Sweet Maria's Home Coffee Roasting

This is an excellent report from David Roche and Steve McCarthy, a survey of the state of the coffee industry in Yemen and ideas to remedy the lack of profitability to the farmer, and the issues with quality. This report was emailed to me when a friend found out I was going to Yemen, and I couldn't believe this type of detailed information isn't more widely disseminated in the coffee trade. I make a few comments at the end -Tom I added some picture from my Yemen trip to liven things up here. Clicking on the images will take you to my Yemen travelogue.

Coffee Production and Competitiveness Assessment and Recommendations

David Roche, Technical Director of the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) and Steve McCarthy of
ACDI/VOCA traveled to Yemen between November 6 and 16, 2006. The following report is
based on their direct observations in the field as well as discussions with key coffee industry
representatives. The Yemen coffee industry is one of legend, and farmers have been growing a product highly prized on international markets for centuries. Coffee is literally part of Yemeni culture. From its birthplace in Ethiopia, coffee was brought to Yemen and commercialized. Yemen coffee was exported almost solely out of the port of Al Mokka and its unique flavor characteristics have been sought after from all over the world. It is from there that the coffee term ‘mokka’ or ‘mocha’ came about. Yemen’s strong flavored coffees were also blended with the smoother, more buttery flavors of Indonesian coffee to produce probably the most widely known name in coffee, Mocha Java.

Yemen coffee producers receive some of the highest prices for coffee in the world, but also have
some of the lowest yields. There are important constraints to the shrinking coffee sector, such as
the production of qat, lack of available water, a fragmented industry, and lack of traceability
from producer to the market. At the stakeholder meeting held during our visit, the decision was
made to form the Yemen Coffee Improvement Association. Pilot activities among key
stakeholders were agreed upon and launched during a meeting with all players at the Agriculture
Minister’s offices in Sana’a. This is viewed as a powerful first step to improving the future of
coffee in Yemen.

The suggested action items begin with a thorough study of the value chain from the producer all
the way through the buyer. Key industry members should attend international activities, such as
the February 2007 Eastern Africa Fine Coffees Association (EAFCA) annual conference in
Ethiopia and the May 2007 Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) annual conference
in Long Beach, California. These would be effective first steps in providing competitiveness
opportunities. A calendar of events will be developed to include technical training in partnership
with Yemen industry members. This will include production areas of pruning, nutrition, water
management, shade and husbandry to increase yields and to develop “pilot’ or model farms in
select areas. Processing expertise is needed to improve percentages of specialty grade coffees
(quality and consistency).

Quality, traceability and consistency are also factors that need improvement to meet current
buyer demands. Finally, quality control through cupping training using the SCAA standards will
be addressed. Developing standards will also assist Yemen in meeting the important WTO
membership requirements.

The country currently produces approximately 11,000 tons of coffee of which between 15 -20%
(2,000 tons) is considered export quality. In recent years there has been a growing demand in the
international specialty coffee market for highly prized, unique coffees. Yemen coffee still fetches
some of the market’s highest prices, yet Yemen’s coffee sector has been in sharp decline. The
coffee industry’s decline is due to a number of reasons including lower productivity, increasing
demands for water and, significantly, competition with larger economic returns to farmers of qat.
To increase the Yemen coffee industry’s competitiveness from a value chain perspective several
constraints will need to be overcome. First and foremost is developing a strategy that will, at the
very least, make coffee somewhat more economically competitive with the highly lucrative but
socially, economically and environmentally damaging growing of qat.

