Coffee consumption is on the increase in the EMEA region. In the third quarter of 2017 alone, consumption grew by 2 per cent*. But with artisan coffee shops cropping up all over Dubai, Nightjar Coffee Roasters founder Leon Surynt wanted to do something different. “Most people here are doing a great job, they’ve got a roastery and a counter where you can get an espresso, but for me it was a bit limiting… My idea was to have a flagship store where you can engage and experience the brand,” says Surynt, who is originally from New Zealand.
To him, a simple cup of coffee is an ‘everyday luxury’, and should be a ‘damn good cup of coffee’. Nightjar’s green beans originate from three main regions: Burundi, Rwanda, and Colombia. The roastery engages in direct trade with farmers via cooperatives, creating partnerships in the process. “With a women’s cooperative last year for example, we asked them to produce a certain bean we could sell, to make enough money to build them a new coffee cherry washing station. So we sold the coffee for the valuation we said, and we then built them a new washing station.”
Surynt is a man who is passionate about his business and knows the names of each of the 24 farmers he works with. But as I sit sipping a cup of northern Rwandan espresso, sweeter, and less earthy than the usual southern beans, I marvel at how smoothly everything seems to be running. Yet every new business has challenges—and Nightjar was no exception.
Surynt’s labour of love, alongside business partner Matt Wade, began in 2015. The model for the business was to have a café with sustainable cash flow that could be used to build business-to-business trade. However, having hit logistical hurdles with the café, they decided to move ahead and open the roastery instead.
Nightjar now trades in green beans around the GCC, supplies roasted beans to hotels, independent cafes, and home consumers—and as of September 2018, is now proud to show off its coffee core at its brawny space in the Avenue. “Alserkal Avenue seemed to us to be the right fit, creatively, and aesthetically. We didn’t want to be in a shopping mall— we wanted a place that was more bohemian you, off the beaten track. Here, it’s almost like you’ve become lost in time.”
And the interior is designed to match. With tones of dark greens, browns, blacks and the odd flash of orange and gold, it’s designed to look good at night for that ‘lost in time’ vibe. Boasting recycled floor boards for table tops, and with soundproofing having gone in, Surynt says proudly, “it was built to be an event centre”. From music to TED talks, Nightjar plans to support the community by adding just that; events to the Avenue’s calendar. Inside, customers can also sample a unique all-day dining menu inspired by the cuisine of South Asian communities living in Al Quoz.
The eatery's coffee trends are yet to be determined, but a favourite dish during its September opening was undoubtedly the grilled cauliflower with Darjeeling pickled raisins and pine nuts. Served as a large floret with the generous addition of Syrian Aleppo pepper, it packs a powerful punch.
Nightjar Coffee is now fully part of the Alserkal Avenue family, but what are Surynt’s plans for the future? Customers may see the odd pop up Nightjar around the UAE, but its hub in Alserkal Avenue is destined to stay its coffee core.
* Aaron Allen & Associates, ‘Coffee in the Middle East: A Growing Segment’, Oct 6 2017