The beginner’s guide to coffee

Know your cortado from your café latte

The beginner’s guide to coffee

We’re not ashamed to admit we’ve spent a major chunk of our lives drinking coffee. And when we’re not drinking coffee, we’re reading about it. If you’ve lived in Doha for a while now, you will have noticed how coffee shops are arriving at a startling pace. With this vibrant and booming coffee culture, it’s essential that you know every nitty gritty detail to become a true connoisseur.

Every week there seems to be a new, cool, ultra-luxe café serving up a range of deliciously hand-crafted, artisanal brews. But do you know your cortado from your café latte? A French roast from a cinnamon roast? Why do we need baristas in the world? We sit down with Zafer Akgun, former hotelier, coffee aficionado and operations director of Espressolab Qatar – a speciality coffee lab and roaster – for the inside scoop (literally) about the globe’s most popular brew.

The bean
The humble coffee bean is a little powerhouse of flavour and aroma. Whether you prefer a smooth and creamy or strong and acidic flavour, there’s a coffee bean to suit every palate from soft and sweet Arabica beans to bright and fruity Ethiopian beans. Take your pick.

Ideally, coffee should be ground just before brewing to retain maximum freshness and flavour. Consistency is the key here – the coffee should not have any clumps and should be of a uniform size.

Roasting is not just for potatoes. Roasting coffee helps to release an estimated 850 volatile compounds within one single coffee bean. Colour grading is used to categorise roasting levels from light to dark. Some popular roasting ‘profiles’ include:

Cinnamon roast:
Light brown to medium colour
Milder flavour
Beans are dry
Low body and light acidity

Full-city roast:
Rich brown colour
Good balance between sweetness, body and acidity
Slightly bittersweet roast taste

French roast:
Dark brown colour
Shiny black beans with an oily surface
Acids are radically decreased
Pronounced bitterness

Spanish roast:
Beans are nearly black and oil covered
Charcoal tones present
Burnt bitter tones

Types of coffee preparation
The type of brewing method can take your coffee to a whole new level. The quality and taste of your coffee is affected by the type of equipment and tools that are used.

Some of the popular methods include Chemex, aeropress, filtering coffee, mocha pot, French press and V60. There’s something for everyone.

The barista
A barista is to coffee what a chef is to food and he/she plays an important role in the creation of your perfect cuppa. Baristas receive theoretical training and important details about the history of coffee, coffee culture and the preparation of coffee using bean selection, roasting and brewing methods. A barista is the heart and soul of the coffee shop and can make a huge difference to the quality of your beloved beverage. We’ll drink to that. 

It’s never too latte to get artistic. We know how much you love foam art so we’ve tracked three spots that really ace this.

Al Jazeera Media Café
Besides the excitement of being in a media-themed café, the latte art here is very unique. The entire café is modelled around the popular TV channel and there are interactive screens, a green room and lots of memorabilia. At the end of your meal, order a cappuccino and get a surprise with the Al Jazeera logo stenciled out of chocolate powder on the top.
Katara Cultural Village (4034 2220).

There are many reasons to visit Azraq restaurants such as the brilliant buffet every Friday, the 30-minute ferry ride to the island, the incredible views of the Arabian Sea… We can go on. But what’s really unique and fun here is the latte photo art displayed on your coffee. Just snap a picture with your phone and send it to staff and ten minutes later, it arrives with unbelievable accuracy.
Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara, Banana Island (4040 5116).

W Café

What’s better than a really cute and colorful café? A really cute and colorful cup of coffee (unintentionally alliterated). The rainbow cappuccino here is latte art at its best. We’ve seen beaches, flowers, rainbows… You name it, all in multiple, exciting colours. In fact, it’s too pretty to drink.
W Doha Hotel & Residences (4453 5385).

The number of coffee shops in Doha is snowballing and if you’re wondering how anyone can have exactly the same coffee from a dozen different places, we’re here to tell you that almost all of these new cafés have signature coffees. Here are our favourites.

Molten coffee from Degree
We’re not really sure why this café is called Degree but we’re absolutely sure you should be getting a cup of the molten coffee here. It may sound odd but the star of this coffee is oats and it surprisingly works really well. Don’t worry too much, it tastes nothing like that soggy breakfast of yours, these oats are rolled in molten dark chocolate and then mixed in with the coffee. Just trust us and try it.
Duhail Night Market (no number).