The Value Chain:
The Yemeni coffee value chain is relatively straight forward from producer through to
trader/exporter. The system however is characterized by large numbers of relatively small
transactions throughout the chain and particularly at the lower end. There is a lack of
transparency in the process as there is little information flow among actors in the chain.
Producers typically harvest their crop, dry it and then market it to local collectors or merchants.
In many cases, producers are both farmers and small merchants, further fragmenting and
congesting the transaction chain. Coffee is viewed as somewhat of a reserve or savings fund, so
many small producers hold their coffee at the household level until sale is necessary for cash
flow. These sales are usually small in volume and the producer generally takes the price offered
by the local collector. Local collectors will then sell on to larger collectors for further
consolidation and the product is then channeled to processors/millers and finally on to either the
domestic market or for export.
Due to small transaction size at the producer level and a large number of merchants/collectors at
the local level, market inefficiencies and small price-margins characterize the value chain. Prices
paid to producers are still some of the highest in the world for Arabica coffee. For the
smallholder producer average holdings are generally 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 hectare from which they produce
about 150 – 200 kg of green coffee. From discussions with producers we estimated that the
average production on smallholder producer farms is around 350 kg/ha. The farmer is generally
paid a flat price for dried cherry with no quality incentives at this level. Collectors generally pay
between 500 – 600 rials ($2.50 - $3.00) for 1 kg of dry cherry which normally, depending on the
variety, converts at about a 50% ration to green coffee. Thus, farmers are being paid the
equivalent of $5.00 - $6.00/kg for green coffee. In international coffee price terms this equates
to ($2.27 - $2.72) per pound. This is equal to some of the highest priced and more exceptional
specialty coffees from places like Ethiopia, Kenya, Guatemala and Columbia. It is more than
twice the current New York commodity market (NY “C”) of approx. $1.10/lb. While this price
structure seems favorable for the producer, poor production techniques, lack of water, low yields
and high production costs have hampered coffee expansion, especially in comparison to growing
the easier and more lucrative qat. Only when coffee reaches the larger collectors and processors is there any real attempt to
exercise quality control and grading measures to separate export quality from domestic. The
chain is characterized by a lack of trust throughout with little incentive to increase the levels of
export quality. The larger traders deal exclusively with collectors both at the local level and the
regional level. Usually four to five collectors at the regional level receive coffee from as many
as a hundred at the local level. All would like to see more coffee meet the quality requirements
of the higher value international markets, however there has been little transfer of information
down to the farmer about measures that could be taken to improve quality to meet those

Local collectors will bulk-dry cherry purchased from farmers and sell to larger collectors at
around 1100 – 1200 rials/kg. The collectors/bulkers perform some sorting and grading,
depending on the requirements of the larger collector or exporter, but this is generally minimal.
The larger collectors will then further grade and sort cherry before milling into green coffee.
Green coffee is then bagged for sale to exporters/processors (roasters). Most exporters reported
serious quality problems when dealing with collectors, such as large percentages of foreign
matter, discolored or broken beans from milling, and high moisture content levels. Exporter
purchase price of green coffee from larger collectors was generally reported by several exporters
to range from 1100 – 1450 rials/kg ($2.50 - $3.30/lb). The exporters were somewhat guarded
when asked about their sale prices to buyers, with Al-Kbous, Sowaid and Yemen Coffee
Processors reporting prices as high as $8.50 - $9.00/kg ($3.86 - $4.10/lb). Average prices of
around $6.00/kg ($2.73/lb) were cited by the four major exporters. Starbucks is by far the largest
single buyer of Yemen coffee, dealing primarily through Volcafe, and exporters reported sales to
several other buyer/brokers including Atlantic, American Coffee and Royal Coffee.

Yemen Coffee Processing Company Plant A high percentage of poor quality coffee reaching the exporter is the reason only 15 – 20% meets
the quality requirements of the high-value specialty markets. If Yemen is to benefit from its
comparative advantage in the specialty market and increase the volumes entering this market, a
competitiveness strategy will need to be developed that includes all stakeholders in the process.
A shift in market channels that allows for educational opportunities will lead to positive benefits
and ultimately a more balanced power relationship between and among all stakeholders.

This strategy should encompass three elements:

The identification of the industry’s competitive advantage (opportunities & constraints)
The development of a commercial up-grading strategy (investments & who will make them)
The creation of a process that will sustain competitiveness (Coffee Improvement Association)

To begin this process, an action plan needs to be developed and implemented. Recommended
action items to initiate this process are as follows:

1. The formation of an association that provides a forum for all actors to discuss strategies for
improving coffee quality and increases the percentage of coffee entering the export market.
2. A thorough value chain analysis that examines the entire transaction process and identifies
opportunities and constraints. These can then be addressed in an all-stakeholders meeting that
results in a competitive business plan to address constraints and develops an industry up-
grading (investment) strategy to take advantage of opportunities.
3. The development of an information and market understanding program that emanates from
the end markets and feeds back through all actors in the value chain.
4. The development of producer groups that can operate at economies of scale reducing
transaction costs (volume, transportation) and increase bargaining power with larger volume
sales. Possible interventions could include the establishment of village coffee warehousing
where higher volume transactions could be consolidated and direct sales to processors and
exporters negotiated.
5. The eventual consolidation of the bulking/collection function which would ultimately reduce
the number of small collectors in the chain, making them more efficient and adding value to
transactions. (Coffee farming will need to become the more attractive activity because of
increased incentives to quality production.)

