Refill Roastery: Showcasing specialty coffee in the UAE

Mounir Afkir
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May 31, 2024
Refill Roastery, specialty coffee in the UAE, specialty coffee, coffee bags, bespoke coffee bags, bespoke coffee packaging, PET takeaway coffee cups, paper coffee cups,

Roaster of the Week is a series that focuses on specialty roasters and their unique stories. This week, we spoke with the team at Refill Roastery, based in Abu Dhabi, about their mission to elevate the standard of specialty coffee in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) market. 

In a culture where coffee holds more significance beyond mere refreshment, two devoted coffee aficionados from the UAE, embarked on a transformative journey that reshaped the landscape of specialty coffee in their nation. 

The adventure began when Maktoum Alsheraifi and a friend, Abdulla, were inspired by the different coffee cultures of regions abroad. Upon returning home, they were disheartened by the limited options available in the UAE’s specialty coffee market, particularly for discerning coffee enthusiasts like themselves. And so, Refill Roastery was born. 

I spoke to Muhammad Rosyid, who is the training manager at Refill Roastery and is responsible for quality control within the brand’s coffee department. He explains how the brand goes about sourcing its coffees and the inspiration behind its bespoke coffee bags. 

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Bridging the gap in specialty coffee

Motivated by a desire to introduce their compatriots to the world of speciality coffee, the duo converted Maktoum’s garage into an impromptu roastery. From there, the pair meticulously crafted small batches of premium coffee beans sourced from diverse origins worldwide.

With an unwavering commitment to excellence and a determination to showcase the myriad flavours and aromas of speciality coffee, they began distributing freshly roasted coffee to acquaintances, relatives, and local residents. The reception was overwhelmingly positive, with patrons lauding the complexity and depth of their coffee blends.

At first, the pair used a small roaster to provide small quantities of coffee to friends and family. The first official business they opened was only 32m2. Today, Refill Roastery owns four coffee shops and a headquarters, where the brand harbours a training center, warehouse, and roastery. Additionally, there’s a fifth coffee shop under construction. 

Beyond this, Refill Coffee Roastery offers green coffee and a wide range of coffee machines and tools. The brand offers SCA-certified training and workshops and often hosts events such as latte-art throwdowns and the national Aeropress competition. The establishment has swiftly garnered a loyal following among coffee enthusiasts across the UAE, drawing both domestic patrons and international visitors seeking a taste of its renowned brews.

Refill Roastery’s coffee sourcing process is multi-layered, as its offerings change frequently. The process is meticulous, as the brand sources coffee from Colombia, Indonesia, Guatemala, and Sumatra. That said, Refill Roastery also sources coffee from neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Currently, the brand offers coffee from 15 different origins. 

The brand’s sourcing decisions are driven by quality and seasonality. Sourcing is facilitated through partnerships with large suppliers and direct trade collaborations with farms, ensuring transparency and fair compensation along the supply chain.

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The inspiration behind Refill Roastery’s bespoke coffee packaging

The brand’s custom coffee bags marry sophistication and sustainability. Refill Roastery uses recyclable coffee bags that are mainly black. A gloss foil technique highlights the intricate design on the label and sides of each bag. Abdullah, the co-founder, inspired the design and describes the packaging as “a classy and elegant mature lady.”  

Muhammad is also a certified Q-Arabica Grader and green coffee buyer for the brand. Regarding sustainability, he says that “there is a clear need for further development in the field of sustainable packaging production within the coffee society.” 

Personalised coffee boxes

Refill Roastery creates custom coffee boxes to offer its customers an experience that goes beyond ‘good coffee.’ 

“Our boxes are meant to transport our consumers to the origins of these coffees, helping them discover the unique flavours each holds,” Muhammad explains. “The human palate is very diverse and broad. We aim to please all of our customers by making every sip a discovery for the senses.”

Each coffee box offers consumers a variety of carefully sourced coffees as well as a branded reusable takeaway coffee cup. Muhammad explains that Refill Roastery offers customers branded takeaway cups as a form of collaborative marketing. 

“We believe that by offering each customer the best possible coffee experience, they will help grow our brand awareness,” he adds. 

For beverages such as cold brew coffee, the brand uses clear polyethylene terephthalate (PET) takeaway coffee cups. PET is a widely used and highly recycled polymer that is known for its durability and glass-like clarity. It is very strong and lightweight, making it easy and fuel-efficient to transport.

For its warm offerings, it uses custom-printed paper coffee cups with black walls to ensure the brand name stands out in stark contrast. Notably, the global paper and paperboard container and packaging market size is poised to reach $463.3 billion by 2028. Paper is considered one of the most environmentally friendly materials available. It’s an exceptionally versatile material that can be easily moulded and shaped to fit various products. Beyond this, it has the advantage of being bio-based, biodegradable, and recyclable. 

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Understanding specialty coffee in the UAE

Already an established part of the local culture, the UAE coffee scene has experienced explosive growth, with an average of 6 million cups consumed daily. Notably, the estimated yearly coffee consumption is 3.5kg per person, which equates to approximately $630 million spent on coffee each year, a demand that has been met with an emphatic response.

Many local coffee businesses are also leading the way regarding sustainability. For example, several coffee companies that produce coffee capsules are committed to using biodegradable materials. These include prominent players in the local industry, such as Tres Maria’s, Base Brews, and Archers Coffee. 

Another example is The Waste Lab, which collects used coffee grinds and other food waste to create healthy compost. This is then used to enrich the soil and improve local farming. More so, a recent Government initiative aims to half the food waste by 2030

With sustainability becoming such a priority, it’s common to feel overwhelmed or confused about which choices to make. It’s important for roasters and cafés to recognise that sustainability is a journey, not a destination. If you feel like you need to revisit your packaging options, MTPak Coffee can assist. Our coffee boxes are made using recycled cardboard, while our sustainable coffee bags are made using kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining.

Did you enjoy this edition of Roaster of the Week? Discover the full archive, including interviews with Birdy Coffee Co., the winners of the 2024 MTPak Coffee Packaging Design Awards.

Images courtesy of Refill Roastery.

For information on our sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team.

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Mounir Afkir
Mounir Afkir

Mounir is a Belgian living in Panama. After saying goodbye to a successful corporate career, he turned his passion and knowledge for nutrition, Chinese medicine, phytotherapy, and writing into his full-time focus. Mounir is also passionate about wine, and even more about speciality coffee and is the proud owner of Mounelli Specialty coffee-bar in Boquete.

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