DUBAI // From camelccino coffees to camel-meat fajitas, an Emirati entrepreneur is hoping to bring camel-based food and drink to a wider audience.
Launched in September last year at Dubai's Murooj Rotana Hotel, Cafe2go kicked off with offerings such as camel-milk ice cream, camel lattes and an iced camel mocha. Camel-milk products account for 50 per cent of the shop's income.
"We wanted to be different and to provide healthy drinks to people," said the owner, Jassim Al Bastaki .
The brand name Camellos, meaning camel in Spanish, was derived from the company's partnership with Spain - it uses the country's coffee beans for its products.
"Camelccinos require a specific roasted bean and a specific blend to give them a good taste," Mr Al Bastaki said. "We managed to create it by blending arabica roasted with a bit of sugar.
"It's a different kind of recipe to make a good-tasting coffee."
The camel milk, provided by Emirates Industry for Camel Milk and Products, is also heated in a special way for the perfect texture.
"The milk requires a specific degree of steaming to maintain its quality." Mr Al Bastaki said. "If you oversteam it, you burn it, and if it's not heated enough, it will be too watery."
At the same time as its first outlet opened, Cafe2go started operating a mobile van in Dubai Internet City. In March, it opened a second static branch on Sheikh Zayed Road near Al Satwa.
Over the past two months, it has expanded its range of camel-based food and drinks, adding camel fajitas, camel shakes, camel-milk lemon juice, camel-milk avocado juice and a camel-cheese sandwich.
For the fajitas, the camel meat, bought from local butchers, requires special treatment.
"Camel meat is a bit tough so it needs special marination and cooking treatment to make it soft," added Mr Al Bastaki.
The most popular item among adults is the camel-ccino, whilc children like the camel shakes.
"In Asia, they drink soya milk, so we, as a GCC country, must believe in our milk. It's the right time to promote [the combination] of our national drink with modern drinks."
Camel milk boasts many health benefits. "It's more easily digested than cow's milk because of the casein protein in it," said Caroline Kanaan, a nutritionist at Planet Nutrition. "People tend to be less intolerant to camel's milk than to cow's, goat's and sheep's milk because the structure of the casein protein is different."
The milk also has less than half the fat and 40 per cent of the cholesterol of cows' milk - as well as three times the vitamin C and 10 times the iron.
"Genetically, the digestive system of Arabs is more capable of digesting camel milk than cow's because it's one of the traditional foods," Ms Kanaan said. "From my experience, a lot of Arabs are intolerant to cows' milk but not to camel because they have more enzymes required to digest it."
But there is a shortage of camel milk, mainly because local camels are bred for racing.
"We encountered a lack of supply of the milk once due to low production," Mr Al Bastaki said. "So we went through all the hypermarkets to collect milk."
He plans a further outlet in Global Village, followed by a drive-through before the end of the year and another mall outlet early next year.
"We are also in negotiations to franchise the brand in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain," said Mr Al Bastaki. "We have just signed a franchise in Libya and we are in the final stages with Bahrain."
Five per cent of the shops' revenues are donated to Dubai charities. "That's what we believe we need to do to give back to the community," he added.