The Yemen Coffee Improvement Association:

The Yemen Coffee Improvement Association is key to increased competitiveness in the sector.
Now that the association has been formed it is imperative that the their momentum continues and
expands. The association should receive assistance in the form of association development and
capacity building to overcome an individual firm mentality and move towards an industry
mentality. This will result in development of a united force in the market place. This needs to
begin immediately to prepare the association’s delegation who will attend the EAFCA
conference in Ethiopia. Technical assistance such as training in quality, grading and cupping
should also be done, if possible, before the EAFCA conference to help prepare the delegation’s
participation. All should be done to encourage and make it possible for a strong delegation to
attend this conference. Pilot Activity:

A program of information flow and sharing is needed to foster an industry-wide “common
language” of quality. This will create an understanding of quality grades, standards and specialty
market requirements that needs to be embraced, developed and implemented. This should be
done primarily by the association with outside technical assistance. The program should focus
on training and skills development in specialty coffee attributes, market requirements etc. for all
stakeholders from producer to exporter. The following chart identifies several key members
from various levels of the industry who should receive technical assistance and then pass their
knowledge on to others in the association.

Exporters and Traders
(Al-KBOUS Trading, Sowaid Trading, Yemen Coffee Processing,
Al-Ezzi Industries, Musallam Trading)

(Al-Kbous, Yemen Coffee Processing)

Larger Collectors
(Al-Hamdani, Mohamed Al-Mahagri, Musallem Trading est.)

Producers and Local Collectors
(HARAZ Project, East Haraz, Al-Hamdani Agencies, Bani Mater)

The pilot activity will integrate the coffee sector through the channels from producer to exporter.
It will work on parallel tracks to 1.) increase production and 2.) increase the quality and therefore
the quantity going into the higher value specialty market. A primary focus of the pilot activity
will be the development of an industry-wide integration and understanding of the coffee value
chain so that all actors are aware of the market requirements and the practices necessary to meet
those requirements. The goal of the initial phase will be to up-grade approximately 15 – 20% of
the coffee currently being sold to the regional and domestic market to levels that meet the quality
requirements of the specialty market. Targeted technical assistance will focus on key areas of
the current production system and value chain to achieve this. The program will initially be
implemented in targeted pilot areas (Haraz, Yaffa, Bani Mater).

In Haraz the pilot activity will be in partnership with The Haraz Project. The Haraz Project
currently works with 500 families in the area, most of whom are coffee and qat farmers. To date
the project has had encouraging results introducing better coffee cultivation techniques and
introducing a transparent market system that will pay premiums for improved quality. They
have also initiated a campaign to begin tearing out qat trees and replanting with coffee. In the Bani Mater area, the pilot activity will work in partnership with the Hamdani Bros., whose
family has been in the coffee business in the area for over 100 years. The Hamdani Bros. operate
a local collector operation which feeds into their larger collection and milling facilities in Sana’a.
They know virtually every farmer in the area, approximately. 140 families, and have been
successful in securing government funding to put in water catchments and a dam. The coffee is
grown under some of the best production practices we saw. It is irrigated and fertilized with
organic fertilizer, with good soil conditions and shade provided by some trees and natural shade
provided by the surrounding mountains. The yields are reportedly the best in Yemen with 7 -10
kg of green coffee per tree being reported.

While Yemen has not had a great deal of success with cooperatives or producer groups per se,
the Haraz Project and the Hamdani Bros. have been working closely with producers and gaining
both their confidence and trust. In Haraz, designated farmer representatives work with producers
to learn production and quality improvement practices. In Bani Mater the Hamdani Bros. have
had a close working relationship with the producers of the area for decades. In both areas the
introduction of more formal, organized producer groups that can exercise economies of scale will
be investigated. One initiative will be to have the producer group perform many of the functions
that are currently handled by the local collectors/merchants. This would significantly reduce the
number of merchants who fragment the value chain with small low-value transactions and return
them to their primary activity as coffee producers. This would allow the producer groups to
institute quality improvement techniques, provide more cost-effective bulking at the local level,
and deliver higher volume consignments to the large collectors and processors. Keeping the
product in the hands of the producer through more of the consolidation and value added process
will allow them to exercise market bargaining power and negotiate better pricing terms resulting
in a higher return to producers.

The pilot program will have two primary thrusts, the first focusing on improvement of
production techniques such as better water management, shade introduction, soil enhancement
and plant nutrition. This is intended to increase both yields and the quality of cherry produced.
The second goal is to focus on quality improvement by introducing up-grades in harvesting,
drying, grading, sorting and product handling. A program of technical assistance and training
that result in information sharing throughout the industry from producer to exporter will be
initiated with focus in these key areas.

