Yemeni Coffee History

The origin of coffee is rooted in Yemeni history and tradition!
Yemen was the first country where coffee was prepared.

Beans began to be processed, distributed, and commercially traded across the seas. It is impossible to unlink the history of Yemeni coffee from the coffee beans now found across the globe. Whether they are beans found in Brazil, Indonesia, Columbia, or Ethiopia, Yemen is present in all these beans’ lineage.

Beginning of the story
Where was coffee first consumed?

Legend has it that the coffee trade roots stem from the regions inside and between Yemen and Ethiopia. The two oldest records of when coffee was first enjoyed are linked to Arab culture. More than a thousand years ago, under the knowledge of Dr. Abu Bakr Muhammad Al-Rhaze (865-925 AD), the medicinal properties of coffee were published in a health encyclopedia for the first time. He wrote about the difference between the fruit of the Bunn (coffee) and about the health advantages of drinking coffee (the beverage or “bun chum”). He wrote about the benefits to the stomach of drinking coffee. The Arab doctor and philosopher Ibn Sina Avicenna (980-1037 AD) further explained how coffee stimulates healthy digestion.

  • Antiquity

    As early as the 16th century, Yemen was the first country to commercialize coffee. As of 1,536 AD, most of the cups made throughout Europe were prepared with beans grown in Yemen. The Ottoman Empire controlled the export of Yemeni coffee from the port of Al-Mokha (Yemen) to the entire length of the Red Sea and, for more than 150 years, they managed to be the only coffee traders.

  • Conservation

    As a measure to preserve their business, the ancient Yemeni coffee traders partially roasted or boiled the green coffee beans to prevent them from being replanted and cultivated in other lands.

A little later, the Dutch also traded Yemeni coffee under the name Mocha / Mocca / Mokha coffee (the name they gave it for the seaport of Al-Mokha), which gradually became an adjective for coffee and chocolate. This mixture is due to the fact that Yemeni coffee has always had strong notes of chocolate and cocoa, a result of the natural conditions of Yemen where the properties of the soil, the climate, the altitude, the unique varieties as well as the coffee growing processes stand out. This process gives the beans such unique qualities: small but very dense beans, with sweet, strong chocolatey, and fruity notes; qualities and processes that are still preserved today.

In the year 1600, a pirate managed to remove seven green coffee beans stuck to his belly. This smuggler reached South India, where he successfully cultivated coffee plants. A few years later, the Dutch took some coffee trees and grew them in Java, Indonesia. And that is how, little by little, Yemen lost the world coffee trade. However, thanks to this, more than 90% of the coffees grown in the world come from Yemen’s mountains. Many of these varieties evolved to other origins, but in Yemen, the original plants were kept. No matter what origin you drink, there is a high probability that Yemen is present in that bean’s lineage.
Yemeni coffee farmers have maintained their coffee tradition

To this day, they have managed to maintain and improve the working processes they used back when they were the only country that exported coffee. One of these processes is natural drying, where after the ripe cherries are hand-picked, they use the floating system to get rid of any defected cherries, then spread them out under the sun to dry naturally. This process can last between 16 and 22 days, which leads to intense sweetness and an explosion of fruity notes. This process can be done on raised beds or on the rooftop of farmers’ growers’ houses. However, the natural process is not the only factor that brings out the exotic flavors of Yemeni coffee. Most of the coffee plants in Yemen are cultivated at some of the world’s highest altitudes (1,800 – 2,700 meters above sea level). This makes the beans smaller, compacted, and very complex.

Centuries ago, Yemen dominated the world coffee market, while today, Yemeni coffee represents only 1% of this market. Although the percentage is small, the demand is quite high since the quality, the ancient varieties, the process, and the traceability make it a unique and highly valued origin.

It should be noted that at present, only 4% of Yemeni territory has soil suitable for growing coffee. Due to being a single origin in high demand, there are many counterfeits on the market. To solve this problem, it is common to see the farmer’s names and the farm on Yemen’s coffee bags. This measure was adopted after a joint effort between coffee growers, exporters, and importers to maintain the traceability of all the coffees grown in the country. By tracing our coffee, we seek to guarantee the origin of the product and honor the people behind all this hard work producing quality specialty coffee. We believe in complete transparency in the entire coffee process.

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