Caffè Vergnano CEO shares key coffee culture trends
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Exclusive: Caffè Vergnano’s CEO shines the spotlight on UAE’s coffee culture

Exclusive: Caffè Vergnano’s CEO shines the spotlight on UAE’s coffee culture

The UAE has become a hub of speciality coffee, with the young generation invested in learning about coffee, and opening specialty coffee shops, says Carolina Vergnano

Coffee brand caffe vergnano CEO Carolina Vergnano Image supplied

Coffee is no longer just a beverage; it has evolved into an experience. Cafes and coffee shops have transformed into places where people gather to socialise, work, or relax. The ambiance, aesthetics and quality of service have become integral to the coffee experience, with a focus on creating inviting spaces for customers, says Carolina Vergnano.

Here, the CEO of the premium Italian coffee brand shares her passion for the coffee business…

Coffee culture has evolving considerably in the past few years. Tell us more about it. 
Coffee culture has evolved significantly over the years, undergoing various shifts in consumer preferences, industry practices and societal trends.

In recent years, there has been a growing appreciation for specialty coffee. Consumers are seeking higher-quality beans, exploring different origins and flavour profiles, and showing interest in the craft of coffee brewing. This has led to the emergence of specialty coffee shops, micro-roasters, and a focus on traceability and sustainability.

Coffee enthusiasts have become more knowledgeable and curious about different brewing methods. There is a greater emphasis on precision and experimentation in brewing, with methods like pour-over, AeroPress and cold brew gaining popularity. This trend highlights the nuanced flavours and characteristics of different coffee beans.

Latte art and creative coffee presentations have become a common sight in coffee shops. Skilled baristas showcase their talents by creating intricate designs on the surface of espresso-based drinks, elevating the visual appeal of coffee and adding an artistic element to the culture.

The digital age has also influenced coffee culture in multiple ways. Social media platforms have become platforms for sharing coffee-related content, such as latte art photos, brewing techniques, and coffee tasting experiences.

Online communities and forums allow coffee enthusiasts to connect, learn, and discuss their passion for coffee. With a growing emphasis on personal health and wellness, coffee culture has responded with alternative options and adaptations. There is an increased demand for plant-based milk alternatives, such as almond milk and oat milk, as well as functional ingredients including adaptogens, collagen and superfoods in coffee beverages.

There is a greater focus on coffee education and appreciation, both among professionals and consumers. Coffee academies, workshops, and certifications have become more prevalent, offering opportunities to learn about coffee origins, brewing techniques, cupping, and roasting. Consumers have become more discerning, seeking information about the beans’ sourcing and production methods.

Coffee culture has also transcended geographical boundaries. As coffee businesses expand internationally, different regional coffee traditions and brewing techniques are shared and celebrated. This has led to a greater appreciation for the diverse coffee cultures around the world.

caffe vergnano What are the skills that a good barista should have to prepare an authentic espresso?
Caffè Vergnano believes that training is the most important process to become well-rounded professionals in the coffee industry. Coffee is an ancient and precious ritual that lives in time, in people and in places and a skilled barista’s hand is essential for a quality espresso.

This was the inspiration behind Accademia Vergnano, which is a Specialty Coffee Association-certified training centre. It’s a place to acquire all the skills a barista needs to grow a business.

Our team of expert trainers is bringing talents closer to raw material while improving their skills with professional coffee grinders and machines with different characteristics.
We provide specialised academic courses and training programmes designed to impart an all-round knowledge of coffee – the secrets and professionalism needed to deliver this invigorating beverage to the world.

We’re dedicated to professionals in search of excellence, to those who want to make every espresso a true masterpiece.

Why did you choose to set up an academic centre in the UAE?
There are several Accademia Vergnano locations in Italy and around the world. The academy combines the same passion and expertise that have characterised the company for over 140 years; it is now guiding the future of coffee culture.

The UAE is one of the most promising markets for Caffè Vergnano. We are already serving a premium customer such as Jumeirah Hotels and expanding rapidly in the hospitality sector with our authentic Italian espresso experience.