Water Management
Improved nursery management
Improved harvesting techniques
Introduction of shade trees
Improved (introduction) better pruning techniques
Stumping old trees, removal and re-planting
Sorting of cherry at the farm level
Improved drying techniques and understanding

Expansion and capacity building of the Yemen Coffee Improvement Association (to include
all key stakeholders in the industry)
Sorting and Grading
Processing expertise to improve percentages of specialty grades
Training to understand and meet SCAA quality standards
“Q” program cupping and grading training
Participation and membership where possible in international Specialty Market activities
such as the EAFCA Conference in Ethiopia in February and the SCAA conference in Long
Beach, CA in May.

The Qat Issue:
The task at hand is to increase the earnings of the Yemen coffee sector, including the income to
producers, merchants, processors, and exporters through the enhancement of the industry’s
competitiveness. Enhanced competitiveness means increased productivity (Michael Porter). This
is achieved by increasing the value of the product to the consumer and/or lowering the cost of
production. The Yemen pilot project will work on improvements in production practices, lower
costs in the value chain, and increased productivity. The ultimate goal is to increase the quantity
of high value specialty grade coffee for export. processing for specialty grade coffee, traceability
and transparency, with the ultimate goal to increase the quantity of high value specialty grade
coffee for export.

Yemen coffee economics are complicated in that while coffee has a relatively high return to the
farmer it both competes and complements a major cash crop, qat. Qat competes with coffee for
land, water and labor in that the returns from growing qat are considerably higher than the
returns from coffee. But qat is a highly perishable crop that cannot be stored, needing to be sold
in a relatively short time after harvesting. In interviews with farmers they state that the income
from qat is used mostly to meet their daily needs or cash flow.

Coffee complements qat in that it is stored by the farmer and serves as a saving function or store
of value. Coffee can be stored for more than a year and in extreme cases has been reportedly
stored for up to ten years. The farmer sells his coffee as financial needs arise. Farmers
interviewed have described coffee as a long term investment crop and qat as a short term income
crop for daily needs.

The total national production value of coffee at the farm gate is estimated at $59 million (11
thousand tons green coffee times YR 1,045 per kilo). The average planting per farmer is 0.291
hectares with 394 trees and a production of 114 kilos. Average income per farmer is less than
$600 per year (114 kilos times YR 1,045 per kilo). The net returns to family labor are $23 per
day, a relatively good return except when compared to qat. Total returns from qat can be more
than ten times that of coffee. The high value Yemen specialty coffee prices range from a high of $11.50 per kilo to an average
of $8.50 to $9.00 per kilo. Total export of specialty coffee is estimated at around 2 thousand
tons or between 15% and 20% of total production. The estimated value of these exports is
approximately $15 million. Coffee exports to Saudi Arabia are estimated at approximately 50%
of the crop or 5.7 thousand tons. The local market is estimated at around 4 thousand tons per year.
There is some confusion about the local market, some of it due to the importation of coffees from
outside of Yemen for local consumption.

Key Yemen Coffee Stakeholders Meeting at the
Agricultural Minister’s Office in November 2006

Industry Organization:
The Yemen Coffee Industry is currently very fragmented. In order to move forward and be more
competitive, certain issues can only be resolved as an organization. It was decided that a
requirement to accomplish this is the formation of the Yemen Coffee Improvement Association.
Yemen coffee stockholders, both public and private, agreed that Yemen can increase coffee
earnings through improvements in production practices and other factors throughout the sector.
This will also enable access to donor resources and to increased involvement in the international
specialty coffee industry.

The newly formed Yemen Coffee Improvement Association will need to:

Identify the initial members and plan to expand to all segments of the industry including
producers, local collectors, traders, processors and exporters.
Begin formal organization to include a charter, which may require outside support
Interact with other successful coffee organizations, such as EAFCA and SCAA. This should
be done immediately to provide needed competitiveness opportunities.
Develop a knowledge of the international specialty coffee market, which includes quality and
traceability, through technical trainings.
Understand the constraints and opportunities within current value chain.
Hold a workshop that includes all stakeholders that takes the opportunities and constraints
and incorporates them into a competitiveness strategy with an implementation plan that
identifies industry up-grades needed and the sector actors who will make those investments.

With the coffee industry declining in Yemen, it is important to identify the constraints and
reasons for this in order to address action items to change the current trend. Some of these
constraints are direct and some of them are indirect. It should be noted that addressing any of
these issues will have a significant positive affect.

