It seems these days, there’s a gimmick for everything. Sometimes, we find ourselves looking at the same concept over and over again, and we find ourselves feeling that everything everyone says is rehearsed. But once in a while, there’s a place to escape that monotony – a place to take off your mask, and to just be yourself.
As I step into Be Café, I sense a calm energy amidst the hustle and bustle of its soft opening. The place is colorful and decorated in a way that makes you feel as though you’re visiting someone’s home, without being invasive. The color of the dining area of the café expands to back rooms of the apartment-style space, leading to small yet cheerful room housing handiwork crafted by Michelle for sale. “Michelle is an incredible artist,” co-owner Mariam Al-Shatti tells me as we pause to admire Michelle’s artwork before going into the sun-filled quiet room across the short hall, dedicated to relaxation. Mariam continues to tell me about Michelle’s artsy skills, saying that she did most, if not all of the painting at Be. From the whimsical quotes written out carefully on the wall, to the intricate graffiti illuminating spaces behind tables, the bulk of this artwork was done by the talented Michelle, her brush, and the rest of the team’s joining in. “She also makes the best chai latte” Mariam chirps in appreciation.
We settle into the back room flooded with light, perching on Be’s low-to-the-ground couches consisting of colorful cushions placed atop recycled palettes. Breaking their “no food in the back room” rule just this once, (“because it’s practically a drink!”) Mariam brings me one of the café’s biggest hits, the Acai Berry Bowl.
A deliciously refreshing smoothie bowl, made with hidden cacao nibs, artfully sliced banana, coconut shavings, topped with strawberry and a kiwi flower center. Sided with a sneaky turmeric lemon truffle ball reminiscent of my grandmother’s ma’amoul filling, I knew that Be was offering up something special.
Mariam is a strong advocate for veganism, having even converted her mother/partner Muna Alafraj to the dietary practice, and so, the dynamic mother-daughter duo feel adamant on keeping their menu purely plant-based. “We want this space to serve as an educational tool for people to learn about the plant-based lifestyle and its benefits. Being vegan changed both mine and my mother’s lives, so we’d love to spread that happiness onto others as well.”
You can see it on her menu, and in her general being as she speaks, that the vegan journey is a very special one to Mariam. “I was a vegetarian for half my life, and transitioning to veganism happened a few years ago while I was studying in Australia,” she tells me as she serves me a deliciously dense piece of her famous vegan raspberry cheesecake bites. “I spent so much time abroad experimenting with plant-based recipes in my kitchen, and loved what I could come up with when using natural ingredients. I really wanted to bring a part of that back with me to Kuwait, and my mom supported that dream.”
The result of her experimentation is a beautiful menu, filled to the brim with satisfying selections that won’t have you feeling deprived of animal protein and dairy. Savories are ever growing, and aren’t limited to wraps and sandwiches, like Mariam’s personal favorite zucchini, tofu and mushroom wrap. For food that’s a little more substantial, the café also specializes in themed nights entitled “Soulful Saturdays” where different areas of the world are covered, such as Thali Indian and Vietnamese. On top of that, their peaceful cooks, the Zen Huang from Vietnam and the jovial Sahar from Egypt bring in their own special twists and flavors to the mix – especially when it comes to Huang’s vegan Pho.
Their array of delicious sugar-free vegan desserts like cheesecakes and truffles, however, are what Mariam is most proud of. “I absolutely love creating these! I take pride in the fact that I was able to figure out a way to allow people to indulge without compromising their health.”
This just shows that dessert can be sweet and wholesome, made with a lot of love at the same time. “All of our food evokes the same feeling that you get when you’re enjoying home cooking. Because we put so much love into what we do, it makes it taste that much better.”
Lest we forget the juices. Made fresh daily and blended on the spot, juiceheads are never short of refreshing options to enjoy post workout, or as a delightful morning or afternoon snack.
“My favorite juice is Sunset!” Mariam announced pointedly, “it’s kind of basic, but it just looks so pretty and makes me feel amazing!” Made with carrot, apple, ginger and a bunch of other goodies, I could see why this nutrient-pumping concoction would put a smile as shiny as Mariam’s on anyone else’s face.
Be is also quite possibly the only place in Kuwait to make and sell their own kombucha. I’ve never personally been a fan, but Mama Muna handed me a little glass filled with fizzy apple-beetroot fermented tea, and I couldn’t resist. “It’s great for digestion,” she said as I knocked it back, then proceeded to continue our discussion about meditation.
Meditation is a sentimental part of Be Café. While it isn’t necessary for patrons to partake, it’s definitely worth mentioning that the entire Be family are meditators, and that they all meditate together during their staff meetings to address problem-solving and bright new ideas.
Muna also teaches meditation in Arabic, and so there may be opportunities for patrons to walk away with something special from their regular visits.
“We’re a family at Be.” Mariam says firmly, “we have each other’s back, and we believe that everyone who’s a part of this journey, to the people who work here to the people who come here are all so special. We’re a hub generating positive energy for the masses.” And it’s certainly refreshing to see a place so pure of pretention that abides by rules of love and non-judgment, and a whole lot of good ethics.
“That’s right! And all we want is a place for you to just be… yourself.”
Be Café is located in Rimal complex in Bida’a square. Follow them on Instagram @becafe_kwt for more information and the latest updates!