If you think of a barista, it’s always an image of a guy mixing coffee that comes to your mind. But in Oman, this may soon change as even Omani women are discovering their flair and passion for making coffee fully understanding that it’s a career that knows no gender.
Twenty-one-year-old Radhwa al Harthy definitely is taking the first step of breaking the norms and she’s determined to assert herself and aspires to make a career in the hospitality industry — to brew a perfect cup of coffee that is also a growing trend in the country.
“My passion for coffee and dedication to having a successful career is what led me to my current role as a barista for Nasaq café,” she said.
“I work in a very encouraging atmosphere, where we form a family. We don’t have this boss, employee relationship. This is one of the reasons why we, female Omanis working in the café, feel so comfortable to continue working here,” she explains.
With timely opportunity and intensive training, Radhwa now can financially support herself, her family and secure a better future for herself.
“I found myself behind the espresso machine pulling shots and learning the intricacies of making the perfect cup of coffee. For two months, I continued training,” she said.
She added, “For most people, coffee is pretty simple. It’s that bitter hot brown wake-up juice that we gulp in the mornings until we are able to open our eyes and function. Before getting involved in the field, I thought this as well but discovered later that coffee-making is much more complicated”.
“If your coffee tastes too acidic, it’s probably undercooked. Inversely, if it’s too bitter, it has been overcooked. Another problem is burning: Putting water that’s too hot (boiling water, for instance) can produce a burnt-tasting flavour because the coffee beans are burning! Keeping your cup below 96 C is essential to producing good-tasting drinks”, Radhwa shared.
Radhwa had come to realise that a career in the coffee-making business is viable. She also believes that women can be very good entrepreneurs given the opportunity.
“Throughout my career what I’ve loved the most is working with customers,” Radhwa said.
“It is not easy, but you surely learn how to deal with different kinds of people and different moods daily. Every customer is different. A few will be angry, some chatty and others full of questions. The important thing to remember is to give each customer the same level of service. Whether they are yelling or smiling, stay positive and be as helpful as possible,” she said.
For their value as a coffee shop, Radhwa said, “A cafe is a public space, but it also strives to be that “third space,” where people comfortably congregate somewhere that isn’t ‘work’ or home. In the third space, they want to enjoy and have a unique atmosphere. We, in Nasaq café, provide them with the perfect space to contemplate, unleash their energy through the drawing space or simply reading their favourite book”.
Asked whether she received some pushbacks when it comes to her chosen career, she shared, “Working in this unique field is new in Omani society. Perhaps, the journey of the Omani female baristas who started before me was a bit challenging to make society accept the fact that girls are now expanding their fields of work.”
She added, “Changing the deep-rooted expectations of gender is difficult. However, as far as I know, Omani society welcomes all the decent changes that youth make. We just need to do it carefully and decently.”
For Radhwa, her goal with working at Nasaq is to create a space that is supportive and inspiring to women.