Production of qat, which is lucrative and is the main reason that coffee production is
declining. The producer will need compelling reasons to replace qat with coffee since
producers make considerable profit by growing qat.
Technical support is very limited, especially from the Agricultural Ministry. There had been
some support from the French and there is still some assistance from USAID and other
donors, but there is a lack of continuity.
Water is very limited and water shortage is the main cause of low yield, along with poor
plant nutrition. Qat production is partially responsible for water usage, but water retention
methods are available that are not being utilized.
All aspects of production and processing are in need of expertise. Yields, plant health and
quality can all be improved with minimal changes in these practices.
There is little information transfer from exporter to producer. This is affecting quality control
throughout the chain.
Lack of available traders (intermediaries) to purchase and transport to market.
Farm size is very small with average size between .5 -1 hectare.
Quality is inconsistent throughout the value chain.
A need for competitive knowledge of the international specialty coffee market, especially as
it relates to cupping and quality differentiation.
Lack of traceability - current buyers of high priced specialty coffees are demanding to know
where the coffee is produced and that the producer is receiving a fair price.

Action Items:
There are several short term projects that can be implemented, beginning with the actual
formation of the Yemen Coffee Improvement Association and launch of a pilot project. The
pilot project will begin with a thorough study of the value chain from the producer all the way
through the buyer. It should include international activities, such as the February 2007 EAFCA
conference in Ethiopia and the May 2007 SCAA conference in Long Beach. A calendar of
events should be developed to include technical training for both quality and yield improvement
in partnership with Yemen industry members that are active in developing these activities.


Since the 1950s, the international price levels of coffee have been declining at an average rate of
2% annually. The current situation in the coffee industry requires that coffee producers focus,
more than ever, on a differentiated supply of green coffee beans. Coffee producers of lower
qualities can hardly compete against producers in Brazil and Vietnam. These high volume coffee
producing countries enjoy major economies of scale and comparative cost advantages. Larger
roasters have been proven to substitute lower grown Arabica coffee for (cheaper) Brazilian and
Vietnam coffee beans. Specialty coffee can be defined as coffee with zero flavor-defects and an excellent cup-value.
Yemen coffee is considered high quality but also very inconsistent due to processing and
handling methods. For almost 20 years, specialty coffee has changed the awareness of
consumers about coffee tremendously. The U.S. specialty coffee industry is responsible for
import of approximately 3.25 million bags of green coffee. The annual growth trend is 5 to 10%,
especially for “distinct” coffees

Developing a coffee culture based on the concept of cup-value

Sensory characteristics include elements such as aroma, body, acidity, flavor and aftertaste.
Professional tasters follow a protocol for the evaluation of these characteristics. Well-trained
tasters are able to separate personal preference from the sensory evaluation on the cupping table
and this is an essential element in determining the potential of a coffee to satisfy needs of
roasters and consumers. The next step is to then apply the same method of evaluation for these
criteria, which is the cupping & tasting protocol to create a “common language”. The
implementation of cupping protocols involves more than purchasing cupping tables and utensils
only. It requires the effective transfer of know-how by cuppers from consuming countries that
are proficient with the cupping protocols as developed by the Specialty Coffee Association of
America (SCAA). In addition, it is essential that evaluations for cup-value are done at various
stages in the production cycle until the product reaches the buyer. As a result, producers and
exporters gain valuable knowledge about the flavor attributes of the coffee they are trying to sell,
which strengthens their position in negotiations.

Yemen Cupping Training:
Yemen has little or no coffee culture, even though there exists a rich history of coffee production.
With the expansion and capacity building of the Yemen Coffee Improvement Association (to
include all key stakeholders in the industry), some of these issues can be addressed through
technical trainings. In addition, participation and membership in international Specialty Market
activities such as the EAFCA Conference and the SCAA conference will increase knowledge of
quality and provide market contacts.

A series of workshops should be started as soon as possible to teach cupping for specialty coffee
standards. Quality, traceability and consistency need improvement to meet current buyer
demands. Developing national coffee standards will enable Yemen to meet WTO requirements
and communicate better with buyers.

