Coffee is the most consumed drink worldwide. Certain spices are mixed with coffee when prepared in the Arabian Peninsula, and is prepared following specific methods, which can take up to 30 minutes to prepare. In order to simplify this process, Lateefa Alwaalan created Yatooq, a start-up which blends tradition with technology.
Coffee was born in the Arabian Peninsula. While the most common method of preparing the drink is through percolation (filtering, as with an Italian coffeepot for instance); in Saudi Arabia it is prepared, or brewed, by decoction. The “Arabian” way: Arabic coffee is defined by the way it is prepared, rather that the variety of the coffee beans used. Arabic coffee is mixed with water and brought to a boil in a pot (or Dallah). Cardamom, cloves, saffron, rose water or ginger are all different ingredients that can be used when making the drink.
Arabic coffee is associated with generosity and is traditionally prepared in front of guests, taking up to half an hour. Certain strict rules exist for the more traditional folk: the guest, once offered, shall drink at least one cupful, but no more than three. To signal that you’ve had enough, hold and tilt the cup sideways gently when the host passes by with the pot.
Technology, in service of traditions
In order to simplify the drink’s preparation, Saudi entrepreneur Lateefa Alwaalan created Yatooq in 2011. Yatooq makes and sells machines which allow the user to make Arabic coffee in a fraction of the time, as well as a variety of coffee blends. In a first-of-its-kind initiative, the information technology engineer was granted support by the King Abdulaziz University for Science and Technology (KAUST) via their Badir program for technology incubators.
In 2015, Lateefa Alwaalan was named Entrepreneur of the Year by EY KSA. Yatooq went on to be identified as one of the most innovative entrepreneurial initiatives in the Kingdom by Forbes Middle East, in 2015 and 2016. The entrepreneur also took 12th place in the Forbes Middle East list of Entrepreneurs Shaping Saudi Arabia’s Future.