Region: Ismaili, Yemen
Cup Profile: dried apricot and fig with blackcurrant, cordial notes of tamarind and a smooth silky caramel body
Coffee is grown in Yemen in mountainous areas up high on plateau’s and in valleys that are between 1600 – 2100 masl in altitude. It is known for being the first place to cultivate coffee after it was brought to the region in the 15th Century by Sufi Monks from here it grew with coffee being exported it the 16th Century from the port of Al-Makha which gave birth to the name of the Mocha drink known around the world today. In the 19th Century exports of coffee reached more than 57,000 MT at its peak which is a very different story to today with less than 20,000 MT. The coffee is produced on small, terraced farms in high mountains in very simple ways. All coffee is hand-picked, grown with the use of natural organic fertilizers and dried and dried on raised beds or roof tops.
These coffees have been sourced through Mocha Mill one of the first specialty coffee exporters in Yemen. Mocha Mill embarked on its journey into Specialty coffee in Yemen in 2014 when they decided to do a feasibility studies in producing and exporting specialty coffee. They were able to get coffees out to the USA in the first season to be cupped and graded to help them understand the quality they had. Unfortunately, at this time the country broke out into civil war in 2014 but this did not stop them continuing their journey and over the years has led them to establish supply chains in 6 different regions in Yemen. Within this time, they have also built a dry mill in 2017 in Samat where they also have invested in a colour sorter as well and state of the art milling equipment and building warehouses for drying experimental coffees. In 2021 they have produced and exported in total about 10 containers of 80 + Specialty coffee around the World to Japan, Australia, Middle East, UK And Europe.
Mocha Mill have focused on working with farmers throughout Yemen making them the focus of their work. They have been educating them on best agricultural practices to improve the yield and quality of the coffee produced from their trees. A key part of their strategy is to empower the farmers and especially the women as they make up about 75% of the farmers in Yemen. They work with full transparency with their farmers to build long lasting relationships. The farmers are paid on delivery of the cherry to the buying point in each of the regions that Mocha Mill have established.
This incorporates striving to implement the highest coffee quality control standards, specifications and protocols to improve the lives of all Yemenis involved in the coffee supply chain.
Traditionally farmers in Yemen they work on small plots from 60 – 70 trees to 400 – 500 trees. The variety mainly is Jaadi /Udhini which is a large tree known for its good production. On average famers will produce around 1500kg of cherry which equates to about 3 bags of 60kg exportable coffee. Across all the farmers the average price paid for cherry was $2.47/kg of cherry for those who work with Mocha Mill. Famers mainly earn income from coffee but some also grow Qat (Khat) which as a strong legal internal market within Yemen. It is also chewed daily by 90% of the population.
As part of their focus they are placing sustainability at the center of their business practises. Yemen is a country facing drought and water shortages. Mocha Mill are implementing innovative irrigation and dry
processing techniques to address water scarcity and reduce impact on the communities and their access to such a precious source.
The 11 lots we have sourced this season come from Ismaili, Harazi and Howari located in the central or south west of the country. Mocha Mill highlighted one area called Wadhi Almaa in the Harazi district for experimental processing. Here they worked directly with farmers buying cherry for experimental anaerobic lots where their team in the harvest worked alongside the famers implementing a harvest plan. These lots were fermented in barrels for 120 hours before then being slow dried for nearly 50 days.
All the coffees once stable are then taken to the Mocha Mill warehouse in Sana’a where they are stored in ecotact and then cupped and assorted according to quality. From here they are then milled, colour sorted and then hand-picked before being bagged in 30kgs in preparation for export.
Bani Ismail it is one of the districts of Manakha, the Yemeni governorate of Sanaa. The population of Bani Ismail about 4,989 people and it is about 132 km away from the capital, Sana’a.