Abu Dhabi's growing specialty coffee culture: inside Rain Cafe

Rain Cafe is a haven for the emirate’s coffee-lovers: we sit down for a cup and discover what else the team is cooking up

Rain Cafe in Abu Dhabi was inspired by two of owner Mohamed Al Shehhi’s favourite things: coffee and wet weather. “It was all combined together and then he got the idea to open something special,” explains the cafe’s operations manager, Lokmen Labidi.

When you enter the home-grown specialty coffee shop, Shehhi’s inspirations are seen clearly in the decor. The Emirati owner took it upon himself to design the space, and now it offers a refreshing change of scenery for the capital.

It feels bright and airy thanks to the natural light that streams in, combined with wooden interiors, fluffy lampshades fashioned into rain clouds hanging from the ceiling and plants that fill the corners.

Shelves are lined with books such as ­Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Ikigai: The Japanese ­Secret to a Long and Happy Life. A giant wooden map of the world is also displayed on a wall, alongside a quote about travelling and coffee. “Let’s get lost in a world made of old books, coffee, camp fires, adventures, rainy days, and late-night conversations with people we love,” it reads.

Inside, it’s certainly comfortable, but there’s an outdoor seating area, too, that’s perfect for relaxing in during cooler months. But if takeaway is more your speed, there’s a corner made specifically for those on the go.

“There is a spirit to this place,” Labidi says, with a proud smile. “It’s really nicely designed and it’s very cosy.” People head to the cafe to feel transported to somewhere else, he says.

The doors to this quaint spot, which is nestled between 15th Street and Muroor Road, first opened in December 2017, but it didn’t take long before it became a popular choice for coffee-lovers looking for a place to unwind. That’s because of the quality of its coffee beans. They are sourced from Brazil, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Panama and Guatemala. “Our coffee is completely unlike the normal, commercial coffee you find because of the treatment of the beans,” explains Labidi. “Each sip provides a distinct aftertaste or a hint of different flavours from different countries around the world.”

The cafe specialises in espresso and drip-brewed coffee, but one of its bestselling drinks is the Spanish latte, which costs from Dh25, and the pistachio shake (you can also add an espresso shot to it), which will set you back Dh30. It also has drinks for children and a menu that includes warm milk, so the little ones won’t get bored while mum and dad enjoy their brew. “Everyone is welcome to come here,” Labidi says.

Alongside coffee, the cafe serves a few pastries and sweet treats, including saffron milk and pistachio cakes, Kinder brownies and croissants. There are also plans afoot to introduce an all-day breakfast menu in an effort to cater to its growing clientele.

On top of that, the team behind Rain Cafe are looking to expand their reach beyond its permanent location. They have started an events catering service and hope to open cafes in other locations in the near future. “We are trying to move on and expand more,” Labadi says. “We might open one in Al Ain, one in Dubai and then maybe a second shop in Abu Dhabi.”

The Emirates’ coffee scene might be competitive, but Rain Cafe seems to have found its groove, at least in Abu Dhabi. Labadi has worked within the food industry in the UAE for almost a decade and believes Rain has what it takes to be a long-lasting institution.

“To have a successful business, first you need to have a good product to sell, good hospitality and good staff and work towards a long-term goal,” he adds. “We don’t want something that’s the same as what’s already on the market.”

Rain Cafe is open Sunday to Thursday 7am to 11pm; Friday to Saturday 9am to 11pm, Al Wahda, Abu Dhabi, 02 677 7366, www.facebook.com/rainabudhabi or Instagram

Updated: August 1, 2019 03:11 PM


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