Nine Generations of Yemeni Coffee Expertise Meets the Speciality Coffee World

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Nine Generations of Yemeni Coffee Expertise Meets the Speciality Coffee World

Growing up as a Yemeni American coffee was always a part of my identity. My family has been growing coffee for at least nine generations. Stories of the famed port of Mocha were always a source of pride for me. My longtime friend and now partner Ibrahim works in the produce distribution industry. His successful company CaliFresh produce is one of the most well known produce distribution companies in Northern California. They specialize in procuring high quality, peak-of-the-season produce grown from local, national and international sources, and delivering this produce in prime condition. By chance his main warehouse in Oakland is located across the street from Blue Bottle Coffee’s main west coast roastrey. Over the past year, we have thoroughly researched the specialty coffee market in Yemen, and understand both the potential and the limitation of the current systems. Yemen is a country where half of the population is below the poverty line, and 80% of farmers are women. Khat, a national drug consumed by 90% of the population, has become the cash crop by which, Yemen’s dwindling water supply is being exhausted. For every one coffee farm there are seven Khat farms.

The Coffee Quality Institute  hosted an event titled "Ethiopian Coffee Reunion". Three of largest exporters of coffee from Ethiopia came to meet various coffee buyers and sample some of their recent harvest. I had the incredible opportunity to meet two people who had a tremendous effect on me. The first was  Tadesse Meskela, the General Manager of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union. He asked where I was from and I replied from across the river from Yemen, he erupted with laughter and we instantly clicked. He gave me a lot of great advise and his story was a true inspiration for me. The second person I met was  Willem Boot. He was one the organizers for the event and from my own research I knew he was a rock star in the speciality coffee world. I spoke with Willem and he told me he had just finished co authoring a report on the coffee supply chain in Yemen. We exchanged emails and a month later he got a hold of me and we met. I told him my dream for helping improve the coffee industry in Yemen he was on board and agreed to be my consultant and mentor me throughout my professional development. Having the opportunity to learn coffee from someone so passionate and knowledgable as Willem was what really helped me taking my project to the next level  

Over the past year I have completely immersed myself in  specialty coffee. I learned about the world of speciality coffee sensory  and began my training with the world renowned coffee expert Willem Boot and his incredible team over at Boot Coffee. After months of practice and lots of caffeine I decided to take the rigorous Q grader exam. I had to learn and be able to identify   36 different types of smells, the various different acids found in coffee as well recognized all 16 coffee defects and pass the a series of triangulation cuppings. After a grueling and intense three days, I was able to pass 19 of the 20 exams to become a "Q" grader and when I take my last exam this year I will become the worlds first Yemeni "Q" grader.

We chose the name “Mocha Mill” because of its historic significance. Mocha is a city port in Yemen where coffee was first cultivated and commcerlized world wide. The first known written work on coffee dates back to the 14th century muslim Monk, Abū Bakr ibn 'Abdallāh Al-'Aidarūs, who  lived in the port city of Mocha. This Yemeni monk   is credited with the earliest historical work on coffee. We want to revive this lost history and the legacy of this monk. In his timeCoffee was about study, devotion and doing good deeds and this Saint, the Monk of Mocha he calls us as a people and as a company to serve a higher ethical purpose to not only grow great coffee, but to also serve the farmers who grow our beans and their families, and hope that our coffee puts blessings in the lives of those who drink it. We believe that if modern and more effective methods of growing, harvesting and production were married with the ancient heritage of Yemeni coffee cultivation, Yemen can once again play a major role in coffee.

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