RAW Coffee Company - meet the boss

We talk to the MD about the brand and the success of The Roastery

Interview, Food

Why the name RAW?
I like short strong names, easy to understand in many languages. It also suggests that nothing is added, no artificial additives or processes, just 100 per cent natural coffee. We were also rather raw and inexperienced at running a business so we were also considering that play on words!

What makes your coffee special?
Coffee is the seed from a fruit that grows on a tree, so like any fruit it relies on perfect growing conditions, sun, fertile soil, altitude, temperature and of course rain. All the coffee we buy and roast here is Organic certified and genuinely ethically traded.
Nothing is added, just pure 100 percent fresh Arabica coffee beans that are all graded specialty. We have gone for flavour not caffeine, and we really try to do our best by roasting locally to really get the full potential that the beans have to offer.

Why and how did you set up RAW in the UAE?
Initially we were naïve about the challenges that lay ahead or the complexities of the little green bean, which is lucky as otherwise we would never have started. We were living here in Dubai, and had noticed a gap in the market, there were no local roasteries offering good quality freshly roasted coffee here.

How did you juggle running the business with your home life?
Well the naïve part comes in again here, but my three daughters were growing up and my family were very supportive and encouraging. I think time management is something most mums are very good at if they want to do anything else other than run their home and care for their families. Looking back, there were obviously times when meals were not what they should have been and there was an unmentioned level of chaos and occasional call outs to close friends for help. But my kids remain my biggest achievement and my loudest ambassadors. I think I am very lucky.

As big fans of The Roastery, we know it’s popular with sleep-deprived parents at the weekends – any plans to open up a creche on site?! Our readers would love that.
We have child-proofed the mezzanine area and welcome families and small children. We have lovely wooden toys for them to play and the older toddlers can enjoy a baby chino… but no, we will not be opening a crèche, ever! We are a working coffee roastery, first and foremost - we can if necessary, give unruly mini visitors an espresso and a kitten… is that good?

Many mums would admit to drinking upwards of three coffees a day. How many do you drink? And what’s your favourite?
Well I am more of a quality over quantity coffee drinker, I start my day with one cup of tea (and there is a personal fine levied against me should I wish to take a second). I drink far less coffee than most of the team I work with, who are literally fuelled by it. But I would drink three coffees a day, and today, my favourite coffee is a Yemeni coffee that is brewed using a Chemex. If I feel like an espresso coffee I really enjoy a double ristretto of Ethiopian Harrar.

What has been the general response to RAW in the UAE?
It took a long time to gain traction. We worked for years without taking salaries and putting all our money back into growing it as we had no investor. We had no money for marketing or advertising which definitely slowed us down. But we had the core things right with good quality beans, really good equipment and we found really amazing guys to work with us. We have a lovely loyal following of regulars from every imaginable country and culture, many of whom have become friends. Our biggest selling milk-based coffee is the flat white.

Where is RAW Coffee available to buy in the UAE, apart from The Roastery?
We have online ordering from our website. The minimum order is one 500gm bag. We deliver Sunday to Thursday, and deliver within one day of receiving the order on line. We pop down to Abu Dhabi on Tuesdays for delivery there. There are a number of good cafés that offer our coffee and you can purchase retail bags from them also: Tom & Serg, The Lime Tree Café, The Farm, Spill the Bean, Taqado, The Ripe Shop, Ultra Brasserie, Bystro Café, Taste Kitchen, The Surf House, The Magazine shop and Paper Fig in Sharjah, to name a few.

What are your future plans for the business?
We are in a really nice growth spurt at the moment, so we are concentrating on tightening up our administrative procedures and the business side of the roaster. We are opening a small café in the Emirates Academy of Hospitality very soon.

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