If you’re lucky enough to have tasted coffee hailing from Yemen, you understand what all the buzz is about recently. There’s nothing quite like a fresh brewed cup of coffee, especially coffee from Yemen. It’s bold aroma and robust flavors send you on a journey each time you take a sip, and keep you wondering how such wonderful coffee can even exist and how you went so long without it in your life. But where exactly does this fine coffee bean come from and how did we lose it in the first place? The answer is more complex than you might think.
Coffee beans were first discovered in Yemen during the 15th century. Legend has it, that the red coffee berries were found in the mountainous highlands of Yemen. A man, possibly banished or possibly traveling, saw some birds eating red berries off of a bunn plant (or coffee plant). He noticed that the berries gave the birds a rush of energy, and wanting to know if it would work for him too decided to try the berries.
Too bitter to eat, they were thrown the fire, which we now know as roasting. When removed form the fire the beans were now too hard to eat, so they were boiled in water in order to soften them up. Or what we now know as the brewing process. After the brown liquid formed, he who drank the elixir was energized once more.
This restorative drink of life became increasingly popular not only in Yemen, but around the world. So much so, that these beans soon took on the name of Mokha, the port city from which they left. These coffee beans were once the highest export from Yemen, who supplied much of the coffee around Europe, but the people of a war torn Yemen would soon pay the price.
A civil war broke out in Yemen in the Spring of 2015. For the first six months of the war no coffee could get out of the country at all, as access to the ports became increasingly difficult, as well as dangerous, and shipment costs increased dramatically. However, the resilience of the Yemeni people remained, and in small increments at a time, the people figured out how to make their legacy last.
Coffee has remained the pillar of Yemeni culture, and after a long drought, is again being exported around the world. Though it’s production is a bit trickier than in the past, prices have remained somewhat the same, and quality has held steadfast. More and more Yemenis are turning to coffee farming as a way to get through this tough time. While the war is still ongoing, the people of Yemen are holding out hope, and relying on their number one export to get them through.