For all who have deployed to or passed through the Australian Defence Force’s main operating base in the Middle East, the ‘Bean around the MEAO café’ is an institution.
CAPTION: Commander Joint Task Force 633 Air Commodore David Paddison celebrates the 10th anniversary of the ‘Bean around the MEAO’ café with owner Aileen Stoddart. Story by Flight Lieutenant Clarice Hurren. Photo by Sergeant Glen McCarthy.
Celebrating 10 years of serving quality coffee on September 12, The Bean has become a place of relaxation that feels like home for many service men and women.
Personnel currently serving on Operation Accordion held an informal cake-cutting ceremony to remember and recognise all those who have stepped through the doors.
Founder and owner Alieen Stoddart said the past decade had been an incredible journey.
“Open seven days a week, The Bean provides some tranquillity for ADF members deployed for long periods of time,” Ms Stoddart said.
“Every morning we open the doors to our house, not a business.
“The Bean has ensured so many people form meaningful connections, despite being so far from home.”
Over the years, Ms Stoddart has been invited to attend three weddings in Australia – a direct result of relationships originating over coffee dates at The Bean.
“The people are the legacy of The Bean – that’s what makes it so special,” Ms Stoddart said.
“Prime Ministers have stopped by and even Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, said hello in 2016.
“We have made more than 3500 Bean mugs that have since travelled back with ADF members to Australia, and during our busiest times we served more than 400 coffees every day.”
Also organising cakes or flowers for birthdays and other milestones, The Bean has been the link between the inside and outside of the base.
Ms Stoddart said a competition was held early on to choose the café’s iconic name.
“It was Sergeant Suzie Coleman who suggested ‘Bean around the MEAO’ and this was selected by now Chief of Defence Force General Angus Campbell back in 2011,” Ms Stoddart said.
“It’s unreal to think a lady from north-west Scotland who moved to Dubai would end up owning a coffee shop inside an Australian military base.
“The Bean is my family. I call the team the Bean Boys and a lot of them have been working here since day one.
“To anyone who remembers their time at The Bean, I’m so thankful for all the incredible memories.”