Yemen Mocca Hayma al Roowad
Part of our reserve series of rare and exceptional coffees, this is truly one of the rarest and most rewarding coffee experiences we have enjoyed — and we’re confident it will be for you, as well.
Flavor Notes: Malbec wine, grape Jolly Rancher, cacao nibs, strawberry shortcake, tamarind, beautiful and complex acidity; massive mouthfeel
Process: Full natural, sun-dried
Origin: Sana’a region, Yemen
Scroll down for more details on this coffee.
This rare and exceptional coffee comes from the al Roowad coffee association, a farmers’ association in Al-Haymah. This coffee is grown on small terraces (called lebnah) at altitudes from 1,800 to 2,500 meters above sea level (which is truly exceptional elevation for the cultivation of coffee). Terracing of growing areas is important due to the extremely rough terrain found in this area of the world. Without terracing erosion would devastate the hillsides, where extreme drops of elevation are commonplace. A truly rare find, this natural process coffee boasts complex and clean fruits and spice. Dig deeper and you’ll find a lovely honeyed sweetness and boozy cacao notes — particularly as it cools.
Yemen has a coffee culture like no other place, and the distinct flavor profile can be partially credited to the old style of trade in the country. Yemen is the first place coffee was commercialized, traded through the port city of Al Mahka (Mokha). Yemeni coffee has a distinct, rustic flavor profile which can be attributed to the fact it is all dry-processed, as well as the old seed stocks cultivated there, and also due to the near-drought condition in which the coffee survives.
The Yemen trade is complicated. Exporters do not buy from farms, but through an extensive network of middlemen. Local buyers receive coffee in the pod, the entire dried cherry, which is stored, usually in underground caverns! Yemeni growers are not hurt by this system with so many middlemen, largely because the coffee land under cultivation is limited, production is fairly low due to high altitude and limited inputs, and the crop is in such high demand.
Yemen was the original commercial coffee source, brought to Europe by Muslim traders or their trading partners. It is also the source of most coffee grown in the world today: Bourbon and Typica came from Yemen. In a way, Yemen has a greater claim as the origin of coffee as Ethiopia, because recorded history of coffee dates back 1,200 years. Yet most agree that coffee was not native to Yemen; it came from the highlands of Western Ethiopia (some claim Jimma, others Kaffa). It was transported along with other goods and slaves and was cultivated all along the way, ending up in the Eastern Ethiopian kingdom of Harar. From there it came to Yemen where it was grown for local consumption and to trade around Arabia, the Mediterranean, and beyond.
In the 19th century Mokha coffee retained it’s status as rare and valuable, even if the article sold was rarely genuine. But in the era of maritime trade by sailing vessels, personal “taste” was cultivated by coffee aged in the holds of the ship, as with the legendary Old Brown Java that would leave Indonesia green and arrive in the USA the color of wood chips (and the taste of them as well). It seems that acidic brightness in coffee was not appreciated, nor was a clean taste, or freshness. So in that sense, Yemeni coffee is still judged by a different yardstick than many prized wet-processed coffees of the modern day.
In many areas the coffee is grown on terraces with stone supporting walls (see photos above), some dating back 2,000 years. The only reason the soil in the terraces isn’t completely depleted and can sustain coffee growth is the historical lack of intensive farming methods. With such scant water supply, most areas couldn’t sustain intensive crops with high yielding output anyway, so the nutritional requirements have been in a sustainable balance with what the soil can produce.
Mokha (Al-Mahka) is the port city that Yemeni coffee ships from. It has nothing to do with chocolate. Why is the coffee called Mokha? Because in the coffee trade it was too complicated to name all the little sub-regions where the coffee is actually grown, even though they do produce notably different coffees in terms of the cup.
Click here for a superb article on Yemen’s coffee culture and industry.
Our thanks to Sweet Maria’s for much of the information above.
K-cup grind, Whole bean, French press grind, Drip grind, Espresso grind