“The best way to encourage people to compete is to step out, to do your thing. Show them, and then they will come.”
Sulaiman’s specialty coffee journey began with an espresso he bought from a petrol station to keep him awake on the long drive to work, and a mystery. His thoughts – Coffee is a cherry, a fruit, and fruits are diverse – but why did all the coffee he drink taste the same?
As with all things he is curious about, he researched to find the answer. It came down to the quality of the coffee itself and all the processes it goes through before it ends up in the cup. Fascination with the process led him to coffee-making experiments at home.
He started with a small espresso machine and pre-ground beans, until a colleague who is also a specialty coffee roaster advised him there were better ways to do it. This prompted him to educate himself more (frequenting the Archers Academy) and upgrade his gear.
By this time, coffee had turned into a passion. He was posting about it on social media, saw people liked it, and began to get in touch with members of our diverse and generous coffee community. For him, “The community we have here is very, very, very supportive. I see that we have one of the very best, if not the best community.” Enjoying the specialty coffee community spirit, he went to the 2021 National Cup Tasters as a spectator.
He thought it was a fun challenge and felt the need to try. Getting the Q License at the Archers Academy in December 2021, meant to prepare him to open his own specialty cafe, gave him a confidence boost. He competed at the 2022 National Cup Tasters in January and won.
(left: Sulaiman winning the National Cup Tasters Championship early in January, right: Sulaiman at the World of Coffee Milan as the UAE representative in the World Cup Tasters Competition last June)
He believes “Cup Tasters is all about your brain game. It’s all about trusting your inner voice, your first impression about the coffee.”
On the world stage last June, he felt the pressure of representing the UAE. He was thinking a lot about people’s expectations and recalls his main misstep was doubting himself.
The first three cups he pushed out fast turned out to be correct. He knew something went wrong with his technique, his brain game, when he started second-guessing those first three cups instead of focusing on the fourth onwards. This cost him time and the chance to compete for the top prize.
Learning from that experience, we’ll see him at the upcoming National Cup Tasters table again.
He admits he feels a lot of pressure because he won last year. What’s helping, he tells us, is to remind himself that he’s competing to have fun, enjoy the moment, and share the stage.
His message to his fellow competitors and anyone doubting whether they should try to compete is, “Just don’t doubt yourself... Don’t put a lot of chaos. Just live the moment, enjoy, feel free, relax, and don’t doubt yourself.”