Technical training for quality improvement should begin with processing expertise to improve
percentages of specialty grades. Yemen has traditional methods of processing that actually add
certain quality characteristics, but also causes defects and inconsistency. This is an area where
simple changes will immediately improve the percentage of specialty grade coffees available to
the export market and competitive opportunities. Harvesting, Drying and Storage

The current practice is to harvest coffee cherries and sun-dry them. Often, there is a mixture of
various maturities and the coffee cherries from different days are mixed in the same batch. The
dried cherries are then stored for a period ranging from 6 months to up to 10 years. These are
stored as a sort of “bank account” to be sold when cash is needed. Technical assistance can
provide knowledge of avoiding defects and may also include a recommendation for centralized
storage of dried product. It is recommended to:
Improve harvesting techniques by sorting of cherry at the farm level
Improve drying techniques and understanding of quality drying
Separation of lots and traceability back to the producer

Coffee Cherries Drying from Different Harvest Dates

Sorting, Grading and Packaging

After the dried cherries are either processed by the middleman or sold directly to the buyer, it
still needs to be sorted by quality. Only a small percentage of export quality comes from this and
it is usually blended with coffee from other producers or even other regions. Many of these mills
were dirty and have outdated equipment. In addition, many impurities are found in the product
and needs to be sorted out. It is recommended to:
Improve knowledge of processing specialty coffee, provide traceability and to separate lots
based on quality. Training in newer technology.
Increase communication from producer, intermediaries and millers/exporters.
Begin basic cupping training for quality control and differentiation.

Nails, Rocks and Trash from Mill Equipment in Poor Condition
Production Issues and Action Items

General Husbandry

Many of the fundamentals of coffee farming are not being followed and with some technical
assistance, could improve plant health, yields and quality, such as:

Improved nursery management
Introduction of shade trees
Improved (introduction of) pruning techniques
Stumping old trees, removal and re-planting

Water Management

Water s very limited in Yemen and although coffee has survived for hundreds of years, lack of
water is the main constraint to production. It has been reported that the water table is getting
lower, so the use of wells should be limited. However, catchments systems can be improved for
limited irrigation. Mulching will also assist in retaining water, along with the introduction of
leguminous shade trees to create a buffer and provide nutrition.

Nutrition, Composting and Shade

There is very little nutrition being added to the coffee trees. This can be improved by training in
sustainable methods of production, utilizing worm culture, composting methods and especially
green manure cover crops. Nutrition can also be supplanted by using certain leguminous shade
trees and providing a buffer.

Water and Nutrition Stress Good Yields under Shade Trees

When starting new plantings, removing qat or even replanting new coffee trees, it is very
important to ensure that the land is prepared properly, consider more extensive land preparation
and to create an environment more favorable to coffee. The grower is fighting elements that
some degree of “buffer” will reduce if shade and sustainable management is implemented. It
will be important to work closely with experts to select the correct species for green manure,
cover crops and shade tress. It is suggested that a model farm at several locations be selected for
research into these methods before using any new strategies across the country.
Recommendations for Improvements of Growing Conditions: Shade Trees, Green Manure and
Cover Crops

After field is prepared, plant a leguminous green manure crop during the rainy season. Green
manure and cover crops also vary depending on the location, but some of the most commonly
used for coffee in Zimbabwe and Malawi (also very dry) are: Green leafed or Silver leafed
Desmodium (Desmodium intortum), Pigeon Pea (Cajanaus cajanus), Arachis pintoi, Soybeans
and sun hemp are often used as annuals (very good). Additional species recommendations can be
obtained through research stations, such as ICRAF. Legume rotations are a key element in
sustainable farming practices.

Shade and Forage trees for coffee have been researched extensively and general information can
be found through a network of research organizations. In the humid tropics, much of the research
has been focused at the CATIE research station in Costa Rica, while Australian, African and
Asian research can be found for the semi-arid tropics, such as Zambia. Some of the species
recommended, but are not limited to: Leucaena lecocephala and diversifolia , Gliricidia sepium,
Acacia nilocita, Albizia lebbeck, Chamaecytisus palmensi, Cratylia argentea, Sesbania sesban
and grandiflora. Some species still being investigated are: Acacia aneura and tortili, Albizia
chinensis, and saman, Calliandra calothyrusus, Erythrina species (heavily used in Central
America), Faidherbia albida, Flemingia macrophylla, Prosopsis juliflora.


While there are a number of factors that hamper competitiveness and growth of the Yemen
coffee sector, there are also several opportunities in the current market which can be optimized
for the benefit of all stakeholders in the market chain. First and foremost is the reputation that
coffees from Yemen still command in the market place. Despite problems with quality
consistency and reliable quantities, Yemen’s coffee is still highly sought after in the specialty
market and demand far exceeds current supply. With the rapid growth witnessed in the specialty coffee industry, the opportunity to increase the
quality of current production targeting that market is enormous. The regulatory environment is
rather benign and allows for active and open private sector participation. The industry in Yemen
currently lacks the sophistication to deal with the globalization of the specialty coffee market in
an effective an efficient manner. Adopting a quality-based focus with a niche market approach is
needed. The aim is to work towards a common goal, integrating the entire industry with a
strategy that creates incentives and buy-in from all actors in the various market segments.

