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).
Ismaili is a "fabled" origin. Even in Yemen, in a local market in Sana'a, the spice-tea-qishr-coffee vendor told me his green beans (much of it broken "triage" coffee, mixed with cardamom pods) were truly special. "It's Ismaili coffee, " he said. I didn't mention that I slept on the floor of a villagers house the night before, in the mind-boggling vertical mountains of Ismaili, a landscape etched in stone with ancient terraces lined with ghat and coffee trees. The cup has always had a big spicy character, not the fruitiest Yemen coffee but with a unique flavor profile. It's amazing, with all the issues in Yemen, we were even able to get coffee exported in 2012. But here it is, and it is cupping really well.
Like most of our Yemeni coffees, Ismaili cups well along the whole roast spectrum, and its aroma and flavor profile is as variant as the roast possibilities. In the dry aroma, lighter roasts show milk chocolate, concord grape, strawberry, and banana bread, whereas darker roasts have dried banana, tobacco, and cacao nibs. The wet grounds smell of chocolate brownie, and mulling spices, while the break has a scent of Mexican hot cocoa, and pine. This is a very pleasant cup at City+/FC. There's a lot of dried fruit in the cup, such as tamarind, strawberry, apricot, and banana. It has a rustic sweetness that is akin to natural, unrefined sugars like muscavado, or turbinado. Full City+ roasts have a much more intense flavor profile with strong bittersweet notes throughout. It's still a relatively "spicy" cup, but more in line with root beer or even raw licorice root. There's lots of cacao in the finish alongside hints of aromatic wood, and tropical fruits. Dark roasts make a nice single origin (SO) espresso, and would also be a great component to an espresso blend. Whether cup or SO espresso, like all Yemeni coffee, Ismaili benefits from a few days rest. 48 hours is great but we found 72 hours to be best. This is even more true for espresso. The SO espresso was very intense and complex. With Ismaili it's fun to try a melange of 1/3 City+ roast and 2/3 FC or FC+ roast, either for drip or espresso.