History of Yemen

The history of Yemeni coffee is not the kind of boring history you come across about countries gaining independence and technical advancement.

The history of Yemeni coffee is gripping, to say the least.

To begin with, Coffee got introduced to Yemen by the Arabs in the year 1536 and coffee turned out to be a vital part of the Yemeni community when the Ottoman Turks took control of the country. It was the Ottomans who discovered about Yemen’s unexplored potential to be able to export enormous quantities of coffee across the globe. 

The coffee culture in Yemen is a distinct one that has no similarity to other places and the credit for its unique flavour profile goes to the exclusive climatic conditions and the incredible coffee processing techniques.

Commercialization of coffee first began in Yemen and it was exported through the port city of Mokha (Al Mahka). Anyone who has tasted Yemeni coffee will have all praises for its distinguished, rustic flavour profile. This originates from the drying process and also the old landraces of the coffee cultivation there.

It is already known that coffee plants were actually indigenous to the western regions of Ethiopia. Introduced by the Ottomans, coffee started gaining popularity as a beverage in the early 6th century. However, it was only in Yemen where the coffee plants were first cultivated and processed into what we know as today, coffee.

As per the records in History, Yemen coffee was processed nearly 500 years ago in the Sufi monasteries located on the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen continued to be the one and only source of coffee for around 200 years. The popularity of coffee hit the European market only in 1650 and that marked the emergence of café businesses and coffee shops.

What’s So Special About Yemeni Coffee & Why Is It Valuable?

The most unique aspect of Yemeni coffee is that the production process has remained the same for the past 500 years. The coffee plants are cultivated on the terraced fields in small family farms, organically, without the use of any chemicals. The coffee fruits, known as ‘cherries’ when they turn ripe, are picked by hand. The beans remain inside the fruit and are dry processed altogether. These coffee fruits undergo an exclusive drying period on rooftops or inside dark rooms.

Once the fruit is dry, the outer covering of the fruit is removed, leaving behind a rough and irregular seed, a distinctive feature of Yemen coffee beans. The beans are crushed inside millstones that are mostly turned by camels or donkeys. This exquisite coffee variety is cultivated in a place that has a high altitude and is prone to drought. These are some of the processing factors that add to the uniqueness of these low production crops and at the same time, rendering a special flavour profile to the Yemeni coffee.

The flavour and aroma of Yemeni coffee are prominent, pronounced. It has a complex earthiness that retains the tones of dried fruit and is partially because the coffee beans are dried along with the husks. Authentic, organic, fresh Yemeni coffee is also eminent for exhibiting notes of cardamom, cinnamon, chocolate or tobacco. Since the note of chocolate is the most prevalent in Yemeni coffee, it accounts for the popular usage of the term ‘Mocha’ when alluding to this specialty coffee variety.