Name a coffee shop in Riyadh. Starbucks? Dr. Cafe? What about others? For one thing, I urge you to go out of your comfort zone in looking for a comfort zone. Uh what was that?! Our idea of comfort in Riyadh is having coffee. After all, most of us can’t function without it and coffee shops are sort of our comfort zones because they are our venues to grab a jolt of perkiness in the morning before burying ourselves in mountains of work and a dose of calm in the evening when we’re already in the company of our friends just. But we’re all used to Starbucks and Dr. Cafe so we should find other venues right? Aren’t you tired of vanilla lattes and caramel macchiatos already? For a change, try misugaru perhaps? Try it in Caffe Bene.
Caffe Bene (or Caffebene) is a South Korean coffee shop that models itself after European coffee shops. It has the open-air style of coffee houses in Europe but with the Korean sarangbang concept (man’s room used for studying, writing poetry, and leisure activities) inside. It’s the perfect comfort zone, especially their branch along Takhasussi Street near Habib Hospital. I am starting to envy the employees of Habib… they have a really great neighborhood that are packed awesome restaurants and shops. They even have the gourmet chocolate lane. Ahhh heaven. Anyway, back to Caffebene, which has a two-story branch there. The family section is on the second floor and it’s a nice, nice place with a relaxing ambiance. The soft lighting coupled with their light blue and green and white colors are enough to lull me to zen mode. So easy on the eyes yet so inspiring to be creative.
From the chairs near the edge of the balcony, you can gaze down at the street and see the hectic city life passing you by. Good thing, you’re secured in Caffe Bene so time stops at least while you’re inside and you’re free to savor the moment with coffee and sweets.
Their menu is simple with a few new twists here and there. Of course they boast off their fresh and tasty coffee that has undergone their own Farm to Table system. Their coffee beans are from Brazil, Bolivia, Papua, and New Guinea. They use medium roast on most of their coffees; they believe it brings out the natural flavor more without being too strong. The list of their offerings go from espresso to americano to latte to mocha. But they extend them to fruit juices, smoothies, and sparkling drinks too. And misugaru. I haven’t tried misugaru but they said it’s a grain drink; consisting of black sesame seeds, black bean, black and brown rice and barley. Interesting, and healthy too!
For our night out, I try the green tea (matcha) latte. Matcha is a fine green tea powder made from shade grown tea leaves used in Japan for their famous tea ceremonies. The Green Tea Latte Frappe is one of Starbucks’ signature drinks but you will not find it in the Starbucks here. I don’t know why. So if you’re looking for an alternative, then Caffe Bene’s Green Tea Latte is a good one. It’s a bit sweet for me but it balances out the bitterness of the matcha. Newbies might find the green tea a bit too strong at times but the milk and foam layers add a soft, sweet cushion to the taste.
My friend had their black coffee and she said it was good, not too strong for her taste. I had their caramel macchiato a long time ago in their kiosk in Riyadh Gallery and I couldn’t remember if it was notably good. Probably not that great if I couldn’t remember it right? What I can remember though are their delicious, icy bingsu.
A bingsu is a popular snack in Korea. It is composed of ice shavings and various ingredients like fruits, condensed milk, cereal flakes, azuki beans, etc. and topped with ice cream or frozen yoghurt. Sounds familiar? Yes, it’s like the Philippines’ halo-halo… only finer and creamier (sorry halo-halo!). The first time I tried Caffe Bene’s Bingsu, it’s the coffee variant. It’s loaded with coffee-flavored ice shavings and cornflakes topped with ice cream. Ahhh what a cool treat! Definitely the best way to beat the summer heat! This time, I tried the Green Tea Bingsu (just to be in theme with my latte, haha). Again, another wonderful hit. It’s loaded with green tea-flavored ice layered with nuts and sugar. The ice if mightily fine, the sugar lumps are gritty, and the nuts are crunchy. The texture of each ingredient makes a very memorable snack. We didn’t think we’ll finish the whole glass but we kept on scooping in between our conversation, and the next thing we know… we’ve almost emptied it!
Other bingsu flavors are Misugaru, Strawberry, and Green Tea. These are parfaits worth sharing!
Apart from the drinks, Caffe Bene also has an array of irresistable eats. They’re quite famous for their Belgian waffles. They’re a bit small for their size but don’t be fooled. These waffles pack a punch. They’re sweeter than the average with deep pockets filled with toppings (ours is banana chocolate and cream). It’s a bit hard but becomes soft and creamy when chewed.
While the waffle is good, it doesn’t deviate me from my favorite Caffe Bene item… the Honey Bread.
Being a fan of the sweet and savory variety, my favorite Honey Bread kind is the Garlic and Cheese. The two-inch think bread is topped with gooey cheese the color of orange! Yummy!!! The bread has a delicate texture; soft on the inside. I inhale the aroma of dough and melt under the intense color of the cheese. I miss it already. Other flavors of honey bread are Caramel Cinnamon, Cchocolate Banana, and Blueberry Yogurt.
Aside from the ones I mentioned above, Caffe Bene also sells gelatos, cakes, and pastries. They also have their own mugs and tumblers.
I honestly enjoy every moment I am in Caffe Bene, whether it’s in their branch in Takhasussi or in Riyadh Gallery, whether I’m alone or not. They’re pockets of comfort zones in a very busy, crowded city. I’m charmed.
a. Takhasussi Street
b. Riyadh Gallery, King Fahd Road
c. Al Qasr Mall, Suwaidi District
d. Zahrat Al Badiah
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia