I read a great quote online, attributed to Mimi Novic:
Throughout this journey of life we meet many people along the way. Each one has a purpose in our life. No one we meet is ever a coincidence.
It’s a quote that came to mind when I met Syed Naveed. He left thoughtful comments on my instagram page and on articles in the blog. As an introvert by nature, I’m never keen to meet new people. But something told me I should meet him.
So I did. I describe the experience here. And it was exactly that, an experience.
Since that meeting he’s started writing for FLTR and we’re working on a project together that I’m excited about. When it launches, it’s going to make make waves in specialty coffee in the UAE. Fact.
Saying Syed is the future of specialty coffee in the UAE is a bold statement, I know. I’ve said it because it’s great clickbait. And I felt comfortable saying it because it’s true.
As you’ll start to realize when you read this interview.
I’ve mentioned your writing many times now. But please introduce the man behind the writing to the readers.
My name is Syed Naveed. I was born in India, I hail from the South in the state where Bada Budan planted seven coffee seeds which he smuggled from Yemen. Can you guess where?
I currently live in Dubai and it’s been over three decades now. I work in the construction industry as a Specification Engineer. This pays the bill for all the coffee I consume.
What is your earliest coffee memory?
I have been an avid coffee drinker for as long as I remember – Nescafe, Starbucks and South Indian filter coffee (this is not the same as a pour over).
I still remember the first time I had a Chemex at Ratios. It was my first cup of specialty coffee. I was more infatuated with the design of the coffee maker rather than the taste of the coffee. It was beautiful. The coffee was from Ethiopia and I remember it being very clean and balanced. This paved the way for me to try out more specialty cafes in the UAE.
What inspired you to start The Need for Coffee?
I have always documented my cafe visits on Instagram. But it was Lameen who planted this seed in my head to start my own blog. I took his advice seriously because he has been writing about coffee for more than a decade now. I wrote about everything, from the coffee I was brewing at home to the cafes I was visiting.
My posts started getting more traction when I featured the local baristas, cafe owners and roasters. I was showcasing their coffee journey, and the struggles they were facing in the early part of their careers in The Coffee Story. I felt I had a responsibility to share those gems for everyone to benefit.
You curate a few other pages. Tell us more about them.
I have recently started UAE Specialty Coffee Guide to feature the best of the best specialty coffee shops UAE has to offer.
And I made another account called Coffee Bar Goals because I am a little too obsessed with coffee bars. It’s an inspiration for me to build my own very soon.
What are some lessons you’ve learnt so far about writing, and writing about the coffee industry specifically?
Writing is like therapy for me. It puts me at ease and pushes negative thoughts out the window. The best way to know yourself is through writing. Especially when you take the time to journal.
Here are some of the pointers that I have learnt and picked up along the way:
- Pick a topic you enjoy talking about. You don’t have to be an expert, but you certainly need the drive to learn and expand your expertise with time.
- Make an effort to write everyday. Personally, I try to write at least 250 words everyday. Writing has helped me articulate better.
- Writing forces you to think, reflect and organize your thoughts more systematically.
Any advice for someone who is thinking of pursuing their passion but feels stuck?
If it’s truly a passion and not a hobby, you have to stop with the excuses and put in the work. You don’t have time? Surely, you can spare at least 30 minutes every single day to learn about your craft. Learning is one thing, but if you don’t apply this knowledge, you are not moving forward.
How many self help books are you going to read to snap out of that procrastinating mindset? Action is what’s required from you. Put yourself in those uncomfortable situations and watch yourself transform. This is the fastest way to learn.
This is the same advice I follow today, there are a few off days but what’s important is to keep the momentum going.
What are some of your favorite coffeeshops & roasters?
- Grandmother Coffee Roastery for their Ninety Plus and Project Origin offering.
- The Barn for their Masterpiece offering. It was the recent Yemen Alchemy and Napoleon Geisha that made me add The Barn to this list.
- Rate of Rise Roastery, most of my early cupping days and understanding espresso were made evident to me by the ROR team. I still learn a great deal when I visit them from time to time.
- Mattina Coffee, the best Geisha I have had here from Hacienda La Esmeralda.
- Heaf, this is one of my favorite coffee shops from many. The space, and the coffee, it is an elated experience.
What are your favorite instagram pages, blogs & podcasts?
I have never really paid attention to be honest, it was just mindless scrolling, until you launched FLTR. Then, I really started observing the way you handle your accounts. @manmakecoffee, @humansofcoffee, and @coffeeshopgoals are some of my favorites.
I don’t read much about coffee online. This is my second year with Standart which is a print-only coffee magazine. It’s about coffee, art, science, culture and people. The articles are written so well that it inspires me to become a better writer myself. It’s good to see long-form print making a comeback.
Apart from my favorite podcasts listed here, I have started listening to A History of Coffee and Adventures in Coffee. Both are a must-listen!
I like spending time with you because you have an inner peace that I find infectious. Where does that come from?
Inner peace is achieved when there are two sides at war, and you acknowledge those negative emotions but don’t let them take over.
Be mindful of the chaos brewing inside of you, and be intentional about not letting them control you. What that does is prepare you for your worst days and train you to remain calm at the face of adversity.
I try not to complicate my life. I surround myself with people who are on the same wavelength as me. We are often drawn to those who are like-minded.
And being grateful to the Creator. Trust Him because He knows what’s best for you. He will not make you suffer more than what you can bear.
The formula is simple, be patient if things are not working out the way you want them to be. Be grateful if they do. At the end of the day, we all falter, so learn to forgive. Life is too short for conflicts.
What next for you and your coffee passion?
To be honest, I have always wanted to start a podcast. The Coffee Story needs to evolve into a medium where the interviewee’s emotions and stories are recorded in the rawest form possible. You cannot capture everything on text, since 90% of the interview has been edited and condensed for readability.
Apart from that I have no other plans at the moment, I’m enjoying the process and looking to publish even more content on FLTR. So yes, you are going to see me more often here and only hope you enjoy reading the articles as much as I enjoy writing them.
Margaret J. Wheatley wrote:
Despite current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes when networks of relationships form among people who share a common cause and vision of what’s possible. This is good news for those of us intent on creating a positive future. Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections. We don’t need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits. Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage and commitment that lead to broad-based change.
I’m glad I met Syed Naveed. And now you have too.
You can read Syed’s blog posts here. Leave a comment below if you have any questions for him. And don’t forget to subscribe.