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 old seed stocks cultivated there, the near-drought condition in which the coffee survives, and (sadly) defects in the cup. These defects are usually due to poor picking and processing, delays in transporting the coffee, and the very humid climate of the port city, Al Hudaydah (or Hodeidah).
Sharasi is a coffee from north of the capital city Sana'a, and a region I had never heard of before my travel to Yemen in 2007. But when we cupped the separated regional lots, lots normally blended to for the generic "Sana'ani" coffee, it was clear what Sharasi was contributing to the mix; clean sweet fruited flavors. What arrived here in the container of small-lots that resulted from the November '07 trip was a bit different from what we cupped there, more muted, lower in general tonality. But it kept with the same theme; rustic sweet fruited notes, and quite "clean" in flavor for a Yemeni coffee. Since then we have offered Sharasi each year, as it always cups with a unique character, and is often the highest scoring Yemeni coffee on the cupping table. This year's offering is no exception.
The aromatics of this year's Sharasi have a nice, fruited sweetness that is less winey, and goes more toward ripening fruits. There's melon and sweet squash in the dry grounds, along with a note of ripe strawberry. Baker's chocolate and caramel are prevalent in the wet aroma, and breaking the crust brings up the smell of banana, strawberry, vanilla, and mulling spices. The fruit characteristics found in Sharasi's aroma transfer nicely to the cup. This is one of those coffees that we really prefer in the Full City roast range, bolstering profile complexity. Also, there's an inherent "earthy-ness" to it, that is toned down a bit in the more developed roast range. The profile is juicy, and denotes golden raisin, plum, apricot, and cantaloupe. Sharasi boasts a big sweetness, verging on caramel, that provides a nice base to the multitude of spices and fruits. There is a pleasant bittering cocoa note that becomes more prevalent the closer you get to Full City+. This also makes for a great Single Origin (SO) espresso, or the perfect crema-producing component to your espresso blend. On its own, Sharasi tends to be more along the lines of a "classic" espresso profile. Whether cup or SO espresso, like all Yemeni coffee, Sharasi greatly benefits from a few days rest. 48 hours is great but we found 72 hours to be best.