Our latest single origin offering from Yemen is finally here! This is always one of the most eagerly anticipated coffees of the year and it is now available for purchase in all three of our cafes as well as from our website.
Coffee was discovered in Ethiopia, but it was first cultivated across the Red Sea in Yemen, quickly gaining popularity with Sufi mystics, who used it in all-night religious ceremonies. As cultivation expanded, coffee beans were exported from the port city of Mocha, but the local merchants retained a monopoly by prohibiting the sale or export of live seeds. In the 17th century, Dutch traders managed to smuggle seeds out of Yemen, and this led to the eventual spread of coffee cultivation throughout the world.
Coffee in Yemen is still unique, due to the fact that it has remained in isolation. Yemen is a starkly beautiful country but suffers from a harsh climate with very little rainfall. The areas where coffee is grown are mountainous and often only accessed by days of trekking. Coffee trees have had to adapt over centuries to this inhospitable environment, resulting in varietals that are exclusive to the country. Due to the lack of precipitation, the plants are under constant stress, which increases the amount of nutrients and sugars in the cherries. The end result is a highly developed and complex cup of coffee.
In recent years, coffee production in Yemen has suffered on several fronts. Not only has the country been ravaged by political instability and violent insurgency, but much of the coffee growing areas have been given over to the cultivation of Qat, a plant whose leaves provide a mild stimulant effect when chewed. These factors, coupled with a fundamental lack of understanding between Yemeni coffee growers and speciality coffee buyers has led to a sharp decline in production. The Rayyan Mill was set up to bridge the gap between Yemeni coffee people and the speciality market. Their aim has been to return coffee from Yemen to its rightful place on the world stage by working closely with a network of farmers to improve quality and communication. They have also introduced modern equipment to process the coffee for export. All of these efforts have led to high quality coffee and increased income for the farmers.
This Al Ghayoul special lot represents the fourth year of our relationship with the folks at Rayyan Mill and is grown in the Hajja region at between 1675 and 1755 meters above sea level. After harvesting, traditional natural patio drying is followed by washing after depulping. This complex coffee is highlighted by bright and sweet flavors of strawberry jam, red apple hard candy and fresh vanilla bean. Subtle hints of cinnamon and milk chocolate come through on the finish.
Read more here about our friend Andrew Nicholson and the extraordinary lengths he has gone to in order to get Yemeni coffee out into the world.