Training is one fundamental components of a top-notch coffee offering. Being able to offer excellent training is key to both retaining current customers and attracting new ones.
For this reason, also in the UAE, you can find spaces that combine theoretical lessons and practical exercises, always guided by certified trainers, specialised in qualified and tailor-made training for baristas.

The UAE has experienced a significant growth in its coffee culture, with a growing number of specialty coffee shops and an increasing demand for high-quality coffee. Opening a coffee academy in a country with a thriving coffee culture has been an advantageous, as it’s a receptive market for coffee education and training.

Additionally the UAE serves as a central hub for both regional and international travel. Its geographical location makes it easily accessible to coffee professionals and enthusiasts from various parts of the world. This can enhance the academy’s reach and attracts participants from different backgrounds and nationalities.

What are the characteristics of coffee drinkers in the UAE and how is the coffee ritual in the Arab world different from other countries?
The coffee culture in the UAE is vibrant and rapidly growing, also it is incredibly deep, going beyond the classic espresso and cappuccino. Over the past decade, there has been a significant rise in the popularity of coffee and the establishment of numerous coffee shops and specialty coffee houses throughout the country. As a consequence, the UAE has become a hub of speciality coffee, with the young generation invested in learning about coffee, and opening specialty coffee shops.

Today, there are more than 100 local roasters based in Dubai.

The UAE has embraced global coffee trends and has developed its unique coffee scene, catering to the diverse tastes and preferences of its multicultural population. Coffee plays an essential role in Emirati social life, where it is often enjoyed as a part of traditional hospitality.

In addition the UAE has embraced a variety of international coffee styles and brewing methods. You can find a wide range of coffee options, including espresso-based drinks, pour-over coffees, French press, cold brew, and more. Specialty coffee shops have gained popularity, focusing on sourcing high-quality beans from different regions worldwide, roasting them locally, and providing a unique and artisanal coffee experience.

The UAE hosts various coffee events and competitions, showcasing the talent and skills of baristas and coffee professionals. These events include barista championship latte art competitions, and coffee festivals, attracting both coffee enthusiasts and professionals from around the world.

Overall, the coffee culture in the UAE has flourished, blending traditional Arabic coffee customs with a modern and diverse coffee scene. It has become a significant part of the social fabric, offering a wide range of coffee options, welcoming spaces, and opportunities to explore and appreciate the art of coffee.

How does the company select its suppliers?
The secret of our quality blends lies in the thorough selection of the best coffee producers in the world. The finest coffee beans are selected and purchased directly in the places of origin and perfection is achieved by meticulous control of every batch of coffee.

The blends are the result of years of experience. Since coffee is a natural product, the challenge is to keep its signature taste uniform over time. A mission that is pursued with the same passion, enthusiasm and innovative spirit by the fourth generation of the family. At the stage of production, the choice of high-quality blends is combined with experience in coffee processing, which still takes place in the traditional way, through slow roasting. The slow roasting cycles are carried out with different cooking times and temperatures depending on the origin, allowing for the exact degree of roasting.

What are the key trends influencing the coffee industry?
Increasingly, consumers are concerned about the environmental and social impact of their coffee consumption. There has been a growing emphasis on sustainable and ethical sourcing practices, such as fair trade, organic farming, and supporting farmers’ livelihoods.

Third wave coffee represents a movement where coffee is viewed as an artisanal product, similar to grape and barley-based beverages. It emphasises the traceability of beans, precise brewing methods, and a focus on the unique flavours and characteristics of different coffee origins.

Technology has played a role in enhancing the coffee experience, from automated brewing machines to smartphone-controlled coffee makers. Additionally, coffee-related apps and online platforms have emerged, facilitating coffee education, bean selection, and brewing techniques.

Coffee tourism has gained popularity as consumers show interest in visiting coffee-growing regions to learn about the production process, experience coffee tastings, and engage with local communities. This trend promotes coffee as a cultural and educational experience.

Read: From bean to brew: How Saudi Coffee Company is powering the kingdom’s coffee industry 
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