Ahhhh coffee. It’s a part of every day life. As a matter of fact we’d like to think that our day begins with a cup of coffee. Of course I for one can start my day without coffee but expect me to be absent-minded and daydreaming or losing my focus, haha. Kidding, I am not a coffee addict (say it with me please). Today we shine the spotlight on one of our favorite beverages in Riyadh. We’re afraid we’ll not be talking about the Arabic coffee, or the qahwa, as most of you know it. We’ll have to devote another entry for this well-loved Arabic drink. Instead, we’re doing a round-up of coffee shops that have a lot of branches in the city, sans Starbucks. Come on, you know you like Starbucks even if we claim it to be too mainstream, too commercial. Starbucks is Starbucks and it didn’t spawn A LOT of branches worldwide if people don’t love it, or at least riding the bandwagon.
The coffee culture in Saudi Arabia is alive and kicking, that is if you consider all the coffee shops, kiosks, and to-go outlet of popular brands of coffee. A day won’t pass without us seeing a local or an expat holding a coffee drink in hand doing their errands, going on meetings, or just taking a leisurely downtime. Here are some of our favorite coffee shops in Riyadh. We like them for various reasons: 1. their various coffee and non-coffee drinks are good, 2. their ambiance are great for conversations or me-time and 3. they have a lot of branches. So let’s list them down shall we?
1. Dr. Cafe Coffee
Whether you pronounce it as Dr. Ka-fey or Dr. Kaf, Dr. Cafe Coffee is the Starbucks of Saudi Arabia (don’t hate me for mentioning both coffeeshops in one sentence). Dr. Cafe has a lot of branches in Saudi Arabia. In Riyadh alone, it has over 100 branches in malls, hospitals, and universities. Not to mention their stand-alone branches and drive-thrus. Dr. Cafe has come a long way since its inception in 1997 by Mr. Yousef Al Rajhi who took a journey to Yemen, where coffee was first discovered. He had a penchant for visiting coffee shops around the world and meeting coffee experts to find that perfect cup of coffee. His start-up small kiosk in a shopping mall has now become a leading coffee company that provides high quality products, friendly service and the ‘ultimate place experience.’ Dr. Cafe uses 100% pure Arabica coffee beans that are sourced from different regions of the world like Costa Rica, Indonesia, Sumatra, Guatemala, and Ethiopia. It has branched out in Singapore and Malaysia. We have a Dr. Cafe in our workplace and we frequent it for their sweet coffee drinks and iced teas. I’m in love with their Peach Iced Tea with lots of ice that the cashier always kids me to just order ice cubes next time with a bit of iced tea. Haha! Dr. Cafe also offers wraps, sandwiches, donuts, and cheesecakes for a quick snack that will tide you over to the next huge, heavy meal. You can take home Dr. Cafe’s single origin beans, signature blends and dark roast so you can brew them on your own.
Vibe: Where I will conduct a meeting, or a reunion
Their brown wooden interiors and warm lighting has the perfect ambiance for some serious talk in the bachelor section but their family section offers an inviting sanctuary for families and groups of friends who are just out and about Riyadh on a warm or cold night as seen in their most famous branch in Khurais Road opposite the King Fahd Medical City.
Crowd: Professionals, and families
What to Order: Espresso for the serious coffee drinker who needs a strong wake-up jolt / Coffee Mocha Frappe for the coffee loving sweetheart / Relax Mocktail for the detox-loving friend / Steamed Ginger for the friend who went and lost his voice in the karaoke
2. Wayne’s Coffee
Wayne’s Coffee is a franchise from Stockholm. Their modern, urban coffee concept has a lot of traces from its European roots. Wayne’s Coffee, established in 1994, serves their own brand of coffee and pastries and their branches in Riyadh promises moments of relaxation and socializing. Their El Molino single estate coffee comes from a single plantation in Matagalpa in Nicaragua, Central America. This single estate coffee served during limited periods of time, has a balanced character of sweetness and slighty nutty flavor which Wayne’s is proud of. They also have Espresso, Dark Blend and Medium Blend. Wayne’s also serves pastries, muffins and cakes. Truth be told, my favorite drink in Wayne’s is not coffee, neither it is coffee-based. I’m in love with their Iced Chai Latte. It has a fragrant aroma and a really sweet, milky taste. (What is it with me featuring coffee shops but declaring my love for non-coffee drinks?!? LOL.)
Vibe: Where I will brainstorm and study with my gals
Wayne’s Coffee’s casual, hip, and modern vibe with great lighting (at least in their mall branches) are great for brainstorming and study sesh with the gal pals. It has a youthful ambiance that’s best shared with friends, oh and young moms who like taking a break from retail therapy with their babies.
