Coffee beans were first farmed as a commercial crop in Yemen in the mid-15th century after being transported from the coffee woods of southwestern Ethiopia over the southernmost tip of the Red Sea. Yemeni coffee began to spread worldwide on European trade routes in the 18th century, laying the groundwork for contemporary Arabica coffee farming.
Overview of coffee farming in Yemen
The national emblem on the flag of Yemen depicts the Marib dam and a coffee branch. It is not a coincidence that drinking coffee, as we know it today, originated in Yemen in the 15th century when the Sufis first discovered it. However, during the 20th century, the position that the Yemeni coffee tree once had began to decline in both quantity and quality; the following statistics were made by CafeImpots in 2017 :
- The population involved in the coffee industry: approximately 600,000.
- Average farm size: 1 hectare or less.
- Annual export output: 300,000 bags (60 kg).
Ethiopian Coffee Farming
- Coffee growing areas: Bani Mater, Bani Hammad, Bura’a, Haraaz, ..
- Popular coffee varieties: Indigenous varieties such as Dawairi, Jaadi, Tuffahi…
- Processing method: mostly dry processed .
It is easy to see that Yemen’s coffee production is deficient compared to the world’s leading producers – such as Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia and Colombia, even neighboring Ethiopia. This is because Yemen receives significantly less rainfall, and current agricultural methods are also outdated, but most importantly – due to the prolonged state of hostilities in the country.
Yemen’s Mocha Coffee Port
Mocha is among the most popular terms and variations in the coffee industry. The popular name ” Coffee Mocha ” (or Moka, Moca, or Mocca) refers to the port of Mocha at the southwestern tip of present-day Yemen’s Arabian peninsula.
Mocha was famous as a “mecca” for Arabica coffee (coffee tea) from the 15th to the early 18th century. Of course, Mocha port was not an ideal place to grow coffee; coffee was only transported. from the interior of Yemen to the port of Mocha. During the 16th – 17th centuries, Mocha coffee beans were transported only after roasting to ensure the exclusivity of the Arabica coffee variety.
During this period of prosperity, merchants from England, the Netherlands, and France promoted trade in the very busy port of Mocha. In it, through Dutch traders, coffee trees from Mocha arrived in Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) in 1658, and to Java – Indonesia (and through a number of other unofficial routes). Soon after, whether you like it or not, coffee from Mocha has spread all over the world.
- There are many interesting things about Mocha, Yemen in <a ” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener” aria-label=”Coffee tree history (opens in a new tab)”>A Brief History of the Coffee Tree
Some confusion related to “Mocha coffee”
The coffee industry has abused the reputation it has earned from the word “Mocha” in its glorious history to call everything else – coffee-related, with this name you will find a region, a variety of coffee. , a preparation tool and even a drink called ” Moka “
The word ” MOCHA ” originally referred to the harbor in Yemen where coffee was exported (This dates back to the 16th century, when the Ottoman Turks occupied Yemen in 1536, and used Mocha’s port of Mocha . Yemen to export coffee). This spelling was quickly changed to ‘ MOKA ‘, the term used to describe coffees produced in Yemen. Some naturally processed coffees from other countries are still described this way, such as ‘ Moka Harrar ‘ from Ethiopia.
Coffee from Yemen is often blended with coffee from Java, and the “ Mocha-Java ” blend was born. However, the name has not been protected and has therefore become a sort of fancy term used by many roasters to describe the flavor of a particular blend they make, not a particular blend. Indication of the origin of coffee.
Genetically speaking, Mocha or Mokka – is a dwarf mutant of the Arabica Bourbon variety , with genetic characteristics very close to Bourbon. It is named after the port of Mocha in Yemen, from Yemen Mokka was brought to the island of Réunion (Indian Ocean) – According to SCA Research .
On the other hand, the current use of the term ” Mocha ” to describe a mixed drink of chocolate and Espresso coffee makes consumers more confused (according to The World Atlas of Coffee).
Yemeni coffee in terms of genetics
In the long history of Arabica coffee varieties , Yemen holds a very special place. While Ethiopia is rightly hailed as the “birthplace of coffee” – in scientific terms, Ethiopia is the center of evolutionary origin , where the first Arabica coffee tree arose from a combination of two ancestral species (see also the origin of coffee varieties ) – Yemen is where coffee was born .
A comprehensive 2020 study on the genetic diversity of Arabica coffee unequivocally confirmed that Yemen is a secondary dispersal center of Ethiopian-origin Arabica coffee . Nearly all of the world’s arabica coffee (i.e. all coffee grown outside of Ethiopia), comes from the original Yemeni coffee farms.
