Technical Notes: Yemen Coffees

offered by Yemen Specialty Coffees Ltd.; Robert Barker, Ken Davids


Authenticity. Yemen Specialty Coffees Ltd.'s coffees are all guaranteed 100% authentic Yemen, without possibility of adulteration by similar but lesser coffees from Africa. YSC obtains its coffees directly from tribal middlemen in the Yemen highlands, far from the southern port of Aden, the entry point for contraband African coffees.

Market names and growing regions. Over the centuries Yemenis have evolved hundreds of names for growing districts and types of coffee. Of these, Yemen Specialty Coffees makes available premium qualities of the following: Mattari. Originally from the Bani Mattar district west of capital city of Sana'a, Mattari today typically includes coffees from surrounding areas as well. Consequently, Mattaris differ in quality and character. Yemen Specialty Coffee's Mattan' is an outstanding example of this Yemen classic: acidy, winy, full-bodied, fragrant, gamey. Very high-grown with a very hard bean. Hirazi From the second high range of mountains one crosses on the road from Sana'a to the coast, Hirazi could be Yemen's finest coffee. The winey acidity is high-toned, heady and powerful. The body is perhaps slightly lighter than the body in most Mattaris, but still substantial. Dhamari From the mountains surrounding the provincial capital of Dhamari south of Sana'a, this a slightly softer coffee than Mattari or Hirazi. Still winy and acidy, but less assertive, more rounded, with excellent body. Also called Anisi. Other names. Yemen Specialty Coffees does not import coffee under the market name Sanani, since coffees so designated could originate from a number of different growing districts near the capital of Sana'a. We regularly cup other Yemen coffees, and will supply samples to those interested in exploring these origins, which are typically softer and less intense than Mattari or Hirazi.

Botanical varietals. Virtually all Yemen coffee comes from ancient, "heirloom" varieties of coffee arabica first naturalized hundreds of years ago. The two most famous are Ismaili, which produces small, round, pea-like beans, and Adeni or Mattari, which produces small, rounded, oval beans.

Growing elevations. All of YSC's coffees are grown at elevations over 5,000 feet. Most are grown considerably higher.

Environment and health. Yemen coffee is grown almost exactly as it was hundreds of years ago: without use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.

Bean size. All traditional-variety Yemens are small-bean coffees. If a purported Yemen coffee displays consistently large beans, it is probably not a Yemen.

Appearance and roast. Yemen is husked by millstone and screened and cleaned by hand. Although YSC's coffees all are double- or triple-hand-picked, bean size and color remain irregular. These irregularities do, not affect cup quality or character.

Processing method. All Yemen coffee is dry-processed. Ripe coffee cherries are dried in thin layers on rooftops, husked by millstone, and winnowed and cleaned by hand.

Cup profile. Yemen is one of the more distinctive-tasting coffees in the world. The acidity is bright and complex, and the flavor alive with notes that range from candied fruit through wine to dark chocolate. The body is medium to ftdl. The profile generally displays excellent range and dimension. Particularly in a darker roast the fragrance and aroma are intense and exhilarating. Yemen also displays a twist to the wine-fruit tones that some call "wild" or "gamey." This flavor note is clearest in the aftertaste. Purists who judge all coffees against extremely clean, washed Central-American profiles may find this aftertaste objectionable, but Yemen's many admirers (including William Ukers, Philippe Jobin, Kenneth Davids, Kevin Knox and others) accept it as a minor distraction in the overall rich, complex Yemen package. Cup a sample and decide for yourself If you do, we suggest you try the coffee at both at a cupping roast and at darker degrees of roast to understand the full range of its possibility.

Price- Yemen sells for more than most other coffees because it is extremely popular everywhere "Turkish" style coffee is drunk. Saudi-Arabians in particular love it and are willing to pay premium prices for even low-quality Yemen Mochas. This interest creates a floor under the price and prevents it from fluctuating to the same lows that affect other coffees.

Roast style recommendations. Degree of roast has a particularly dramatic effect on the cup characteristics of Yemen Mocha. Its complexity and hard bean means its flavor profile develops rather than fades at darker degrees of roast. Generally a darker style mutes Yemen Mocha's wild or gamey notes while mellowing the wine and fruit tones and turning them increasingly richer and more chocolatey. Both aroma and body intensify at somewhat advanced degrees of roast. Yemen Mocha will maintain individuality even at concluding bean temperatures of 465 F (very dark brown, SCAA Color Tile #35). If you are considering carrying Yemen Mocha please take the time to cup it at a variety of degrees of roast before determining where it can best fit into your product line.

Blending recommendations. Yemen Mocha is a big coffee in flavor and aroma, so a small percentage can make a major contribution to a blend. Roasters typically use between 25% to 50% Yemen Mocha in their Mocha-Java blends, increasing the percentage at darker degrees of roast and decreasing at lighter. The addition of 10% to 25% Yemen Mocha to an upscale espresso blend will increase body and aroma significantly. The same modest percentage will strengthen and add character to an otherwise weak, thinnish "French Roast" blend.


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