Launched in 2015, MEA Markets reports news from across the Middle East and Africa. Five years ago they launched the MEA Business Awards. And this year, they gave the award for Best Specialty Coffee Supplier in the Middle East to Specialty Batch.

Stomping Grounds, part of the Specialty Batch portfolio, has also been on a winning streak, claiming:

Specialty Batch Coffee is a Dubai-based, homegrown brand founded by Ryan Godinho. And when he’s not collecting awards, he’s growing a brand which today is one of the UAE’s leading SCA coffee educators, specialty cafe consultants, quality-focused coffee roasters, technical support specialists and exclusive cafe equipment suppliers.

Finally I was able to catch up with the guy everyone said I had to meet.

Please introduce yourself to the readers

My name is Ryan Godinho and my life has been somewhat evenly split between Melbourne and Dubai. I officially call both cities “home”.

I’ve been involved in UAE coffee arena for the better part of 12 years now. Having established a Specialty Coffee Educational facility under the brand ‘Specialty Batch Coffee’ in 2012; a micro-roastery and equipment supply business under the same brand in 2013, which evolved into a turnkey specialty coffee solutions company in 2015; and a Café & Restaurant under the brand name Stomping Grounds in 2016.

Both companies very much active to this day with plans in place to expand operations over the next 6 months.

What’s your earliest coffee memory?

During the final years of high school in the late 90s, I was an avid latte enthusiast for the most part. I found sustenance in Long Blacks during my Uni days and I can confidently say that graduation was only made possible thanks to caffeine.

In 2004 a new café opened near my home in South Yarra (Melbourne) and they had some serious coffee equipment and gadgets on their front bar. A few insightful conversations later, with the barista and owner, this cafe not only became my regular morning pitstop, but it also forever changed the benchmark of what I would deem to be a “good coffee”.

What’s the future of specialty coffee in the UAE?

I think the future of specialty coffee in the UAE, specifically, is very blurred.

The overall potential of Specialty Coffee rests amongst various global concerns around origin, terroir & environmental viability, Coffea species evolution, farm-level processing innovation, labor compensation and quality maintenance through the supply chain. This is what essentially paves the way for the world to follow.

Subsequently, there will always be new and exciting coffee varieties and equipment technologies that find their way to the local coffee bars. The positioning and buying power of the UAE facilitates this more than most other countries.

However, I am a strong believer in sustainability through education, individuality and consistency. While having the best coffee tech and an evolving menu of micro-lots, nano-lots and 90+ coffees is a great showcase, the heart of the cafes’ future rests in the overall consistency in their customer service and product quality.

Core investments needs to stretch beyond just interior design & fit-out and the reproduction of other cafes’ food and beverage menus. Cafe owners/operators need to invest in more more structured forms of active and passive education, not just for their staff but also for their customers.

Having said that, considering the high number of coffee shops per capita, I also believe that the current café scene needs to undergo somewhat of a purge phase. This is a guaranteed phenomenon where the imitators and non-innovators gradually disappear and the stronger ‘individuals’ remain.

Last but not least, the Barista. The UAE has no doubt seen a gradual rise in the average salary for the Barista since 2012. However, there is a certain level of stagnation in recent years, even over years prior to the pandemic. For legitimate development in aspects of local specialty coffee, the Barista (the ultimate coffee and brand ambassadors) needs to be collectively regarded as a ‘front-of-house Chef’ and needs to be recruited and compensated accordingly.

How do you spend your private time?

Private time is a luxury of the employed. Though, I always strive to make as much time each week for family, learning new skills and making music. With a formal qualification in Audio engineering; playing guitar, recording and mastering audio tracks has always been a great way for me to unwind.

You’ll find Specialty Batch at Shed 3 A, Marina Cubes Street, Port Rashid, Dubai. You’ll find Stomping Grounds at Villa #98, 12D Street, Dubai.

Images by Ryan, Specialty Batch and Time Out.

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