In other words, that Arabica coffee originated in Ethiopia, but spread to the world through Yemen. Scientifically, Yemeni coffee is a subgroup of the Ethiopian Arabica variety – worldcoffeeresearch
This raises interesting questions for future research – that coffee plants from Yemen can help us learn more about coffee drought tolerance (essential traits due to the effects of climate change). Climate Change)? And can the Ethiopian native coffee tree offer the opportunity to breed varieties that will thrive in shade /agroforestry – another necessary avenue in the face of climate change? .
Mocha coffee cultivation in Yemen
In Yemen, coffee has been grown for more than 500 years under conditions very different from the dense, moist Ethiopian forests where it first grew. Yemen is hot and dry and farming systems are flooded with sunlight. It is likely that very few of the seeds originally brought back from Ethiopia survived the early days of coffee growing in Yemen. But the plants that do survive will have to experience severe selective pressure for a full sun farming system in arid conditions.
Some of these advantages in the surviving Yemeni plants over their Ethiopian parent plants may be due to random mutations that were noticed and selected by the farmers. This makes Yemeni coffee the most expensive in the world – at more than $15 per kilo. The beans are harvested from about 34,500 hectares of farmland of arid terraced fields on mountain slopes at an altitude of 700 to 2,400 meters, according to Abd al-Malik al-Thaur, an official with the ministry . Agriculture in Yemen (according to The New Arab).
Since the first coffee trees were planted in Yemen until now, coffee trees are still cultivated in the same way. This is the livelihood of thousands of small households in Yemen (with a total of nearly a million people working in all stages of coffee production from planting to finished products). This production chain is still purely handmade, including the harvesting, sorting is carried out carefully by hand and dry processing by natural sun drying.
Yemeni Farmers – Those who have grown, protected and nurtured these crops for generations are among the poorest and most oppressed in the world, and they face a total collapse of their production. coffee production under the impact of war and economic stagnation – worldcoffeeresearch.
The current Yemeni coffee industry
Although once one of the most prized names in the world, the door to Yemen’s coffee exports has been closed since the 1950s, on the one hand due to meager production, on the other hand, the state of war has pushed The price of raw coffee beans is very high compared to other coffee producing countries in the world. The port of Mocha today also exists only as a fishing port with little tourism activity.
All of the above has tightened the country; without the efforts of many individuals and organizations, Yemeni coffee production may have disappeared entirely. There was a time when coffee trees had to give up land to drug plantations (called Qat or Khat because of the Arabic translation) with much higher profits. Chewing Khat is a common practice in Yemen and the Horn of Africa, so widespread that the ban on Khat during the mid-2000s was quietly abandoned
Yemeni Coffee Cultivation: A Brief Overview
Yemen’s national flag prominently features the Marib Dam and a coffee branch, symbolizing the nation’s deep-rooted connection with coffee cultivation. The modern concept of coffee consumption traces its origins back to 15th-century Yemen, where Sufis first discovered its invigorating properties. However, the Yemeni coffee tree’s once-dominant position in terms of volume and quality diminished over the course of the 20th century. CafeImpots collected the following data in 2017:
In comparison to leading coffee producers such as Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, Colombia, and Ethiopia, Yemen’s coffee production lags behind. This can be attributed to the country’s significantly lower rainfall, outdated agricultural practices, and most crucially, the ongoing state of war that has gripped the nation.
Yemen’s Mocha Coffee Port: A Pioneering Hub for Coffee Connoisseurs
Yemeni Mocha, or Mocha Mattari, represents one of the most renowned terms and variations within the coffee world. Situated at the southwestern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, the historic Mocha Port in present-day Yemen is fondly referred to as “Coffee Mocha” (also spelled as Moka, Moca, or Mocca).
From the 15th century through the early 18th century, Mocha was known as a “mecca” for Arabica coffee (coffee tea). Mocha port was not suitable for coffee cultivation; instead, coffee was delivered there. From Yemen’s interior to the port of Mocha To maintain the exclusivity of the Arabica coffee varietal, Mocha coffee beans were only transported after roasting during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Merchants from England, the Netherlands, and France supported trade at the bustling port of Mocha during this prosperous period. Coffee trees from Mocha arrived in Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka) and Java, Indonesia, through Dutch traders in 1658. (and through several other unofficial routes). Whether you liked it or not, Mocha coffee quickly spread over the globe.
