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Forget cappuccino, Dubai drinkers get a taste for camel-ccino

From Jon Jensen and Rima Maktabi, CNN
April 9, 2012 -- Updated 1219 GMT (2019 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Camel milk is used in lattes, milkshakes, chocolate and cheese in Dubai
  • Bedouins have drunk camel milk for centuries, but commercial production is new
  • "Camelicious" bottled milk is produced at a huge farm on the outskirts of Dubai

Editor's note: Each month, Inside the Middle East takes you behind the headlines to see a different side of this diverse region. Follow us on on Twitter: Presenter Rima Maktabi: @rimamaktabi, producer Jon Jensen: @jonjensen, digital producer Mairi Mackay @mairicnn and writer Cat Davies @catrionadavies

Dubai (CNN) -- In a Dubai café, patrons sip camel-milk lattes, camel-ccinos and shakes made with camel milk.

The newly opened Cafe2Go is one of the first to put camel milk on its menu and it seems to be passing the taste test with intrigued customers.

"I'm surprised because I was thinking it was tasting really different from the normal milk, but ... it's really nice," said customer Nadia Rizk.

"I thought it would be weird when I tried it, but it's just like everything else," said another, Sal Hobbi.

It is the latest sign of a boom in camel-milk products in the United Arab Emirates.

A few years ago, Al-Nassma became the first company in the country to produce camel-milk chocolate. "It tastes really nice," said Martin Van Almsick, general manager of Al Nassma Chocolate. "And the thing is, you don't have to be an expert to notice. This is a great chocolate, everybody can tell."

In the milk are all the vitamins, all the minerals, fat, carbohydrates, you need for daily life
Ulrich Wernery, Central Veterinary Research Laboratory

Camel milk has been a staple for Bedouins for centuries, but it has never before been produced in scale or used commercially in this way. For Emiratis, it is a way of combining local pride with a healthy option. Camel milk is lower in fat and higher in Vitamin C than cow's milk, according to scientists.

"In the milk are all the vitamins, all the minerals, fat, carbohydrates, that you need for daily life," said Ulrich Wernery, scientific director of the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory.

Also on Inside the Middle East: Saudi foodies ditch fast food for fine dining

And it's not just being used in coffee and chocolate. There's also camel-milk cheese and "Camelicious" -- bottled camel milk sold in supermarkets and sometimes flavored with date or chocolate.

They are produced by "Emirates Industry for Camel Milk and Products," one of the world's first large-scale camel milk farms, based in the desert outside Dubai.

"We are using the camel milk, and our grandfathers using the camel milk, for many years," said Mutasher Al Badry, its manager.

"It is not new to us, and it was in our culture to have the milk, and the camel milk products as well," he added. "We are converting the culture to commercial."

The farm has thousands of camels, each producing around six liters of milk a day, but demand is so high they are struggling to keep up.

Farm manager Peter Nagy says that to produce milk, it's important to keep the animals happy .

"That's the whole idea, that's the whole concept," he said. "To keep animals quiet, happy. And then, they will produce milk for us."

See also: Dubai diners flock to eat new 'camel burger'

Both Emirates Industry for Camel Milk and Products and Al Nassma Chocolate receive funding from Dubai's ruling sheikhs, who say they are motivated as much by the desire to promote a healthy product as by profit. In future, they hope, it will be on sale way beyond the shores of the United Arab Emirates.

"We are planning to be a global leader, and also we are planning to be a reference for the world in the camel industry," said Al Badry.

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