Yemen's contribution to the history and culture of coffee are impossible to overstate.
The country is where the crop was first commercially cultivated and popularized. The peninsula lent the arabica species its name and established its own unique consumption trends including qishr, a brew made from the dried cherry skins and husks with spices. Innovations including roasting, grinding, the ibrik (or cezve) coffee pot, the coffeehouse, and even the word “coffee” (from qahwah, which the Turkish pronounced kahveh) are all gifts from Islam’s Golden age. The globe’s smoldering appetite for coffee was first stoked by Sufi Imams in Yemen’s port city of Aden in the fifteenth century.
Yet modern Yemen is sadly far removed from that Golden Age. The most recent conflict has dragged on for over 5 years, cost almost 100,000 lives (disproportionately innocent civilians), displaced over 3 million, and left two-thirds of the country in need of food or medical aid.
While the odds may be stacked against coffee in general, Yemeni coffee breaks the curve. Beyond the war, the country’s climate is dry and unforgiving. Yet Yemen is blessed with unparalleled history, uncommon elevation, and unusual access to a wealth of arabica’s genetic diversity. Out of all of this comes a distinctive coffee that defies convention at nearly every turn.
This exception quality Yemen coffee comes to us from the Muslot family via Royal Coffee in Oakland CA; Royal has been buying coffee from Ali Hibah Muslot and his children since 1984. For the past few years, exceptional coffees from the Pearl of Tehama company run by Ali Hibah’s daughter, Fatoum Muslot, have been especially impressive. You can read an extended interview with Fatoum to hear more of her story in her own words
Fatoum Muslot and her company are headquartered in Al Hudaydah, a busy port city that has been near the front lines of the country’s civil war. Her perspective on their ongoing business, despite adversity, is refreshing: “With regard to the coffee trade, we can-not stop our activity for many reasons, the most important of which is that we are dealing with a large number of families working with us in the field of coffee cultivation and trading especially coffee farmers in the production areas who do not have any kind of agricultural activities other than coffee. Therefore, we have a great and humanitarian responsibility towards these producing and working groups in the field of coffee.”
Pearl of Tehama’s access to producers has increased dramatically, increasing their smallholder purchasing programs in most sectors and supplying unparalleled transparency including information on gender equity in the supply chain and extensive detail on processing and handling of the coffee itself. They went so far as to issue a 27-page transparency report, an impressive undertaking.
Eleven Speed could not be happier to introduce our drinkers to this very rare and unique coffee. This is a very limited offering - only 28 250g bags are available and there will be no repeats. It’s packed with sweetness, loads of dried fruit (dates, raisins, and berries), honey, and brown sugar notes, chocolatey depth and some lightly nutty and graham cracker notes in the finish.
(Text by Chris Kornman, Royal Coffee)