São Paulo – In 2014, Brazilian businesswoman Maria Eduarda Becker (pictured above) began her journey in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. She arrived in the country as a barista and established herself as a leading professional there and in neighboring countries such as Saudi Arabia. Now, Becker owns Três Marias Coffee, a brand that she created to offer courses and training to coffee professionals and the public at large. She is also a partner of the trade company Ally Coffee in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and works with them to create market for green coffee, particularly from Brazil and Colombia.
The entrepreneur defends a broader view of the product, going beyond the current hype. “My slogan is ‘Specialty Coffee Made Simple.’ Is it special? Yes, because it’s high-quality. But countries like Brazil show that specialty coffee is made just like any other commodity. It’s just business. It’s made by businesspeople that want to grow and diversify the industry,” she told ANBA.
Becker points out that the specialty coffee industry in Dubai has gained relevance in the last decade. And for the name of Brazil to stand out, there is still a long way to go. “When they think about coffee, they only think about the cup. And coffee is much more than that. They talk about Brazil here, but almost nobody talks about coffee. And we’re the world’s largest producer. We should talk more about that, but I believe that’s changing because Brazil was known for its poor quality. What we’ve seen in speciality coffee is just the beginning,” she said.
Born in Araranguá, a small city in Santa Catarina, Becker lived in Lisbon and London, but she started her coffee career in Brazil. In Florianopolis, she worked at Café Cultura, a leading special coffee house in Brazil. “It was my first great experience with special coffee. The field requires an ongoing study, so I studied to become a Q-Grader. And I became an authorized SCA trainer,” she said. SCA is the Specialty Coffee Association, and Q-Grader is an international certification given to coffee professionals.
In the emirate, the Brazilian started as a barista in a 5-star hotel, then she left to work at one of the main roasting houses in the country. Becker worked there for a year, but the high cost of living in Dubai led her to a new enterprise. “I had the idea of buying a tuk-tuk. I contacted a company that produced them in the UK. The owner told me she wanted to bring the brand to Dubai and invited me to be her partner. She invested the money and I did the work. We built this brand. After two years, I decided to move in a different direction. I felt that that had served its purpose and it was time to move on,” she said. Tuk-tuk is a motorized version of the pulled rickshaw or cycle rickshaw.
Then the Brazilian took a liking for the business world. After that, she was the partner of another coffee brand before taking flight on her own. In March 2019, she founded Três Marias Coffee. During that period, she contacted Ally Coffee, a trade company that is part of group Monte Santo Tavares from Brazil. “We talked about expanding the market in the Middle East. We met in Dubai and signed a partnership that would focus into opening the market for Ally’s green coffee. And with Três Marias, I focus on education, and we work with private labeling, too,” she said.
One market that she has worked extensively in is the Saudi, where Becker gives training and sells green and roasted coffee. As for Dubai, she likes to create courses and invite foreign professionals as a way to remain up to date. “Although we are pioneers, we still have much to learn,” she said.
Coffee at home – and instant coffee – in the pandemic
With the pandemic, she found herself with a company and five employees and no demand at all for courses, which was her main service until then. The situation led the company to become a coffee brand. “We started as a roasted coffee focusing on this demand for coffee at home. We opened a very simple ecommerce that I made with a colleague and invested no money at all. And look, it was one of the best things that have ever happened to us a business! Now we are part of the market with a new brand,” she stressed.
The ecommerce added value to the brand and, Becker says, to the region as well. “I noticed that there was a space in the market to be developed by a company that asked the person at home, ‘How do you take your coffee? How can I make your specialty coffee experience as better as possible?’” she explained.
The answer came in the form of quickly preparing products such as Nespresso compatible capsules and instant specialty coffee. The latter is a pioneer product in the Middle East for using specialty beans in the process. “I believe the future of the specialty coffee is adapting to consumers that are not willing to buy an expensive machine or learn how to perfectly brew a coffee. The future is [understanding] how we can eliminate these factors that are so important [for the consumer] to have a good cup of coffee,” she says.
The new products have been the path to practicability that the Brazilian wants to bring to consumption. “A good coffee must be for all. We must be empathetic and create a bond. The industry is quite new. Even the country [UAE] is much recent, and I believe in innovating. I don’t have a problem with taking risks. The instant coffee is my product with a high cost and the most expensive one, but I’m reaching my sales goals,” Becker said, adding that she keeps reinvesting in the brand’s digital marketing. Her goal now is that 60-70% of the company’s revenue come from the coffee brand.
The future plans include participating in the Brazil Pavilion during the Expo 2020. The event, which has been postponed to the next year, will have Três Marias helming the Brazilian espresso bar. “I cannot describe how proud I am. It’s one of those things that make the hard work worth it,” the entrepreneur says, adding that she aims at growing worldwide. “The name was not by chance. Even amid many brands, you will always look and know where the Três Marias are,” she finished, pointing out that the name of her brand is Portuguese for the asterism Orion’s Belt or Three Sisters.
Translated by Guilherme Miranda