Pull up in your 4×4 vehicle outside anyone of a number of stores in Dubai and someone will come running to take your order, whether it’s a snack, a drink or a box of washing powder. But try and get a decent coffee delivered to your home or office? That’s a different story.
Some people lucky enough to work in the same building as a coffee shop can enjoy delivery to their desk, but that seems lazy when it’s only a staircase – and a pleasant five minute break – away.
What I’m talking about are those days when, for whatever reason, you can’t leave home or the office, and you just need a caffeine fix. You’re decorating, covered in paint, and don’t want to go out. Sick, and scared of releasing a particularly heavy sneeze. Bad hair day? Tired, and working on a tight deadline? You hear me, right?
In the US, Starbucks has launched a few delivery services. One, to workers in New York’s Empire State Building. That’s all well and good if you happen to have found employment in the iconic Fifth Avenue tower, but what about those of us who toil away in Studio City or DIP?
Residents of Seattle have been able to enjoy Starbuck’s delivered to their location via an app, but delivery can take an hour, and there’s a hefty $6-plus delivery charge.
In Dubai, this wonderful city of spoiled brats, we want our coffee now, and we want it hot. So why not? Why not?
Simply put, it seems coffee vendors in the Emirate are terrified of us prima donna customers.
As Rana Shaeen, Regional Communications & CSR Manager, Starbucks Coffee MENA, put it: “At Starbucks, we understand how important it is that our customers’ orders are handed over perfect every time, which is why we don’t offer delivery at the moment.
“Our baristas take pride in crafting every beverage and handing it straight to the customer. We have drive-thru stores in selected countries offering our customers “coffee on the go” and if an opportunity in the future arises, Starbucks may launch a delivery service to meet our customers with their favourite drinks wherever they are.”
So there’s hope, but don’t go zip-lining down Jabal Jais and expect a piping-hot pumpkin spice latte to be biked to you, just yet.
Rana said the company is looking into options, but at the moment, the issue is two fold – product quality and logistics.
Drew Dennehy, Operations Manager at RAW Coffee Company, the city’s first home-grown coffee roastery, offers up both practical and technical reasons why we can’t get our hands on Raw’s incredible artisan brews at home.
“Delivery of coffee beverages wouldn’t work for us as a company, as we are quite isolated here in Al Quoz. [Even] for others around Dubai who are closer to office buildings, it’s still a gamble, especially for milk-based beverages.
“Most people like their coffee to start off unpalatably hot so that over the course of drinking it, it remains a decent temperature (not too cold). The thing with ‘stretching’ or steaming milk is that, once you heat it above 70 degrees Celsius (which is immediately consumable and often below the ideal temperature for most people), you start to denature the proteins inside the milk.
“This means the milk actually starts to taste less sweet and as a result the coffee tastes more bitter and watery. Another interesting point is that the human tongue perceives the sweetness of milk, at its highest, at around 55 degrees Celsius. As you heat the milk above the point, the taste potential of the milk starts to decrease.
This, naturally directly affects the coffee it’s poured into. In terms of black coffee, this is more do-able but still, being in the speciality market, we like to brew fresh for our customers.”
He believes most companies don’t deliver coffee because they want to err on the side of caution.
Dennehy also hints at the demanding nature of Dubai patrons. “This is a very particular market, one in which the customer is more ‘always right’ than every other market in the world. They also have the ability to return almost anything should they not like it. Business owners take this sitting down because they’re afraid of getting negative reviews left on social/web sites. The fact that everyone and anyone can potentially affect your business by leaving a comment via social media, leaves business owners weary of delivering a product that could potentially lose them money AND reduce their Google Plus/Facebook rating.”
Interesting then, that that other bastion of American culture, Dunkin’ Donuts, also offers home delivery, both via an in-house app and in conjunction with a delivery service. The company cited customer convenience as the driving force behind the move. Bravo, but good coffee? We doubt it.
But if you are among those who have waited longer than expected for a food delivery, received a cold dish, ten calls from a hot and bothered motorbike delivery man, or a wrong order, then you understand delivery logistics are complicated.
Unlike, souq.com shipments for example, there’s only a brief window when most food items can be delivered before getting cold or spoiling, and that window is clearly even shorter for coffee.
Garfield Kerr, CEO of Mokha 1450 Coffee Boutique on Al Wasl Road, underlined that his specialty coffee has unique and superior flavours and aromas, and pointed out that the best brewing temperature for perfect extraction (where all the flavours and aromas are heightened) is between 92 and 94 degrees Celsius.
“At higher temperatures you will destroy the flavour profile of the coffee. For this reason specialty coffee is not usually delivered,” he said.
He feels “there has always been a disconnect between specialty coffee consumers and mass market coffee consumers, because the big coffee chains realise that if they prepare coffee to go the consumer will be displeased if the coffee is cold when they get to their destination, and as a result, they prepare the coffee at very high temperatures.”
Kerr explains that consumers have been conditioned to believe coffee should be consumed at a much higher temperature than what is acceptable to fully enjoy the complexity of flavours.
In short, if coffee is capable of burning your tongue, technically you are not able to properly taste the coffee.
“This is why specialty coffee shops insist on using proper brewing temperatures as our customers have to taste what they are paying for,” said the expert.
So next time – like us – you are bemoaning the fact that you can’t get a decent coffee to your desk, remember that if something is good, its worth travelling for. And if you can get a coffee delivered chances are it won’t be a good one.