Mocha Coffee In Yemen
In ancient times as well as currently, the name of Yemen was linked to Mocha Coffee due to the deep history of the name, which was spread by the colonialists from the port of Al-Makha to countries like Germany, Turkey, Italy, Portugal and others. Actually, I was not planning to write a report about Yemeni coffee, but chance found me sitting with the businessman Ibrahim M. al-Kbous, the general manager of Al-Kbous Industrial Trading & Investment Group.
The conversation was on the history of Yemeni Coffee and its current business. It is an interesting story for me and for the readers to know the hidden tales of Mocha Coffee, the history, the different names of Yemeni coffee, the whole process from planting the seeds up to making the drinks, the people behind its spread, its international reputation, the target market, and the role of the Al-Kbous company and others in promoting it. After the conversation I searched on the Internet about Mocha Coffee and I read a number of articles written by professional writers, but I got two things from Mr. Al-Kbous that the majority of people do not know.
First, is the story of Al-Amam Al-Shathali, who mentioned the Mocha Coffee in his book 750 years ago, when he would drink coffee and stay up all night, to read the Koran and study Sharia, when the coffee tree was just beginning its rise to fame. The second story is about the Japanese and their studies and research, and their decision to classify the different various species that make up Yemeni coffee as number one on the world map. Yemeni Coffee is branded under the name Ibrahim Mocha in Japan, and is very popular, and quite expensive.
After a battery of rigorous testing that included some of the most technologically sophisticated machines available, it was decided that Yemeni Mocha Coffee is the best in quality and taste, in the world. "The Yemeni coffee has tremendous character and wonderful complexity that differentiates it from other coffees, and gives it many characteristics, such as winy, spicy, nutty, malty and fruity. Its uniquely acidic cup makes this coffee simultaneously smooth, and uniquely flavorful--a characteristic usually lacking in other coffees. Mocha Coffee is perhaps the oldest and most famous coffee of all time. It is rich and distinctive overall with a very pronounced taste. This coffee yields what many call the most superbly aromatic and uniquely flavorful cup of coffee in the world," said Mr. al-Kbous.
Interestingly, the name "Mocha" was attached to this coffee by mistake. See, Yemen coffee was originally shipped from a tiny port on the west coast of Yemen called "Al-Makha." Supposedly, in the 17th century, as coffee began to permeate Europe, the chocolate tones of this distinctive coffee deceived many Europeans into incorrectly translating "Makha" as "Mocha." The name stuck and it's been "Mocha" ever since.
For over 150 years, Yemeni Mocha was the only commercial coffee exported to Europe. Initially, Japan, Turkey, the USA, Saudia Arabia, South Africa and India imported this unique coffee. Thereafter, coffee houses began to quickly spread across Europe, then to the four corners of the world. "Today, Yemen Mocha coffee is cultivated much the same way as it was centuries ago and small farmers continue to produce most of the coffee. Although Yemeni Mocha coffee is not certified organic, it continues to be grown using natural organic methods - an old fashioned tradition that continues to this day.
Al-Kbous managed to bring one of the three biggest factories in the Middle East to develop the export process and gives each country the same quality coffee with a brand name for each market: in the United States the name is Kasic Mocha, and in Japan it is called Ibrahim Mocha, and others call it Arabian Roast Coffee," said al-Kbous. This wonderful coffee grows on the fertile terraces of the rugged western Yemeni Mountains, reaching altitudes 5,000 to 3,000 meters above sea level. Grown on rain fed terraces and naturally protected from too much sun by the surrounding mountains, the coffee bean crop is dried on the tree before picking and hulling.
Nearly all of the coffee produced in Yemen is exported. While only a small quantity of the premium grade coffee makes it to the domestic use. Mocha coffee is so distinctive that even a coffee novice will quickly recognize the unique taste of this coffee with excitement. This coffee is superbly aromatic and smooth, with exotic flavors that simply cannot be found in any other coffee variety.
The distinctive qualities and history of Mocha makes it one of those coffees considered a "must try." Such a wonderful uniqueness and delightful brew is certainly worth a couple of extra bucks for your next well-deserved charge. The Yemen coffees are processed as they have been for centuries. All Mocha coffees are dry or natural coffees, dried with the fruit still attached to the beans.
After the fruit and bean have dried, the shriveled fruit husk is removed by millstone, which accounts for the rough, irregular look of Yemeni beans. The traditional ways of transporting coffee still by camels or donkeys in some villages. There are perhaps hundreds of names for local coffee varieties. Most of these names and the trees to which they refer have never been documented, and are identified only within the rich and complex set of oral traditions that make up Yemeni coffee lore. Ismaili, Mattari, Haimi, Buraai, Raimy, Ansi, Yafii, Hamadi, Audini, Sabri and Saddi are the most common Yemeni coffee varieties, named after the villages in which they grow. Ismaili produces tiny, rounded beans resembling split peas.
Mattari, originally describing coffee from Bani Mattar, a very high-altitude growing district just west of the capital of Sana'a, is the most famous of Yemeni coffees. Despite the fact that most exporters mix true Mattari coffees with other, similar coffees, coffee sold by that name still is likely to be the most acidy, most complex, most fragrantly powerful of Yemen origins. Hirazi, from the next set of mountains west of Sana'a, is likely to be just as acidy and fruity, but a bit lighter in the cup. Ismaili, regardless of whether the name describes the variety or the region, is also likely to be excellent but a bit gentler and less powerful than Mattari. The market name Sanani describes a blend of coffees from various regions west of Sana'a, and is typically more balanced, less acidy, and less complex than coffees marketed as Mattari, Hirazi, or Ismaili.
Sanani usually includes somewhat lower-grown coffees from districts like Rami. Yemen has a coffee culture like no other place, and perhaps some of what we enjoy in this cup is due to the old style of trade that still takes place. Exporters do not buy from farms, but through an extensive network of middlemen. Local buyers receive coffee in the pod, the entire dried cherry, and then is stored, allowing the flavors to mature and become more complex. The husk is then removed with a millstone. Yemeni growers are not hurt by this system with so many middlemen, largely because the coffee land under cultivation is limited and the crop is in such high demand.
Competition from the Saudis and others also keeps Yemeni coffee prices very high; one kilo of "Sanani" coffee can sell for approximately $40 in the USA, whereas in Japan, consumers might pay $40 for a single cup of Mattari. For this and other reasons Al-Kbous is staging a number of activities in Japan to keep the Mocha brand alive and growing in popularity. The exhibition that is going to be held in Djibouti is a remarkable example of the importance to Al-Kbous of marketing the Yemeni coffee.