Yemen coffee might have the richest history among the coffee industry, and a flavor that is worthy of worshipping. Yet, it’s on the verge of extinction.
Humanity and nature haven’t been fair to both Yemen and its coffee industry; people of Yemen have seen them all, natural disasters, wars, outbreaks.
Now, it’s time to raise some awareness of this rare delicacy to protect it from extinction and shed a light on the struggles of Yemen.
Without further ado, let’s dive deeper into the Yemen coffee.
What is Yemen Coffee?
Yemen coffee is the beverage that started the fire, that became a pioneer for the coffee industry throughout the world. Although coffee plants had first originated in Ethiopia, Yemen was the first region to cultivate the plants and turn them into the drink we cherish today. Therefore, it’s safe to say that if it weren’t for Yemen, the coffee industry wouldn’t be the same.
So, the question is: Why was Yemen the first to cultivate the plants and develop them into the drink we know today and most importantly, what makes Yemen coffee unique?
One of the most distinctive features of Yemen coffee is its consistency. The production process is the same one that had been used 500 years ago; nothing has changed. Despite the war and famine, you can still clearly see the beautiful view of the terraced fields with coffee plants, scattered across the Yemen skyline, creating a marvelous scene. In addition, these fields are completely chemical-free. Farmers are still loyal to the good-old-chemical-free ways.
When the cherries are ripe, ready to be cultivated, they are hand-picked by experienced farmers. Unlike the other coffee beans around the world, Yemen coffee beans aren’t removed from the cherries; instead, they’re dry-processed together. The drying process is also special itself; the process usually takes place in rooftops or caverns. Truly natural, isn’t it?
After the drying process is over, beans are separated from the skin, which are then thrown out. This is the point where Yemen coffee beans get their first unique feature: rather irregular beans. What’s more, the grinding process is mostly done by hand too; or should I say donkey’s feet?
The ancient lands of Yemen produce one of the best coffees in the world. As Yemen commonly faces drought, the coffee plant there is resistant to many hardships. Additionally, as they are planted and cultivated in high altitudes, Yemen coffee beans get a unique flavor.
To sum up, thanks to its processing method and high altitude of land, Yemen green coffee beans have some of the most unique characteristics in the world of coffee; truly a delight to drink.
What Does It Taste Like?
Coffee in Yemen is mostly called “Yemen Mocha coffee”, which refers to the authentic, chemical-free-grown beans in the region.
Mocha coffee beans offer you robust, complex, darker and earthy flavors that’ll charm you. You can easily taste the notes of cinnamon, cardamom, tobacco, and some other spices, followed by a chocolaty, authentic aftertaste.
As you might’ve already guessed, the chocolaty aftertaste of Yemen coffee is the one that inspired the Western view of the mocha; nowadays, almost all chocolate flavored coffee drinks are categorized as mocha.
How to Appreciate Its Flavor?
You should be extra careful when roasting and brewing the beans from Yemen, as their flavor can easily disappear if done wrong.
Dark roast goes best with Yemen coffee as it brings out the best in the beans; rich flavors, unique characteristics, exotic aroma. This will also highlight the coffee’s full body. Yemen coffee and dark roast, it’s a match made in heaven.
Yet, you can also prefer medium-roast, but it won’t be as delicious as darker-roasted beans.
Brewing-wise, you can experiment any way you want to. As there are different varieties and flavor profiles of Yemen coffee, several brewing methods may work for them. Yet, my recommendation is you brew espresso due to its excellent chemistry with darker roasts and ability to bring out the hidden flavors of the beans.
Types of Yemen Coffee
The Yemen coffee industry offers us a great variety of choices. 4 prominent growing regions stand out as they all have unique and distinctive flavored coffees. Let’s dive deeper into these regions.
Mostly grown in Central Yemen, Ismaili coffee is one of the most commonly known coffee varieties of the region.
The plant produces a high-quality and pea-like coffee bean which is known for its brightness. This brightness can be muted in some cases, but then the berryish flavor will stand out.
It’s truly one of the most high-quality coffees that you can get from the region. If you get the chance, I recommend you try.
Mocha Sanani Coffee
Being a representative of Yemen mocha beans along with Mattari, Sanani is the name of coffee plants that are grown in Sana’a, capital of Yemen. As the fields are located in low altitudes, it can be considered as somewhat low-quality compared to the other beans, yet, it’s still delicious.
A well-balanced and fruity flavor profile with a low-acidity and medium-body is the reason why Sanani is a joy to drink. Therefore, Sanani coffee is mostly cherished for its complexity and unique pungency.
Mocha Mattari Coffee
Grown in Bani Mattar, Mattari coffee exhibits a pungent character with a winey acidity.
Chocolaty and earthy flavor tones can be found in Mattari, which has heavier-body and well-balanced structure.
These coffee beans are the most famous ones among Yemen coffee varieties due to their unique winey and chocolaty flavor notes with a full body.
Although this variety is as not famous as the others, Hirazi coffee still offers fruity and winey flavor notes with a lighter body.
Kings of Coffee: Past of the Yemen Coffee Industry
Once, Yemen was the king of the world’s coffee industry. The region is believed to be the first region to cultivate plants and develop them into the beverage we love today. In 1450, coffee plants were first planted and brewed by Sufi Monks, leading to a rapid spread of the drink.
As time went by, Yemen became the coffee behemoth of the world, in fact, they were so huge that Port of Mokha dominated the industry single-handedly. Port of Mokha’s name spread around the world and eventually, the beans from Yemen and the chocolaty coffee drinks named after it.
Yet, the Yemen coffee industry is not what it once was; as coffee became widespread, Yemen coffee lost some of its reputation and declined dramatically since then. The wars, disease outbreaks and natural disasters only exacerbated the problem and things are not looking good for quite some time.
How War and Disease Affected Coffee’s Present?
Although Yemen was playing a prominent role in the coffee industry, it’s just a shadow of its former self. Since the 17th century, when Yemen was one of the most important coffee producers in the world, coffee production rates are declining rapidly due to war, diseases, drought and famines.
The nation of Yemen is really going through a lot now. The civil-war torn country has struggled with constant cholera outbreaks since 2017. According to some reports, they had experienced 3 massive cholera outbreaks that almost destroyed the country, infecting a million people and killing thousands. Coffee growing regions were some of the most affected areas by cholera outbreak. Thus, it resulted in a decrease in production.
In addition, Yemen still struggles with civil war that makes life miserable for not just only farmers, but all of the people. Disrupting food chains and destroying water resources, civil war also caused a famine of an unprecedented scale, a crisis which is called “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”.
To sum up, the coffee industry is naturally struggling to produce coffee while there is a civil war, cholera outbreak, drought, and famine out there.
With its unique flavors and rich history, Yemen coffee is an ancient tale waiting to be told. Coffee’s age-old journey wouldn’t be the same without Yemen coffee and its contributions. Yet, chains of bad events starting with a civil war and continuing with diseases and natural disasters, has almost destroyed the country and coffee industry in it.
We should all try harder and contribute to saving efforts of this universal heritage, for the authentic Yemen coffee should be passed down to future generations.
Please share our article in order to raise some awareness and help save this elegant and ancient coffee bean.
A proud coffee aficionado who is determined to share his passion and knowledge about coffee with others. Writing and sci-fi are sine qua non of my life. It is not a good day for me if I haven’t had my coffee in the morning.
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