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A world in every cup: exploring coffee cultures from EBRD regions

By Maroua Beddadi

In a world where tastes and preferences span a wide spectrum, there exists a common thread that binds people across continents and cultures: their love for coffee. In its appreciation for this beloved brew, the world unites annually to celebrate International Coffee Day on 1 October, an occasion that offers a global tribute to this magic beverage that awakens our senses, stimulates our conversations and fuels our daily lives.

In this article, we will delve together into the remarkable journeys and the incredible stories of two coffee companies: Caffe Fonte from Mongolia, and Café Younes from Lebanon, to shed light on how the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), along with the assistance of the European Union, played a pivotal role in their growth and prosperity.

Coffee's remarkable journey:

The history of coffee is a fascinating tale that began in the highlands of Ethiopia, where legend has it, a goat herder named Kaldi discovered the energising properties of coffee beans. Over centuries, coffee spread across the Arabian Peninsula, giving birth to the world's first coffeehouses in the Middle East. Coffeehouses soon became centres of social and intellectual exchange, fostering the birth of ideas and culture. Fast forward to the 20th century and coffee's global popularity had surged, leading to the establishment of International Coffee Day.

Pioneering the coffee culture in Mongolia

Caffé Bene Mongolia, led by the visionary Mrs. Ariunbat Dashzeveg, has been a trailblazer in Mongolia's coffee culture evolution. Founded in 2013, the company rapidly expanded to 22 branches within four years. Beyond serving coffee, Caffe Bene takes pride in delivering pure joy to its customers through the exquisite quality and the freshness of its brews.

In their relentless pursuit of product excellence, Caffé Bene Mongolia offers an impressive array of coffee choices, captivating the Mongolian market. This diverse selection includes single-origin and blended coffee, cold brews and drip bag coffee with a selection of roast levels.

Adding a new chapter to their journey, Caffé Bene Mongolia proudly introduced ‘Caffe Fonte’, a national coffee shop chain, in 2023. Caffe Fonte ingeniously fuses Mongolian traditions with European coffee culture, positioning them as formidable competitors with international coffee shop chains within Mongolia.

Underpinning their success is the Fonte label, extending its influence beyond coffee shops into the retail sector. The company employs over 50 individuals in marketing, sales, operations and production, drawing from a wealth of experience in the local market.

Caffe Fonte's commitment to quality extends to its coffee beans, sourced from premium Arabica beans grown in Brazil, Ethiopia, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, Indonesia and Costa Rica, through their Belgian supplier. Their dedication to offering the finest beans, roasted locally, underpins the distinctiveness of the brand.

The company's state-of-the-art coffee roasting plant, established with European Roast Master expertise under an EBRD project in 2017, has propelled the brand to become the best-selling coffee product in Ulaanbaatar.

Looking to the future, Caffé Bene Mongolia aspires to disseminate the coffee culture far and wide, offering franchising opportunities with ambitious plans to become the largest franchising chain in Mongolia within the next five years.

A century of coffee excellence in Lebanon

Café Younes boasts a remarkable heritage dating back almost a century, rooted in Lebanon's rich coffee tradition. Established in 1935 by its director’s grandfather, Amin Younes, Café Younes has grown to become a symbol of excellence in the world of coffee.

What sets Café Younes apart is not only its heritage but also its deep-rooted commitment to, as its director calls it: ’Blending tradition‘. The ’Abou Anouar blend‘ is a testament to its commitment to quality, as it is a blend of Colombian and Yemeni beans that evokes loyalty towards one of its own - a tribute to a master roaster who passed away in 2013.

Specialising in on-site coffee roasting, it envelops patrons with the captivating aroma of freshly roasted coffee. The establishment also offers a first-rate food menu, reflecting the same passion for food as it does for coffee. With diversity as its hallmark, in both in its menu and its coffee origins, beans are sourced from across the globe, including Africa, Yemen, Australia and South and Central America.

Facing challenges amid the recent crises, Café Younes found support from the EBRD and a shrewd financial consultant in order to regain financial stability. In terms of technology, it blends old-school craftsmanship with modern conveniences, maintaining a remotely accessible back-office management system.

Looking forward, Café Younes aspires to be a global powerhouse while still preserving its authenticity. With plans for expansion into new markets, beyond its current expansion into Lebanon, Egypt and Dubai, Café Younes envisions a future where its legacy continues to flourish.

EBRD: A catalyst for success

The stories of Caffé Bene Mongolia and Café Younes illustrate how the EBRD has been instrumental in fuelling the growth of these coffee companies.

With the support of its donors, through its financial support and market expertise, the EBRD has played a pivotal role in shaping the thriving coffee cultures in Mongolia and Lebanon, proving that a good cup of coffee can be a powerful force for economic development and cultural enrichment.

As coffee lovers around the world celebrate International Coffee Day, let us raise our cups of coffee to celebrate these two companies, who have not only satisfied their clients’ coffee cravings but also demonstrated resilience, innovation and a commitment to excellence, proving that the love for coffee is not just about the beverage itself but also about the journeys and stories that accompany it.

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