Sweet Maria's Home Coffee Roasting

An Introduction to Yemen

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Baskets of Sorted Coffee
Baskets of Sorted Coffee
After the coffee is entirely sorted, it is loaded into baskets, each representing one 50 kg bag of exportable coffee, ready for jute bagging.
Sowaid Hodeida Warehouse
Sowaid Hodeida Warehouse
Amar and his cousin at the Hodeida warehouse of Sowaid, where the final hand sorting of the coffee takes place.
Good Preparation
Good Preparation
This is a closeup of the coffee at the Sowaid warehouse ready for export. The prep is quite good, and when you consider there are no machines used, it's amazing.
Al Muhakri talks coffee
Al Muhakri talks coffee
Many of the people in Hodeida are Afro-Arabic, as are the woman who are experts at hand sorting the coffee here. There are no sorting machines, it is entirely done visually. (Notice the sweat - it is hot in Hodeida).
Soda, water, qat
Soda, water, qat
You need to drink liquids because the qat is drying. This can, which I think was Mountain Dew, was so unusual to me, summing up the way that things seemed familiar here, but so alien too. Kinda sad I would experience that coincedence between "familarity" and "displacement" through a major brand, but that's the way it goes.
The Arabic Bathroom
The Arabic Bathroom
A toilet without a pedestal, or a seat for that matter. No TP, and a hose on the wall. You figure it out.
Room with a view
Room with a view
We stayed at the best hotel in Hodeida, which isn't saying much. The Red Sea looks like a big lake here, and the climate is muggy.
Morning in Hodeida
Morning in Hodeida
It's already getting muggy at 8 AM. You start the appreciate the higher cmiles of Sana'a
The Urban Flock
The Urban Flock
... oddest of all, I think the kid was reading a book or something. I guess the sheep watch out for themselves.
Street Shepard
Street Shepard
There are lots of things that you will see on the streets of an American city, but this is NOT one of them
Hotel Art
Hotel Art
I thought the hotel art was funny until ...
Wha' !?!
Wha' !?!
... it's just plain bizarre. Woman on the mind; kinda literal, eh?
More Dawairi Mokha shots
More Dawairi Mokha shots
can you take too many pictures of ripe coffee cherry? I think not.
More Dawairi
More Dawairi
Nowhere did I see overripe coffee cherry on the trees here. They have a climate where they could "dry on the tree". simply not pick the coffee and allow it to dry out on the branch. But I did not see this practice at all. It would be an interesting experiment to cup the difference tree-drying would make.
Green and Almost Ripe
Green and Almost Ripe
You can see the gradiant of pink-to-rose-coloration of this ripening cherry. Ideally it would sit a few days longer, but cup-wise it would probably be fine to pick it at this stage.
Thompson and Sowaid
Thompson and Sowaid
Neither of us quite awake.
Millstone from Denmark
Millstone from Denmark
A heavy mill stone from Denmark at Mayan town. I believe they use this for coffee, as well as grains. Most often, the coffee is milled from dry cherry husk at the collectors, often in Sana'a. But I presume it sometimes done in the village.
Boy and Millstone
Boy and Millstone
Here's a better view of their "mill" for grain and coffee.
Motorcycles of Hodeida
Motorcycles of Hodeida
This is typical, that a bike is covered in cloth, or more often in fur! When they cover them in fur they look like Barbarella bikes - or maybe that is Alley Oop.
Spiced coffee in the morning
Spiced coffee in the morning
We slept soundly on the floor, our hosts ensuring we had ample blankets. Next morning they would not let us start without some hot coffee. We sat and took in the view. If you live in the mountains of Yemen, you have a view, and one that would be worth millions in the US, frankly.
Ismaili Portraits
Ismaili Portraits
In Mayan, another young guy that helped us carry our stuff.
Mayan in the AM
Mayan in the AM
A last view of Mayan, where we were treated so well, as we depart at 7 AM.
Sheer rock face
Sheer rock face
Terraces for coffee in an otherwise steep rock wall. See the figure in the image for scale.
Nice grafitti
Nice grafitti
Pictographic painting along the trail back to Bani Atiah.
Burly Man
Burly Man
Back at the Sowaid warehouse, I had some serious hat head, my favorite animal t-shirt (drives some people crazy) and not nearly enough coffee in me to lift a 50 kg basket
Bag and Ship
Bag and Ship