Crowd: Females on a studying session or a shopping break
What to Order: Freshly-brewed Coffee for the businessman who wants to stay awake / Toasted Marshmallow Frappe for the dainty lady who likes everything sweet and dandy / Chilled or Iced Chai for me who likes the luxurious blend of Chai syrup, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, milk and ice / Chocolate Fondant for the sweet tooth
3. Caribou Coffee
Caribou Coffee Company is a Minnesota-based specialty coffee and espresso retailer that roasts their own coffee and serves their in their own coffeehouses. They have more than 250 branches in the US as well as over 200 franchises in 10 countries including Saudi Arabia. My first experience with Caribou is in their branch along King Abdulaziz Street. It was an unassuming corner cafe that has an artsy vibe to it. Their family section is a bit dark but evokes a warm feeling that for someone reason appeals to my need to think, feel, and create. I also like their tagline which says, “Life is short. Stay awake for it.” Brilliant. And what’s more endearing are the graphics they used that looks handwritten and handmade. But I’m segwaying too much. Haha! Because I’m not a black coffee lover I welcome the fun blended concoctions of Caribou Coffee like their Salted Caramel, Campfire Mocha, and Turtle Mocha. My friends like their selection of teas.
Vibe: Where I will chill with my artist friends
Their indie vibe has got my creative juices flowing. If only I had my laptop with me, then I could have finished designing pages of The Riyadhizen faster before. Haha! I like the quotes all over the place and I like that their service is friendly and attentive.
Crowd: The artists and the creatives
What to Order: Flavored Latte for those who are looking for inspiration / Campfire Mocha for me who likes anything smores-related on her drinks and food / Berry White Mocha Cooler for the teen who’s too young for coffee / Caramel High Rise for the woman who doesn’t like her coffee black and strong
4. Tim Hortons
Tim Hortons is the Starbucks of Canada. Or okay, a better version? (Okay, let’s not compare, haha!) Canadians really feel passionately about their Tim Hortons and we don’t have any doubt why they love it. Tim Hortons is a Canadian multinational fast food restaurant, known for its coffee and doughnuts. The first branch opened in Hamilton, Ontario is 1964. It was in June of 2014 that the first branch in Riyadh was opened in Granada Center in Exit 9. It was there that I first tasted their Iced Capp, a blended frozen coffee beverage that has a sweet and creamy taste, and I fell in love with it! They have since expanded their branches to Panorama Mall, Hayat Mall, Tahlia Street, Oruba Street, and more. It was said that they plan to open 100 stores in Saudi Arabia in the next five years. I also saw that their menu has included more kinds of frozen beverages and sandwiches today. An added bonus to Tim Hortons is the Cold Stone Creamery that’s attached to it in some of their branches. Ice cream and coffee together? Why not.
Vibe: Where I will take a break from all this shopping
Crowd: Families and officemates on a snack/dessert break from their errands and work
What to Order: French Vanilla Coffee for the hot drink-loving friend who wants an added flavor to their otherwise ordinary brew / Iced Capp Supreme for the ladies who like their drink frozen, mild, and sweet with a hint / Honeydew Melon Frappe for the kids / Wraps for the craver of quick, warm, filling snack
a. Gate 1, Granada Center, Exit 9
b. Panorama Mall, Takhasusi Street
c. Abu Bakr Ar Razi Street (opposite RKH/Military Hospital)
d. Tahlia Street
e. Oruba Street
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
5. Java Time
Java Time is a homegrown brand. It was born to answer the need for local venues here in Riyadh where people can drink high-quality coffee in a calm and appealing environment. Coffee shops were a novelty concept before and Java Time decided to embark on a journey that will improve the coffee culture in the city. They have different retail formats that cater to customers: drive-thru cafes that lets customers just grab their coffee and go, walk-in stores that has a no-smoking policy and ample, comfy setting and decors, and coffee kiosks located in strategic locations in the city. Their coffees are known for their aroma and taste. I must admit that I only have tried Java Time once or twice but that is not because I didn’t like the taste of their coffee or anything but their locations are not that near to our place and we seldom are in the area of where their branches are. However, I found nice reviews of Java Time, not only for their coffees, but also for the nice indoor and outdoor seating arrangements.
Vibe: Where I will relax with my friends
Crowd: Groups of friends on a slow night
What to Order: Red-Eye Coffee for for the first-timers who want to try the strength of Java Time’s coffee (and those who need to stay awake for hours)/ Nirvana Coffee (milk-based drink with nirvana powder made from spices like cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla bean) for those who want to try something new / French Mocha Latte for the early-risers who want to make their mornings sweet and bright
a. King Abdulaziz Road
b. Takhasusi Street (+966-11-8802262)
c. Khurais Road (+966-11-4661615)
d. Tahlia Street
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
There are many more coffeeshops in Riyadh that are worth visiting. Some are better than Starbucks, some are not. Some have a lot of branches, some have only one. But the most important thing is, our cravings for drinks, snacks, and desserts are satisfied. No matter how you like coffee, there’s always a coffeeshop that will cater to your needs and that’s always a good thing.