Rather than settling for a run-of-the-mill cup on the run, java lovers these days are a discerning breed, preferring their brew made from fresh-roasted beans. In the UAE, three companies are taking advantage of this trend - which appears to be here to stay. Rory Jones reports.
Lahara Assey and her four colleagues hang out in their favourite coffee shop at least twice a day.
As if in a scene from Friends, they take their designated seats at the coffee bar and go over the day's important gossip.
But unlike the American TV series, this scene is not set in New York, with its thousands of independent delis and specialist coffee vendors.
This is the UAE, and finding an excellent brew here is not easy, according to Ms Assey.
"We tried a few places," she says. "There was one in our building, another one in the Dubai Garden Centre. Eventually we found Raw."
Ms Assey drinks her coffee at the Raw Coffee Company, a wholesaler and retailer that roasts beans on site in the Dubai Garden Centre on Sheikh Zayed Road.
"At other places, the coffee is too bitter or they burn the milk. It's the consistency and taste that I like at Raw," she says.
The coffee house is one of three companies set up in the past few years in the UAE that roast beans locally and supply fresh coffee to shops around the Emirates or to their own outlets.
All three companies, Raw, Orbis Foods and Coffee Planet, claim to offer a fresher bean and higher-quality cup of coffee than international retailers and wholesalers that import roasted beans.
Soon, the competition might have to wake up and smell the, well, coffee, because all three local roasters are enjoying booming business this year.
They are trying to expand the premium, speciality market and take a chunk of the revenue enjoyed by import giants such as Illy and Lavazza or international retailers such as Starbucks, Gloria Jean's and Seattle's Best Coffee.
Kim Thompson, the managing director of Raw, says the coffee market here is undeveloped compared with other country's, such as her native New Zealand. But she says that as palates change, more people will want to support premium coffee roasted locally.
"The market is quite immature here," she says. "At the beginning, it was just expats in our cafe, but now we have a lot of Emiratis coming to taste our coffee on the way to work or meetings."
The three local roasters are a tiny part of a huge market in the UAE, which is estimated to have grown to 7,156 tonnes of coffee last year, 11 per cent more than the previous year.
That equates to a sales value of about Dh211 million (US$57.4m), according to the information company Euromonitor.
Despite their small presence in the market, there is hope for the premium roasters, because sales of freshly ground coffee outpaced overall growth last year, increasing 13 per cent.
"Coffee and cafes are really booming. It's an exciting time," Ms Thompson says. "People have the money to spend and there's a huge social aspect to a cafe, because young people here need that."
Raw supplies 30 commercial customers around the Emirates, including big hotels such as One&Only The Palm, as well as small independent chains of coffee shops and restaurants.
It recently started supplying the The Lime Tree Café, well known for its "Jumeirah Jane" clientele, and will sell its coffee in the new Slices outlets due to be launched in Abu Dhabi.
"From a commercial supply point of view, our coffee is expensive, because it's certified organic and fair trade," Ms Thompson says.
"But it's like you have strip loin steak or Wagyu; it's still steak, but you can taste the difference and you get what you pay for."
Ms Thompson says the number of clients she serves and the amount of coffee she is roasting this year has doubled as the market becomes more aware about local roasters, who are preaching the merits of fresh over packaged, imported coffee.
"The biggest challenge I face right now is not finding customers, it's meeting capacity," says Justin Clarke, the chief executive and founder of Orbis Foods.
"People are moving away from old, stale coffee and customers are demanding a better quality of cup."
Orbis says its sales this year have also doubled compared with last year, with the company gaining customers particularly in Abu Dhabi. It has just signed a contract with the Westin hotel in the capital.
The roaster also supplies more than 100 other companies across the country, from small delis to the Emirates Airline's business-class lounge.
Coffee Planet, the biggest of the three roasters to have started in Dubai in recent years, has retail stores and a wholesale business.
It also has 150 concessions in petrol stations and serves 10,000 coffees a day.
"Once coffee has been roasted, you need to treat it as any food product. It will have a shelf life, and that will slowly deteriorate," says Rosco Franklin, the roast master at Coffee Planet. "What people don't realise is that coffee will deteriorate in a bag. It will affect the quality of the coffee, so it won't be fresh when it comes through to our shores."
However, the major retailers and importers disagree with this synopsis. Caner Gursoy, the operations manager for Gloria Jean's in the UAE, says the taste and freshness of coffee depends on a number of variables, not just whether it is roasted locally.
"If your packaging is right, it ensures freshness for 18 months," he says.
Meanwhile, Marwan Kandeel, the brand manager for Seattle's Best Coffee, says the UAE's coffee market is not as immature as it is often made out to be.
"Customers are very demanding and picky.
"They look for big brands and names they can trust," he says.
"If the local roasters can deliver a high-quality bean, it will be an advantage, but if they are just saving costs, then it is not going to work."
Coffee Planet not only boasts that it brews a better cup than international importers and global chains, but it also claims to beat them on price.
"Starbucks's big roastery is in Rotterdam, so you have high cost of production because it's in Europe, then you have all the freight to get it here and duty to get inside Dubai," says Richard Jones, the managing director of Coffee Planet. "Our cost of production is lower and ability to get it to market is much quicker."
Coffee Planet says it offers a premium blend of coffee at a 25 per cent discount to the wholesale price offered by the international importers Illy and Lavazza, while its coffee prices at retail outlets are comparable to those of the biggest chains.
"Think about the wine industry, because coffee is in the same style of development," Mr Jones says. "Twenty-five years ago, people were drinking bad German wine, but as the market develops people's palates and knowledge develops, they start to know what a good wine is and a bad wine."
The coffee industry is going through a cycle of growth, and I think in this part of the world it will probably get there in five to 10 years."