Women learn the art of coffee-making and mixology - GulfToday

Women learn the art of coffee-making and mixology

The graduates and the people behind the year-long Barristas-Mixologists Training Programme.

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

It has been a long journey from the simplest black coffee which literature indicates had originated to the practices of enjoying these beans as a soothing beverage in Yemen in the 1400s.

Today, “Let’s have coffee’ as an invitation has become normal.

Over the weekend and before the celebratory graduation party for 13 women who dared to learn about coffee-making and mixology – that which is about all the wide range of aperitifs and mixed drinks, Fahim Arrif who began as a barrista himself in his native South Africa 18 years back, said: “Over the nine years I have been in the UAE, the consumer palette for coffee has changed drastically. People have learnt to educate themselves about food they consume.

More and more people now want to know what goes into their drink and food. Historically, flavour was number one. Nowadays, when one goes into a coffee shop and orders a beverage, just the simple ‘What milk are you using, even the sweeteners and options for varieties has become of importance. Over the eight to 10 years, the trend of coffee has also improved drastically to the point that people want to know where the coffee is sourced, the blend, whether roasted locally.”

The Kerry Foodservice-Middle East/Turkey/Africa Brands General Manager added: “From my experience in the UAE and the Middle East in general, there are coffee shops opening up every day. The acceleration has been in the last five years especially in the UAE (where coffee consumption has exponentially grown in the last five years (with a busy coffee shop making at least 3,000 cups a day).”

So, what now has the landscape got to do with the 13 ladies who dared to learn about how to become not only barristas but mixologists as well?
Not only 13. But since its beginnings in 2022, a partnership of two UAE-based business and social enterprises have now assisted 30 African women improve on their lot and open opportunities to build a career and possibly become entrepreneurs themselves.

These women, nine of whom had been promoted from their room attendant entry in a number of global hotels in the UAE, are from the 1,270 women from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, and Uganda, assisted by the seven-year-old UAE homegrown Evolvin’ Women initiative of Assia Riccio.
Riccio was born-and-raised by a mother in Italy who only managed to “become literate” at age 21 through “chance.”

Her motivation to connect with women in underserved communities in Africa was inspired by her mother, who had always been a staunch advocate for empowering young women. While growing up, she was exposed to the work her mother did to support women in Cote d’Ivoire and Brazil.

Riccio said: “I grew up in a family deep into women empowerment; so, when I came to the Middle East 11 years back, I saw an incredible opportunity to leverage all my network in the region towards these women in Africa to really come to a very safe country where they could grow, could enter the job market, could access the best education in the world, and just really explore their potentials.”

Assia has now spent the last five years leading the Evolvin' Women Programme, collaborating with stakeholders in developing countries to provide skill development opportunities for unemployed women lacking access to professional training and full-time jobs.

The program also serves as an incubator in the UAE, empowering participants to advance their skills in hospitality, logistics, luxury retail, and even launch their own businesses back in their home countries.

In 2022, Assia crossed paths with Kerry and the Evolvin’ Women-Kerry Foodservice-DaVinci Gourmet Barista-Mixology Training Programme came to fruition based on common values and a shared motivation to help young women thrive.

DaVInci Gourmet trainors Glenda Pataray, a Hotel and Restaurant Management/Tourism Management graduate from the Philippines and Takudzwa Chibwe, a Business Administration student in Dubai and from Zimbabwe, have been on board since 2022. They are responsible for the free-of-charge knowledge transfer-workshops.
Like Arrif, both were untrained barristas and only learned on the job. All three believe there is a need to give everyone interested the head start in a highly-demanding job for a highly-demanding consumer want.

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