Minty coffee from Dose
As coffee lovers, we’re familiar with Caribou’s mint condition (which tastes like molten After Eight chocolate in a cappuccino) and we’d be lying if at some point we honestly believed there was nothing better in Doha at least.

But then we discovered Dose at the Night Market in Duhail and the simplicity of it wins us over. It’s coffee with fresh mint and that’s all there is to it.
The Pearl-Qatar (7766 6423).

Pistachio coffee from 974
We were a little apprehensive about trying a pistachio flavoured coffee at first, but we’re all about edible adventures so we gave it a go. It’s not as sweet as we thought, in fact, it’s downright delicious. There are chunks of pista that slip through the opening on the lid of the cup and take the entire experience up a notch. It’s delightful and indulgent and just the pick-me-up we’re looking for on a midweek evening.
Duhail Night Market (7055 5445).

If there’s one thing that’s constant in Doha, it’s the opening of new coffee shops frequently. Here are three top options to check out this month.

Espressolab Qatar
Espressolab is an innovative and thriving Turkish coffee chain specialising in carefully selected gourmet coffees from around the globe. With a designated roastery, the store uses advanced roasting and brewing techniques for the perfect, handcrafted brew. A range of homemade baked goods including decadent desserts and scrumptious sandwiches plus on-point coffee items for home use are available.
City Centre (4477 4190).

The Coffee Club

While we were extremely disappointed with our last visit to The Coffee Club at Doha Festival City, we’re still rooting for the hot and cold coffee beverages here. There is a decent selection of good food and desserts and if you turn a blind eye to the terrible service, it’s definitely worth a visit.
Doha Festival City (4468 8749).

This cute new café located in Qanat Quartier at The Pearl-Qatar is super-chic with its dusty rose and grey colour scheme and beautiful flowers all over. There’s a really fantastic selection of coffees, hot and cold, and every coffee lover should immediately familiarise themselves with this spot.
Qanat Quartier (4468 3401).

Understanding the process of coffee production and selection is essential if you want to up your ante and venture into the exciting world of coffee. Here’s a rundown of every brew you need to know about.

No points for guessing this brew has ties to America. WWII American soldiers stationed in Italy reportedly would dilute their espresso with hot water. In time, the coffee became super popular and spread throughout Europe. This is essentially an espresso blended with filtered hot water. Fun fact: The origins of Americano are actually Italian


In Italy, the motherland of espresso, the famous cappuccino is considered a breakfast brew. Cappuccino after 11am is only for clueless tourists, apparently. If you want to do as the Romans do, do not order a cappuccino after lunch. It’s made with espresso and steamed milk and then topped with a luscious layer of foam. Usually served with a flourish of chocolate art in the shape of a fancy leaf or celebrity face.

Café latte
This milky concoction is literally translated as ‘coffee milk’.  Made with one-part espresso and three parts steamed milk, it’s creamy, dreamy and perfect for anyone who wants a subtle kick of caffeine. This is not for the dairy-free.

Café mocha
For chocolate lovers, you can’t beat a warm cup of café mocha. Equal parts espresso and chocolate powder or syrup is combined with hot milk.

Did you know that the term mocha has nothing to do with chocolate? In fact, the term is derived from a variety of coffee beans from Mocha in Yemen – historically an important port for coffee trade.

Not as well-known as most other ‘mainstream’ coffees, the obscure cortado is well worth a try. In Spanish, the word cortado translates to ‘cut’ and is made with espresso and an equal part of hot, steamed milk to cut the intensity and acidity of the coffee.


All coffee blends start with a good quality espresso – a small dose of concentrated, thick liquid that is made by forcing hot water through ground coffee. In other words, this is rocket fuel. Ideally, it should be taken as the first beverage of the day and sipped slowly from the teeny ceramic cup that it is served in.

Espresso macchiato
Another Italian favourite, Macchiato translates to ‘marked’ or ‘stained’ because of the small addition of milk foam. Often seen as a cross between an espresso and a cappuccino, macchiato is a good option for those that want a jolt of caffeine but cannot tolerate the milkiness of cappuccino.

Flat white
Reportedly an Aussie invention, the flat white is quite regular compared to its Italian cousin café latte. Generally, a flat white is smaller in size and made with a reduced amount of hot milk and milk foam. Described as creamy and intensely caffeinated, milk is freely poured in with the espresso resulting in a consistent and velvety texture.

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