The formation of the Yemen Coffee Improvement Association is an important first step. This
association can provide the leadership and direction to keep the momentum moving forward.
The pilot activity will accomplish a great deal in defining a quality-based program that drives
both vertical as well as horizontal integration within the industry and encourages cooperation
between and among firms. The association, however, is the catalyst that must be a proactive
force driving the industry’s strategy. The pilot activity, in addition to developing improvements
in quality and production, will need full support of the members to ensure that the association
continues to strengthen and builds the capacity to represent Yemen’s coffee industry as a unified
voice in the global market place.

Trusty No. 11 and Jambir
Trusty No. 11 and jambia
Well armed, but for no apparent reason than looks. When Ali told me that it's simply a tradition to have a gun around in rural areas, I told him it was just about the same in the US, it's just the guns look a little different. This one is called the No. 11, from Russia.

Rounded Shape of Shibriqi Mokha
Rounded Shape of Shibriqi Mokha
Shibriqi coffee cherry is smaller than Tufahi, and has a very rounded shape

Yellowing cherries
Yellowing cherries
Here we found coffee cherry that was turning yellow, but it is not a yellow cultivar (ie. turns yellow when it ripens). This appeared to be a nutritional problem, or lack of water. It looked to me as if there was very little composting, and the soil around the coffee appeared too fine, too heavy, too silty, without organic material.

Checking out the Coffee Cherry
Checking out the Coffee Cherry
We came across a guy resting after picking some coffee (not the guy in the image - that's me.) In Central America you see pickers with huge amounts of cherry, but with such low production in Yemen, with so little coffee in the trees, this was a miniscule bag in comparison.

Saih Valley Coffee Family
Saih Valley Coffee Family
He wanted a picture with his little boys and girls...

Qat, the edible part
Qat, the edible part
Qat is very mild really, but is a stimulant. (If it was something, like alcohol, that could lead to unconciousness, it would be forbidden under Islam). You eat the very fine leaves and stems from the tips and outer branches.

Typical Roadside View in Yemen
Typical Roadside View in Yemen
Qat in the foreground, town, and terraces for agriculture.

Coffee Cowboy
Coffee Cowboy
Since I had the good camera, Duane benefited by getting lots of great pictures of himself. What did I get? Huyh?

Al Hagarah
Al Hagarah
On the way to Haras, Yemen, you pass this especially imposing town, Al Hagarah. By the way, there's always a variety of way to spell things in Yemen. I was given the names of Al Hagrah, Al Hajrah, and Al Hagarah for this town.

"Heavy" Production
"Heavy" Production
At any other coffee origin, this tree would be either removed, heavily pruned to increase next year's production, or fed a lot of organic (or non-organic) fertilizer. But in Yemen, that's a lot of coffee cherry for a tree.

Gart Edifice
Gart Edifice

Dizzying Heights
Dizzying Heights
Our hosts wanted to lead us on a hike to the lower area of the town ... we'll call it Lower Gart, but I was the only visitor that ended up making the knee-busting walk.

Adenium obesum?
Adenium obesum?
I was sure I had this plant in my cactus collection at home. It's fairly common, Adenium obesum. Mr. Sowaid said it was not native to the area but I looked it up upon my return and it seems to be native to parts of Africa and Arabia.

I can see coffee now ...
I can see coffee now ...
As we approached Lower Gart I couls see that many of the roofs had coffee drying. Indeed, this is the middle of the Yemeni Harvest (October-December) so it makes sense.

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.

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

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

Thompson and Sowaid
Thompson and Sowaid
Neither of us quite awake.

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.

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.

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 freman came and since we were with a different exporter, well ... it was time to go.

Rare Western-style guy, something you don't see much in Yemen.
Mountain solitude in Ismaili Yemen.
Mayan Town, Ismaili, Yemen
Mayan Town, Ismaili, Yemen
Mayan town, Ismaili District, Yemen. No, it's no relation the Maya of the Americas. We traversed very steep terrain to get to the town, and then found it was too late to return. We slept on the floor that night.
Old Sana'a - Wow
Old Sana'a - Wow
In conclusion of my report entitled "Yemen, Magical Wonders of the Ancient Land", I have proved my thesis that Yemen is facinating to naive rubes of the West, like myself, and you don't have to leave Sana'a to be amazed by the built environs, the food, the people, the hospitality, the proliferation of the jambia trade, and such things. Be advised, beer costs $8 at the Sheraton, perhaps due to some tax paid to the local mosque for transgressions, and everyone is completely obsessed with qat, which is very mild, but makes you feel like a goat chewing on someone's hedges. Despite 30 the 30 hour travel penalty, I would return at the drop of a pin, a hat, or a hatpin. The end!

