Forget about ordering your coffee skinny, with an extra shot, minus the foam or with a dash of syrup, because camel is the current buzzword when it comes to milky caffeinated drinks. At least at the Dubai coffee shop Café2go it certainly is.
Part of the Sheikh Mohammad Establishment for Young Business Leaders (SME), the first Café2go opened at the Al Morooj Rotana hotel in September last year. In line with the company's aspirations to serve its customers fast and in an innovative way, a mobile cafe van was launched soon after (it is most often found parked at Kite Beach), followed by a "walk-through" cafe on Sheikh Zayed Road in June. A drive-through cafe concept is planned for the end of the year.
From Sunday, all three existing venues will be taking the unusual step of serving a dedicated camel-milk menu. Known as the Camellos concept, it features sandwiches, gelato and camel milk-based drinks. Jassim Al Bastaki, the Emirati businessman behind the venture, says that while camel milk has been available at Café2go from the beginning, the popularity of these drinks made him realise that the idea warranted expansion.
"Obviously a lot of people drink coffee and it is not necessarily a healthy drink. What we wanted to do was to promote a healthy element to coffee - the camel milk - and to highlight our national drink as well," he explains. "Aside from the health benefits, this was an opportunity to merge an ancient Arab drink with more modern drinks such as lattes and mochas and present them to the market.
"Right from the start, people responded to the idea and customers would come back time and time again for the camel milk. This prompted our decision to rebrand, focus on camel milk drinks and develop the idea."
As well as camel-chinos, camel lattes and camel mochas, you'll find various camel teas (iced and hot) on the Camellos menu, as well as three different camel shakes (strawberry, vanilla and chocolate). Bastaki says that these proved particularly popular with children when they were tried out recently at Modesh World 2012. "If you tell children to drink camel milk then they're likely to refuse. But from what we saw, if you give it to them in the form of a shake they enjoy it a lot and don't even realise it's camel milk," he says.
Other items on the Camellos menu include camel milk gelato (strawberry, vanilla and a chocolate flavour made, of course, from camel chocolate), a camel cheese sandwich and camel fajita sandwiches. Plans are also in motion to create a line of sweets and pastries made from camel milk.
Bastaki says the additional Dh2 that customers are asked to pay for a drink made from camel milk as opposed to cow's (Dh14 for a small latte, rather than Dh12) is because of the fact that production is more difficult and that all the milk needs to come from the same factory, otherwise the flavour differs too much.
He also explains that camel milk needs to be treated slightly differently to cow's milk: "We have worked to discover the specific blend of coffee that complements the milk best and to find out exactly what temperature the milk needs to be heated to so that it doesn't burn, but neither is it watery. This is different from cow's milk."
When it comes to doing a taste test, Bastaki says most people can't actually differentiate between a coffee made from camel milk and one made from cow's milk. With that in mind and given the well-documented health benefits of camel milk - it is high in vitamins B and C, low in fat, high in protein and is believed to help in controlling diabetes - it may be well worth giving a camel latte a whirl.