The SME Story: Drew Joshua Dennehy, co-founder and general manager of Three Coffee
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The SME Story: Drew Joshua Dennehy, co-founder and general manager of Three Coffee

The SME Story: Drew Joshua Dennehy, co-founder and general manager of Three Coffee

Dubai-based Three Coffee aims to implement sustainable practices along the entire coffee value chain

Gulf Business
Drew Joshua Dennehy Three Coffee

What is your earliest memory of coffee?
Growing up in New Zealand, where coffee culture is big, we all get exposed to it at a very young age. While studying law and economics at university, I worked in cafes, and so have had a strong connection to hospitality, coffee and customer service. When I first moved to Dubai to work in a law firm, I very quickly found out that it wasn’t for me. I needed something more dynamic and people-oriented. Six months after I started my law journey, I was back into the coffee world and never looked back.

What is the USP of Three Coffee and what will it bring to the region?
We really believe in the idea behind specialty coffee; that we need to pay farmers more for the coffees we buy to keep the industry sustainable. But to pay farmers more we need to be able to charge more for the coffees we sell. To be able to do that we need to make sure we’re doing the best job that we can in roasting, brewing and most importantly recommending the right coffees to the right people. To do this we’ve come up with an online quiz that identifies customers’ ‘coffee personalities’, automatically recommending coffees that we believe suit those preferences.

What are some of the other areas where Three Coffee is working along the coffee value chain?
Being sustainable is really important for the entire coffee industry. We’re seeing new types of bacteria, fungi and pests affecting coffee farms and forcing them to change the way they farm their coffee. If we don’t help farmers manage this (by paying premiums), they will slowly convert their farms to growing other, more stable crops like fruit, vegetables and grain. Karthik, my business partner, has a lot of experience in making small changes to processing techniques that can help improve the quality of coffees our partner farms produce. This helps them make small, inexpensive changes that result in higher returns for the coffees they sell, not only to us, but other roasteries around the world.

Three Coffee Dubai
Three Coffee aims to pay farmers more for the coffees they buy to keep the industry sustainable

What is the economic value of the coffee industry here in the UAE?
The UAE coffee market is valued at around $200m and it’s growing really fast. The UAE and other GCC markets are growing at a really high rate, somewhere around 7.5 per cent per year. The UAE is much more progressive, with many ‘active’ consumers looking for coffee experiences, where they’re tasting new and exciting flavours in their coffees. This experiential consumption is part of what I believe is driving the high compound annual growth rates here in the region.

Does the UAE have an established coffee culture?
The UAE has a strong connection to coffee history through the Dallah and Arabic style coffee which in some ways is driving global trends. There is no other market, apart from perhaps Japan and Korea, that has such a demand for fruity, and what could only be described as “funky” flavour profiles in their coffees. I’m excited for where the specialty coffee industry is going. The UAE and GCC won’t be adopting trends, but setting them.

What are some of your plans you have for the business going forward?
Saudi Arabia is a massively underserved market at the moment. There is so much demand for coffee and there will be a lot of growth from both the demand and supply side in Saudi. We’ll also be looking to open our new roastery-come-experience centre here in the UAE. We want people to be able to walk in, touch and feel our brand and understand what specialty coffee is. Education will be centrestage, from the way the space is decorated to the coffee menu and the way we interact with our guests.

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