Ismaili Portraits
Ismaili Portraits
He helped me carry my bag as we traversed across from Bani Atiah to Mayan. Mayan, Bani Ismaili, Yemen

Mayan Town, Ismaili, Yemen
Mayan Town, Ismaili, Yemen
Mayan town, Ismaili District, Yemen. No, it's no relation the Maya of the Americas. We traversed very steep terrain to get to the town, and then found it was too late to return. We slept on the floor that night.

Cupping with Mohamed (Sowaid)
Cupping with Mohamed (Sowaid)
Back in Sana'a, we arranged with the Sowaids to have a cupping. If you can believe it, nobody in Yemen cups coffee. They look at green coffee, they look at dry cherry, they are experts at looking at coffee. But there is no cupping. Sowaid wants to change that.

Cupping with Mohamed (Sowaid)
Cupping with Mohamed (Sowaid)
George M. George and myself at the impromptu "cupping table"

After my trip to Yemen, it was clear that quality improvements must be made to secure an even higher price for Yemeni coffee. Most of those issues are eloquently addressed in the above report, but I would underscore a couple things.

The goal is not to transform Yemeni coffee into something else, but to make it even more of what it is; it's distinction is not only rooted in the unique cultivar and agronomy, but also in the culture of the people who produce it. How do you make improvements that actually promote the culture of the coffee producers, and allow them to farm their coffee traditionally, without contradicting or eroding those traditions at the same time? Mr. Sowaid was very interested in traveling to India to buy post-harvest cleaning equipment for his warehouse in Hodeida, but was as adamant about making improvements to the process as he was about continuing to employ all of the women who sort the coffee. As I wrote in my travelogue, Yemeni coffee is produced by a human machine, a complex network that has an obligation to employ Yemeni people at all levels. The idea of making that system more efficient, or cutting out middlemen, of automating the sorting, etc, is antithetical to the cultural practice of coffee production in Yemen.

It is of the utmost importance that the pure Mokha seedstock be maintained; there is no seed to experiment with cultivars in Yemen, except to map the current genome. Any hybridizing or other methods of "improvement" would quickly and completely erode on of the key factors that makes Yemen coffee so special. While shade trees are used in some valley areas (such as Saih from my travelogue), I can't see how they can be used on the terraces. One area where improvement can be made is in the exportation. The first issue is the fact that coffee is sorted and cleaned in Hodeida, not Sana'a. The problem is the poor climate of the coastal areas. The catch is that the women who do the sorting, many with 20+ years experience, are mostly Afro-Arab people of Hodeida. To Mr. Sowaid, there was no way around this. If coffee is cleaned promptly in Hodeida, loaded on the ship in the proper place (not the top container in the stack, away from the engines and other heat sources) and if the ship departs promptly, the quality of the coffee seems to be intact. But if any delay occurs, there is damage to the lot. At the prices Yemeni coffee currently obtains (and a future higher price for regional coffees of top quality), we are going to experiment with vacuum packaging, locking in the coffee at 11% moisture and see what the results are after the 45-60 days of transit. As a small scale test, it should be interesting to cup the results side-by-side with jute-bagged coffee. Multiple layers of craft paper liner might be a worthwhile test too.

As I had mentioned, the lack of cupping is unusual. I do not doubt that there is no professional level cupping lab in Yemen. The collectors, bulkers, and exporters all use visual references to evaluate the quality of green coffee. They have fantastic experience in this type of evaluation, but to move forward towards greater quality, and to communicate with buyers, cupping needs to be instituted. To this end, we brought many cupping room supplies to Yemen, and have shipped a Behmor 1600 roaster to Mr. Sowaid to replace his air popcorn popper! We have also suggested meeting in Ethiopia in February to do some cupper training, or to meet in Yemen for several days for the same purpose. We are also sending a small home vacuum bagger to make some tests. -Tom

Yemen Links:

Sweet Maria's Travelogue - November 2007 Yemen Coffee "Haj"

David Roche (CQI) and Steve McCarthy Article

USAID Yemen Coffee Assessment by Daniele Giovannucci

Yemen: Comments from A Japanese Broker

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