my effort to get to know the UAE specialty coffee community, I ask everyone I meet to recommend someone else I should talk to. One name that came up again and again is “Dan de Coffee Man“.
I’ve seen him featured on The Need for Coffee. So I knew he existed. I even visited Grandmother Coffee to see if we could sit down for a chat. But it was a busy day at the roastery. So when he could finally make some time for me, on his day off, I jumped at the chance to meet the man, the myth, the legend, Daniel Sibomana.
I invited him to join me for breakfast at the newly-opened Teible. The PR around Teible described it as a “artisanal bakery and restaurant” that prides itself in sourcing ingredients locally. I’ll do an article about the restaurant later but, spoiler alert, you need to go. If you can find a table. I recommend you make a reservation.
We were lucky to find a table at the window. Overlooking Jaddaf Waterfront. The waiter promptly arrived to take our order for drinks. I, unimaginatively, asked for a cappuccino. Dan asked for an Americano. But if the waiter thought he could make a quick getaway, he was wrong. Dan proceeded to suggest exactly how he wanted that Americano prepared. The waiter listened intently. As did I. We both realised we were in the presence of greatness.
Dan and I got into it like we were old friends. As I sit here now writing this, I’m wondering why that was. Maybe it’s because we share a love for specialty coffee. Maybe it’s because we’re both from Africa. Maybe it’s because he’s genuinely a nice guy. I suspect it’s all of the above.
Our conversation drifted through the current state of the UAE’s specialty coffee industry. The best places to get good coffee in Dubai. Barista life in the UAE. Rwanda. His mom. And then we spent some time discussing what he is most passionate about, the coffee farmer.
He challenged me to do some research. Because, he said, I’d find a different story to the one told in PR and marketing blurbs.
So I did.
And the truth is a sad one.
- Climate change is a real issue for coffee farmers. Because climate change means “rising temperatures, less predictable rainfall, wild swings from drought to flooding, new pests and more.” And most coffee farmers are not equipped to manage this.
- There are organizations and companies seeking solutions to these challenges, helping farmers to improve production and efficiency, developing new strains of beans or farming wild species, and even growing coffee in labs. But there is a long road ahead before those initiatives will make a substantial impact.
- According to The Borgen Project, 44% of the world’s smallholder coffee farmers still live in poverty, and 22% live in extreme poverty.
I asked Dan what the real solution is. He said the answer is complicated. But goal is simple:
When he goes back home to visit Rwanda, or any coffee farming country, he wants see the coffee farmer was able to build a house. Or improve the house that he is living in.
And as I drove home from the best conversation I’ve had in a while, I couldn’t help but wonder: is that too much to ask?