COFFEE GROWING REGIONS, PART ONE. 🇾🇪
Welcome to our Coffee Education Series at Mad Priest, Educate the Curious!
First we are going to be focusing on the three main coffee growing regions: Africa (Yemen), Asia (Sumatra), and Latin America (Colombia).
Africa is the birthplace of coffee, and we’re excited to dive in this week by looking at coffee in Yemen, where coffee was first cultivated! Watch the journey of coffee in Yemen from seed to cup here.
Quick Yemen facts:
- Virtually all Yemeni coffee is naturally processed, sometimes Yemen is called the "mother of all natural processed coffee."
- Historically, coffee from Yemen has been known to have notes of chocolate, cinnamon, and cardamom with deep, earthy undertones. However, thanks to Qima Coffee's new and wild processing methods, such as the Alchemy Series, you can now taste blackcurrant, dried mango, lychee, bubblegum, blood orange, etc.
- Yemen's main harvest season is Oct-March, with the best harvest period happening during the months of Oct-Dec.
When you think about the origin of coffee, Ethiopia is most likely the first country that comes to mind. While the coffee tree does have its roots there, the coffee drink (and cultivation of the plant) actually originated in Yemen. It's said to have been first consumed in western Yemen in 1450 by the country's Sufi monk population who used the drink to help them stay awake during all-night meditations.
By the early 1700s, almost all of the country's income came from coffee exports, and all of the world's coffee supply came from Yemen. As a result, a lot of Yemen's farming population moved to growing coffee in the 17th and 18th centuries. Many Yemeni farmers have been working in coffee cultivation for multiple generations going back 400-500 years!
Unfortunately, since the coffee boom, Yemen has seen some very dark days...
"As global demand for coffee exploded, colonial trading companies such as the Dutch, French and British East India Companies began smuggling beans out of Yemen and planting them in countries under colonial rule. Eventually they began producing and exporting their own coffee, typically under forced cultivation systems in which farmers were forced to produce and sell coffee at a price and volume dictated by the colonial trading company.
With sources of cheap coffee being made available and no quality-based differentiation from the market, Yemeni coffee could not compete and its market share began to rapidly shrink. Over just a few centuries, Yemen went from being the world’s only coffee exporting country to having a minuscule share of the market. By 1800, Yemen was producing just 6% of the world’s coffee. Today, it’s less than 0.1%.
As coffee prices remained low over the centuries that followed, Yemen’s coffee industry was neglected and relegated to a relic of the past. Today, coffee cultivation has all but disappeared. What has made matters worse is that Yemeni farmers can make far more money growing the narcotic plant ‘qat’ than they can coffee, and due to the country’s dire economic situation, many have reluctantly switched over.
While the eruption of the 2015 civil war adds another layer of adversity to Yemen’s history, the country’s future has never been so fragile."
We are proud to partner with Qima Coffee for all of our coffees from Yemen, including our current YEMENIA coffee that’s part of our new AXIS MUNDI series. (If you don’t know about Yemenia, read this.)