There is some ambiguity about “Mocha coffee”
In its glorious history, the coffee business has misused the reputation it has earned from the word “Mocha” to call everything else – coffee-related. With this name, you will discover a location, a coffee variety, a preparation technique, and even a drink named “Moka.”
Initially, the word “MOCHA” referred to a Yemeni port where coffee was exported (This dates back to the 16th century, when the Ottoman Turks occupied Yemen in 1536 and used the Mocha port of Yemen to export coffee).
This spelling was quickly altered to ‘MOKA,’ the name used to describe Yemeni coffees. Some organically processed coffees from other nations, such as Ethiopia’s ‘Moka Harrar,’ are still referred to in this fashion.
On the other hand, the contemporary use of the term “Mocha” to represent a chocolate-espresso coffee blended drink confuses consumers even more (according to The World Atlas of Coffee).
Yemeni Coffee: A Distinctive Genetic Heritage
Yemeni coffee beans hold a special place in the extensive lineage of Arabic coffee varieties. Although Ethiopia is often celebrated as the “cradle of coffee” – being the epicenter of evolutionary origins where the initial Arabica coffee plants emerged from the hybridization of two ancestral species (see also sources of coffee varieties) – Yemen can be considered the birthplace of coffee culture.
Boasting a unique genetic profile, Yemeni coffee has carved out its own niche in the history of this beloved beverage.
Yemen is a secondary dispersal hub for Arabica coffee originating in Ethiopia, according to a comprehensive 2020 study on the genetic diversity of Arabica coffee. Nearly all of the world’s arabica coffee (i.e., all coffee farmed outside of Ethiopia) comes from the original Yemeni coffee estates.
This offers intriguing research questions, such as whether Yemeni coffee trees can assist us in learning more about coffee drought tolerance (essential traits due to the effects of climate change). Changes in Climate)? In the face of climate change, may the Ethiopian native coffee tree provide a chance to crossbreed kinds that will thrive in the shade/agroforestry?
Yemen’s Mocha Mattari: A Unique Flavor Profile with a Rich History
Yemen has been cultivating coffee for nearly half a millennium, in stark contrast to the lush, humid woodlands of Ethiopia where the crop originated. Yemen’s climate is characterized by intense heat, dryness, and abundant sunlight, which greatly impacts its agricultural practices.
In the early days of coffee cultivation in Yemen, it is likely that only a small fraction of seeds brought over from Ethiopia survived. However, the plants that did withstand the harsh conditions underwent considerable selective pressure, adapting to the sun-drenched and arid environment.
The distinct qualities of Yemeni coffee plants, compared to their Ethiopian counterparts, could be attributed to farmers identifying and selecting favorable random mutations. This unique cultivation process contributes to Yemeni coffee’s status as one of the most expensive in the world – priced at over $15 per kilogram.
According to Abd al-Malik al-Thaur, a ministry official, the beans are gathered from around 34,500 hectares of parched terraced fields on mountain slopes at 700 to 2,400 meters. Yemeni agriculture (according to The New Arab).
Coffee trees have been cultivated in Yemen in the same manner since the first trees were established. Thousands of small-scale Yemeni households rely on this for their survival (with a total of nearly a million people working in all stages of coffee production, from planting to finished products). This production chain is still entirely manual, with harvesting, grading, and dry processing all carried out by natural sun drying.
Reviving Yemen’s Coffee Legacy: Challenges and Triumphs in Today’s Industry
Once a celebrated name in the global coffee scene, Yemen’s coffee exports have been hindered since the 1950s. Plagued by low production and ongoing conflict, Yemen’s raw green coffee costs exceptionally high compared to other coffee-producing nations.
Today, Mocha Port primarily functions as a fishing hub with minimal tourism activity.
Yemen’s coffee industry has faced numerous challenges, and if not for the relentless efforts of dedicated individuals and groups, its production could have vanished entirely. There was a time when coffee trees were replaced by more lucrative drug farms (known as Qat or Khat in Arabic). Khat chewing is so widespread in Yemen and the Horn of Africa that its prohibition was quietly lifted in the mid-2000s.
- Coffees from Africa and Arabia – Yemen: www.coffeereview.com
- Blog al mokha: www.almokha.com
- www.mei.edu / Revitalized coffee economy provides Yemen a boost amid conflict
- www.alaraby.co.uk/ Yemen: Coffee production to double
- www.worldcoffeeresearch.org/ Yemen Coffee How Genetically Diverse It