Passion For The Art and Science of Coffee: Meet Rima Alghanim, Owner of Magic Beans Roastery In Saudi Arabia

Rima Alghanim owner of Magic Beans in Saudi Arabia
Photos courtesy of Rima Alghanim.
With a passion for the art and science of coffee, Rima Alghanim is a seasoned coffee professional dedicated to delivering exceptional coffee experiences as Founder of Magic Beans Micro-Roasters in Saudi Arabia. Rima has honed her skills in various aspects of coffee sensory and judging in national Saudi championships, making her a valuable asset to the Arab coffee community. In this interview, I talk with Rima, who lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to delve into her coffee journey, entrepreneurial gifting, and insights on specialty coffee industry's present and future.

Do you recall your first time trying coffee?

Rima: Back in college, my sister used to make her coffee using a coffee maker the smell was super aromatic. Eventually, I tried it, I didn't like it at first but it grew on me, and then I slowly increased the dosage 😉.

Where did you find your inspiration to start your journey as a coffee roaster and entrepreneur in Saudi Arabia?

Well, I always analyzed how coffee shops and roasters do things, branding, marketing, website UI/UX and obviously how their coffee tastes. I found myself thinking of how different businesses can improve different aspects, I also noticed lots of commonalities, primarily in the roasting style.
My thoughts were always brewing, I just knew I had to add my fingerprint to the local community, specifically for busting myths, providing educational sources and using speciality coffee flavour notes as a tool to communicate that speciality coffee is real.

Tell us all about Magic Beans. Where did it all start and where are you going?

We opened in February 2022 intending to focus on coffee sensory and engaging educational content.
Since coffee taste is primarily controlled by roasting, I knew this is what I wanted to focus on and this is where the product differentiation will come into play. Also, brand values and identity make Magic Beans a unique brand that is a blend of Arab folklore and third-wave coffee.
Whenever I met someone from the local community, they always praised our content and our collaboration with Saudi coffee farmers.
Right now we want to continue with expressing our brand values and focus on expanding to coffee shops as a retail channel, as well as working with wholesale clients.

What is your favorite Magic Beans coffee to make as a pour-over at the moment?

At any point in time, there's always a crop that I appreciate. I would say Vanilla Noir, as the name suggests it's extremely full of vanilla flavor which is the everyday coffee that I make with v60 or Etkin 8-cup dripper during weekends.

What is the coffee culture like in Saudi Arabia? Can you share some insights into the specialty coffee scene in Riyadh and how it's evolving?

Oh, it's so widespread here that you wouldn’t believe it. The coffee culture before all the giga projects and speciality coffee was focused on traditional Saudi Gahawa coffee (which is served in espresso like cups) that’s usually made for sharing with a group. 
I think with the recent economic rise, the 9-5 office jobs, entrepreneurship, and speciality coffee filled up not just the need for caffeine but an elevated experience that serves amazing tasting coffee. Ten years ago, people would meet up every weekend at someone’s home, but this has changed in recent years. Coffee shops are becoming the go-to meet-up place, especially with Gen Z and Millennials.
When it comes to the number of speciality coffee shops and roasters, approximately one opens up every week. There's almost a "blueprint" if you will that anyone is able to replicate and open up shop quickly. But I believe there's room to compete on other aspects that I think are not delivered to their full potential, you need to understand what can you do differently not just better to stand out from the competition.
I think the evolution is the growth of home baristas, it still amazes me how speciality coffee culture has settled in Saudis' homes.
Rima Alghanim

What is the coffee beverage of choice in Riyadh?

Hahah! That’s hard to pinpoint, everyone has a different preference. 
I would say the must-have drinks at a coffee shop in 2024 are: Coffee of the day (batch brewer), Flat White and Matcha.

When you aren't roasting coffee and working at Magic Beans, what does a normal day look like for you?

I'll be attending a cafe opening or consulting someone who works in coffee or participates in coffee cupping. 
When I can take a break from the entire coffee scene, I appreciate spending time with my family, playing video games for a couple of hours, and reading some books or articles on topics I'll be interested in.

What are some of the biggest lessons you've learned since starting your coffee roasting business?

As my first business, I picked up so many skills and concepts starting from accounting, marketing, graphic design and more.
I would say my biggest lesson learned is that owning and running a business will
teach you a lot about the world and society more than any book or job.

What is one thing you wish you had known prior to entering the specialty coffee industry?

On a personal level, whatever it is, it's not as complex as it sounds, I just need someone who understands it well enough to explain it in a simple matter (specifically roasting).
From a business perspective, understanding how much we can select and spend on specially graded coffee, then sell it to customers at an acceptable price.
Currently, market supply and demand are determining lower selling prices, thus lower profits. So I need to get creative with the business model.