Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 4 April 2020

Portrait of a Nation: the Emirati engineer following her coffee-making calling

Noran Al Bannai gave up her senior position at Abu Dhabi National Oil Company to pursue her dreams

Noran Al Bannai followed her dreams by opening up her own coffee shop. Khushnum Bhandari for The National
Noran Al Bannai followed her dreams by opening up her own coffee shop. Khushnum Bhandari for The National

When Noran Al Bannai realised she no longer felt fulfilled by her high-flying career she decided to wake up and not only smell the coffee, but make it.

The hard-working Emirati enjoyed a lofty role as a senior quality engineer at Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), but knew it was not the passion that fuelled her.

Ms Al Bannai had enjoyed a life-long love affair with coffee-making, and the rich traditions that come with it.

She made the decision to quit her job last year and invest her time and resources in building up her own cafe in Al Reem, called Coffee Architecture, which she had launched while still working for Adnoc.

I always loved our traditions of hospitality and friendliness around coffee

Noran Al Bannai

She is already enjoying the sweet taste of success - and won the royal seal of approval from UAE leaders.

“I met Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed (Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi) during an event in Abu Dhabi and he told me that I represent the UAE, not only a small business,” said Ms Al Bannai.

She said she made the switch to running her own business “because I felt that the longer I am behind a desk, something will always be missing in my life” .

“I knew that I can be serving my country from another position and in a different way,” she said.

She said evenings spent with her grandmother sipping coffee had inspired her.

“I always loved our traditions of hospitality and friendliness around coffee and knew it was what I wanted to be doing. But I kept delaying making that dream come true.”

After graduating from Emirates University in 2007, she joined Abu Dhabi Police’s projects management department where her father worked.

During her five years with the force, the 37-year-old obtained two master degrees in architectural engineering and quality management.

In 2012, she joined Adnoc but spent much of her spare time thinking about coffee.

She decided to sign up for a barista training school in Portland, USA, before securing a qualification from the Coffee Quality Institute when it was holding exams in the UAE.

She passed the exam and was awarded the ‘Top Talent Super Taster’ certificate.

“I was told I was the first Emirati to earn that certificate,” she said.

As well as attracting customers to her cafe in Al Reem, Ms Al Bannai has also taken her product on the road.

She provided hot refreshments at the recent Global Women's Forum in Dubai, with one notable figure among the queue of customers.

“I served my coffee to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid (Vice President and Ruler of Dubai) during the latest Global Women's Forum in Dubai.”

The traditional Emirati coffee that her grandmother used to prepare is made the same way in her coffee shop.

She offers customers a free cup of the treasured drink each time they visit.

“My grandmother used to smile and serve her coffee with much love. That is why I keep telling my staff that we are serving happiness with every cup of coffee.”

Updated: March 12, 2020 03:09 PM

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