Nouran Al-Bannai: From Architecture to Leading the Coffee Industry in the UAE

In the world of business, we find stories that inspire us and light our path to success. One such story is the journey of Mrs. Nouran Al-Bannai, the Emirati architect who transformed into a successful entrepreneur in the coffee industry. With a blend of passion and determination, Nouran has created a unique coffee experience that reflects the heritage of the UAE while introducing modern innovations. In this interview, Nouran reveals the secrets of her journey, the challenges she faced, and how she became an icon in the coffee industry in the UAE.

– Tell us about your journey from architecture to becoming a successful entrepreneur in the coffee industry. What inspired you to make this transition?

My passion for coffee started in childhood, as my grandmother, may she rest in peace, used to prepare Arabic coffee at home. I used to smell the coffee before going to school. After her death, I felt that something was missing at home. So, I decided to learn and study coffee and its secrets, and I opened the “Coffee Architecture” café to revive those memories.

– How did your personal and spiritual journey lead you to open your own café (Coffee Architecture)?

I studied at a barista school in America and learned how to prepare specialty coffee and the science behind it. Watching the world barista championships inspired me to become a professional Emirati barista. In 2016, there were no Emirati women working behind an espresso machine, but I decided to open “Coffee Architecture” to change this perspective in the UAE. Thank God, we continue to succeed, and now I see many Emiratis entering this field, which makes me proud.

– What motivated you to focus on offering distinctive Arabic coffee?

Offering Emirati coffee for free at “Coffee Architecture” was a charity act for the soul of my grandmother. Coffee holds a special place in every Emirati family and tribe. I want to pass on this heritage and traditions from the ancestors to the youth.

– As the first Emirati woman to make significant strides in the coffee industry, what unique contributions have you brought to the coffee world?

I strive to create new opportunities in the Emirati economy and showcase our country’s vision on the global stage. Excellence is my goal, and this is what I always work towards.

– How did you combine innovation and tradition to create a truly unique coffee experience?

I maintain religious, ethical, and traditional values in preparing coffee and serve it to customers with professionalism. I also introduce Emirati customs to foreigners to showcase Emirati hospitality.

– Can you explain the precise process behind preparing your creative coffee?

The secret of the process lies in the barista’s passion and deep love for coffee. It requires extracting the right flavor for each type of coffee and roasting it in the best way to suit the taste of coffee lovers.

– What challenges did you face when starting Coffee Architecture, and how did you overcome them?

As a woman, there were doubts about my ability to prepare coffee professionally. Initially, customers did not want me to make their coffee. But with persistence and effort, I became beloved by customers who now prefer my coffee.

– How did COVID-19 affect your business, and what adjustments did you make to keep your business standing?

COVID-19 was a challenge for all of us, but it made us stronger. I took the opportunity to educate people online about how to prepare coffee at home. I also updated the brand and marketed it better.

– Can you share some moments of success that made all the hard work worthwhile?

When customers say they feel at home when visiting the café or praise the quality of the coffee and the positive energy of the place, I feel immense pride. The most significant moment was when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed said to me, “This work may seem small, but its impact on people and the UAE is great.” I will never forget these words.

– How can a person stay passionate and motivated to achieve their goals, in your opinion?

A person should always remember why they entered this field. They should be surrounded by loved ones who inspire and support them. For me, the memories of my grandmother give me the strength to rise again when facing difficulties.

– What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to follow their passion and create something meaningful?

Focus on the goal and understand the reason behind your work; this is the key to success. Do not fear failure, as failure and the word “no” are the strength to rise again with the help of God and trust in Him.

– What are the prospects of the coffee industry in general, and in the UAE and the rest of the GCC in particular?

Arab and international championships in specialty coffee are now taking their place in every new café that opens. Also, roasting has become an essential part of every café, adding a unique flavor to each place.

– Do you have any future plans or projects you can share with us?

My dream is to win first place in the barista championship in the UAE and raise my country’s flag high in the top positions globally. I started this journey in 2018, and I got the third place in 2023 and 2024. I will continue this journey, God willing.

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