As is more often the way these days, I first noticed Cafe Artea on Instagram. It was the jiggling coffee art that caught my attention as I scrolled through my feed one evening after work. Not just leaves or love hearts fashioned into the creamy milk, no, instead I was mesmerised by the photographs of cool-looking animals – cute cats and bears mostly – rising above a cappuccino or latte in 3D.
We’ve all seen the selfie-ccino and blue latte crazes, but this would appear to be something of a first for the growing Abu Dhabi coffee scene, so I took it upon myself to visit to see first-hand what the 5,000 odd Instagram followers of this cafe had been filling their social media feeds with.
Cafe Artea was created by brothers Adnan and Adel Al Hosani. When they first started the business, in Khalidiya in 2014, it was geared solely toward karak, but it wasn't long before the pair found out that a karak cafe wasn't going to be lucrative, especially given the number of similar tea houses in close proximity.
Then six months ago, after much research, the Al Hosani brothers decided to open their new concept in an area they believed was growing – the capital’s Al Seef compound, behind Al Seef Mall.
“I like coffee, so I have to make something that I like, what’s on my mind. So we came here [to Al Seef], it’s like a new place, new concept,” says Adnan, the younger of the two.
“There are a lot of places like this in Dubai, but in Abu Dhabi, this is the only one and it’s in an open area and will never be without customers.”
The cafe is on the small side, but immediately offers a sophisticated, yet comfortable feel. The interiors are a nice blend of powder blue, copper and light wood materials. A nice touch is the games nook, that provides that stay-a-while and sip feel.
On the day I visit, at 1pm in the afternoon, the cafe is filled with Emiratis enjoying a tea or coffee break with friends. The food menu, which consists mostly of snacky foods like wraps, salads and burgers, is secondary to the drinks menu, and when I see the 3D coffee everyone's been talking about I can see why.
“We started the 3D because we want to make new things,” says Adnan. “Nowadays people are more focused on taking a photo, so the first thing they do is they will take photo. At the same time we are thinking about what is new we can bring here. We talk to many places in Asia and we discovered that this idea is not applied here. I think we are the first ones.”
I watch with interest as the barista makes me my first 3D cappuccino (Dh23).
He says it takes a lot of skill with a whisk, and patience. “It took me a month how to learn to do it,” he says. “I just watched and learned.”
A trainer was brought in to teach the staff, and I can see that it’s all in the consistency of the milk and a steady hand.
When I see the finished product, I know I did the right thing coming here. The 3D kitty cat in front of me, with chocolate sauce marking its features, is almost too nice to destroy with a spoon.
By the time I have taken my pictures and video and decide it’s time to drink it, it’s cold. The price we pay for social media content I guess.
If you’re not a coffee drinker but have a sweet tooth, don’t despair, the 3D coffees are not the only “wow-factor” item worthy of your social media feeds. Cafe Artea also serves Bingsu, a Korean shaved ice dessert with sweet toppings including chopped fruit, condensed milk, fruit syrup and red beans. This dish comes in three flavours – red velvet, cheesecake or chocolate – and costs Dh45 per serving.
Cafe Artea, in the Al Seef Compound at Al Seef Village, is open from 10am until 11pm on weekdays and from 12pm until midnight on weekends. Check out @cafeartea on Instagram