Yemen Coffee Origin:
Origin stories are always interesting to hear. So often we get an origin story after the ending has already been told, then we decide to go back and discover where all our favorite heroes and villains, trailblazers and wanderers came from and what events set them on their journey. Coffee is no different and since it is one of my heroes, let's go back and take a look at some of its origins and we’ll start with where it supposedly all started Yemen.
It is widely agreed that Ethiopia is where coffee truly originated, but Yemen is considered to be the place where it took off and was cultivated and became the beverage we know today. It has been grown and harvested by local farmers that found their unique terrain and climate not conducive for growing other plants. They would use camels to cross the country and take the bean to the port of Mokha where it would be exported to the rest of the world. Side note, people think the port of “Mokha” is where the current term “mocha” came from as a kind of “nod” to coffee origins.
How It’s Grown:
As mentioned above, Yemen does not have a great climate for growing agriculture. Only three percent of the land is actually suitable for farming and restricted access to water is one of the main issues. The coffee is grown at high altitudes and on terraced land, but the farmers rely on additional irrigation and underground water sources to keep the coffee trees alive. There is some concern about depleting the water source and soil nutrients as the soil is not often fertilized and many of the natural water sources are non-renewable. All these are factors as to why Yemen coffee beans can be so inconsistent in flavor along with the fact that all the farming and harvesting is done by hand. The cherries are often dried on the roof of the farmer’s own homes and due to lack of space, they are dried unevenly which leads to fermentation and mold. This also results in sellable crop sizes being small. Due to the small crop sizes and the simple difficulty of getting the coffee beans from farm to port for distribution, it drives the price of the coffee beans very high.
So, now that we have an understanding of how the beans are grown in Yemen and what some of the contributing factors are to its unique flavor, let’s talk about some of the flavor notes you might find in coffee from Yemen. Wild, pungent and complex is often used to describe the unique coffee. Because of the inconsistencies in the drying method, there are fruity flavor notes along with a slightly fermented hint. Some other flavor notes that are often found in Yemen coffee are cinnamon, chocolate, cardamom, and tobacco. There is clearly a wide range of flavors that come out of Yemen coffee and this could be attributed to the fact that coffees from different regions are often blended together before export to make for larger shipments.
Origin stories. Fascinating, educational and hopefully you leave with more information as to where something you love came from. Yemen coffee is rare and difficult to source. It has an extremely unique flavor profile and a journey that is just as unique. From its conception, Yemen coffee is cared for by hands that are not just looking after their livelihood, but also carrying on centuries of tradition. The next time you have the chance to enjoy a cup of coffee from Yemen, hopefully, you remember some of its origin story and the journey it has been on. So, sit back, relax and enjoy every sip. Cheers!