Mad Priest Coffee Finds Holy Grail in Yemen, Literally

Mad Priest Coffee Finds Holy Grail in Yemen, Literally

Chattanooga, TN / Yemen, Middle East: Mad Priest Coffee Roasters, a small specialty coffee roasting company just made history on August 8, 2023 with the highest bid ever in a global Cup of Excellence coffee auction — at $444/pound for a lot of Yemeni coffee no less.

Why is this a big deal? 

First, it’s a story of David and Goliath — small business versus big business. Look at what a small business can actually do to help raise the level of excellence and opportunity in an industry like the global coffee industry! The risk associated with this for their small company is huge, but they did it anyway. So, why are big businesses not making more of a difference in the industry? 

Second, it’s a big deal because of Yemen. Mad Priest wants to tell the story of Yemen, its history and the current humanitarian crisis. Not many people know this, but Yemen was the first and only ever free cultivator of coffee. And although Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, Yemen was the first place that commercialized coffee and created cafes. Mad Priest plans to work with Qima Coffee, who are on the ground in Yemen working with coffee farmers, to tell this story.

Michael Rice, owner & operator of Mad Priest shares…“People are already asking me ‘why [did you do this]?!’ followed up with, ‘The coffee must be really amazing!’ The coffee is no doubt delicious, yes. But this is not just regarding one lot of coffee. It's about a rich history of coffee in Yemen – and economically empowering a whole group of people who have been riddled with war (due in large part from my own country, the US). This is about the story of a coffee and a people that needs to be told and heard by every coffee drinker in the world.”

The lot that they paid $444/pound for comes from Muhammad Zidan in Yemen who is 60 years old, and whose family has been farming coffee for generations. To Zidan, today’s challenges, including opaqueness with suppliers, lack of capital flow and reliable public infrastructure – like roads and drainage systems – are hard systemic issues to solve. Not to mention weather and disease affecting farming. He wants those who taste his coffee to know, “our coffee is pure and natural. The coffee we grow has been taken care of every step of the way. It is a labour of love.” 

(Photos from Qima Coffee) 

If more players in the coffee industry got involved like Mad Priest is, this is a model of economic empowerment that can truly make a difference in the lives of coffee farmers – like those in Yemen living in one of the world’s great humanitarian crises. 

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Here's a little more of the madness that Michael shared on Instagram: "The Mad Priest brand always has represented a craziness -- a mad crazy, not just a mad righteous indignation (though we are both).... 
For those of you who remember, in 2020 we (kinda accidentally haha) bought an incredible coffee from Yemen/Qima Coffee in the Cup of Excellence Auction. Qima Coffee have become dear friends over the years and we've continued to work with Qima for sourcing our coffees from Yemen. And we are on the international jury of 25 roasters around the world who judge which coffees will be in the auction every year! 
Remember we're crazy?
So Yeah. The auction was on August 8th and...We got the top lot! We paid $444 dollars a pound. It's a small lot. It's crazy. Yes. It's the highest bid for any coffee in any Cup of Excellence auction. 
We kept bidding on it. This isn't just about a delicious coffee, there was something more going on, something with the story....we are working on how to tell that story, and I'm working on some film ideas. I'm excited to talk about the why and tell this story. I want people to be confused and shocked and then we can talk about how individuals and small businesses can make a big impact. 
We're gonna have some really fun events and the coffee will be available to experience so keep an eye out for more details soon!"

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