Wake up and smell the coffee. For Raja Muthusamy this could well be the mission statement of his life. From starting off washing dishes in a cafe to becoming the winner of the 2010 UAE Barista Championship, he has seen himself grow over the past seven years in Dubai. Muthusamy came to Dubai at the age of 19.
He was already a married man by then, although it was not a milestone he chose himself.
“I wanted to come to Dubai, earn some money first before I agreed to marriage but my wife’s parents thought otherwise. They believed that I would be too busy earning money to give marriage a thought.”
And so it was that he got married at 19 and ten months later landed in Dubai thanks to a visit visa organised by his uncle who has been here for many years.
In Dubai, Muthusamy initially worked at Cafe Breeze in 2003 as a washer up and worked his way up to become a head waiter. After the cafe’s operations were discontinued in 2006, the café’s managing director, Kim Thompson, set up a coffee espresso bar, the Raw Coffee Company, where Muthusamy joined as a barista and coffee roaster in 2007.
“I was amazed by all the designs that I saw people make on coffee,” he says.
It was not long before he took to his new role of a barista with an ease that surprised him. But there were some obstacles initially, such as language.
It was difficult for him to converse with his customers in English, armed as he was with only Tamil, his mother tongue. But he soon found himself at ease with them as they were all very friendly.
As for Thompson, “I like working with Kim. Now we are like family,” says Muthusamy, who as a result of his initial struggle with communication decided to earn himself a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in English through a correspondence course.
He is about to complete his third year and plans to do his Masters in English as well.