It takes a week to prepare a lot of coffee, then a couple days to bag it, load it in a container and get it onto the ship. Unfortunately, Hodeida and it's muggy climate is bad for coffee. But Sowaid makes sure the coffee sits no lobger than 10 days here before it is on a ship, or else he sends it back to the better climate of Sana'a to be stored.
Coffee Nursery!
Coffee Nursery!
Along the little diverted stream channel, a little shelf in the rock provided a safe place to propagate coffee seedlings. It seems ideal, within easy reach of water and somewhat protected from the foraging goats.
Closeup of the Ismaili coffee nursery
Closeup of the Ismaili coffee nursery
By propagating their own seedstock, the unique Ismaili Dawairi heritage continues.
The Sowaid cousins
The Sowaid cousins
The Sowaid cousins
Weighing the bag
Weighing the bag
Mr. Sowaid's brother runs the coffee operation in Hodeida. Ali looks on.
Littlest Cousin
Littlest Cousin
Littlest Cousin
Tour of Hodeida
Tour of Hodeida
We drove around a bit, but there is not a lot to see here.
So-So Prep.
So-So Prep.
The preparation of the coffee was noticably worse than at the other warehouse... not horrific, but the broken beans, pods and black beans could be seen. There's a reason the prep is different ... not because they couldn't do a better job, but it's based on the economics: what final price will the market bear for Yemeni coffee. It's already 2x - 3x the price of other origins!
Close-up of Muslot Preparation
Close-up of Preparation
As it turns out, it is the same women who work at all the warehouses. They form a crew, and when they are done at one they go to another. But they know the different specifications of the various clients. When you remove too many defects from the coffee, the exporter is losing money ...there's less finished product to bag up. So it really depends on who the final client is, and what they are willing to pay for the lot.
The worst defects.
The worst defects.
It seemed that here they were removing only the worst defects, as seen here, but not the broken beans, under-ripes (they have a greenish, wrinkled appearance.) At this point, the foreman came and since we were with a different exporter, well ... it was time to go. We did not have permission or an invitation to visit.
Muslot Warehouse
The Other Warehouse
I just liked this image, shoes and discarded coffee. I couldn't take pictures of the interior since there were about 40 women there, and you shouldn't take pictures of them out of respect. In fact, as you enter a Yemeni house you are supposed to say "Allah, Allah ..." to warn women you are coming, if they wish to duck out of the room for modesty sake.
IMG_0732.JPG
IMG_0732.JPG
Rugs
Rugs
or theuse rugs. In any case, they seem to have taken the idea of Mecahnical Horse quite literally.
Yet More Drama
Yet More Drama
It's difficult to point a camera here and not take a great picture. Okay, I'll fess up, I have an masters in photography, and I bought a new camera just for the trip. Still, I doubt there is a tourist that goes to Yemen and does not return without fantastic pictures.
PBS Rocks Yemen
PBS Rocks Yemen
And what about the surprising fame of Ernie and Bert? Their trash is everywhere ... PBS would be proud.
Amusing Trash 1
Amusing Trash 1
Actually some of the trash is entertaining. Does this look like a design someone might have dredged up from the 1950's?
Bombed Out Truck
Bombed Out Truck
Well, stripped of everything useful. A lot of these are old Fiats, maybe because of the Italian influence across the way, in Ethiopia.
Fairwell to the Boys of Bani Atiah
Fairwell to the Boys of Bani Atiah
Again, a good portion of the town was there to see us depart. I admit a certain comfort to return to the car and no longer be quarry or American specimen or curiousity.
Family Transit
Family Transit
I wonder when the kids will outgrow this arrangement.
Fairwell Shot
Fairwell Shot
We made it back to Bani Atiah, but had to pause a while to wait for Mr. Al Muhakri. It was such a steep hike back up the trail, I was out of breath. The altitude was in full effect too.
MC M.C.
MC M.C.
Rare Western-style guy, something you don't see much in Yemen.
Motorcycle City.
Motorcycle City.
There were a lot of motorcycles in Hodeida, so I snapped a few pictures.
Fairwell Jagged Peaks of Ismaili
Fairwell Jagged Peaks of Ismaili
On the road back, morning light created dramatic profiles of the sawtooth ridges of Ismaili.

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