UAE Roaster Kim Thompson Looks on the Bright Side
New Zealand-born Dubai-based Kim Thompson, the founder of Raw Coffee Company, tells local English-language newspaper, The National that looking after her employees is her priority during the COVID-19 crisis.
The boutique roastery supplies cafés, restaurants, businesses and households in the UAE. Originally from Nelson, Thompson, 56, has lived in Dubai for 23 years and started Raw Coffee in 2007. Though trained as an oncology nurse, Thompson worked as a café manager at Jebel Ali Sailing Club and then started Raw Coffee after becoming frustrated at not being able to find high-quality, ethically sourced, organic, locally roasted coffee in the UAE. She and business partner Matt Toogood opened their first outlet in Dubai Investments Park before later setting up in a converted warehouse in Al Quoz.
Back in the early 2000s, Thompson noticed a gap in the UAE coffee market.
“It was difficult to source coffee when I was running my first café in Jebel Ali,” she explains. “Back then all coffee was imported, so there were no fresh roasters here. There was no support of any kind to maintain the equipment. Espresso machines are like a car – they need to be serviced and maintained. There was no barista training.
“When I first started, we were three people. I recruited my first two employees from the Jebel Ali café and we learnt to be baristas in the kitchen at my house. We’re now a team of 42. We were the first speciality roastery in the UAE – now there are 54. We have nearly 300 commercial customers and then we have about 240 domestic customers that are registered online that will take maybe 500 grams a week that we deliver to.
“We have lost 92 per cent of our normal business [owing to the COVID-19 pandemic], but the positive side is that orders are increasing by 20 per cent week on week, and 55 per cent of our online orders are new customers.”
Original article by Nada El Sawy, The National, April 16, 2020.