Earlier this year, we had the pleasure of being a part of the international jury run by Alliance of Coffee Excellence for the Yemen Auction 2020, Discovering Diversity. Presented by Qima Coffee, an organisation dedicated to reviving coffee farming and restoring Yemen coffee trade – the work they do from training to infrastructure and coffee genetics, is extraordinary.
Tasting a range of coffee, we quickly found our favourite. A micro-lot of the newly discovered Yemenia variety from the village of Bait Alal spread across the mountains of the north-western Hayma Kharijiya region. Velvety and sweet lifted by hints of tropical fruit ending in a champagne sparkle, this coffee is in a class of its own.
Arabica Coffee and Yemen
Known as the birthplace of coffee culture, it all began about 600 years ago when the Arabica species travelled from Ethiopia to Yemen, where it was first domesticated and cultivated as a crop. As the trees adapted to the new climate and dryer environment of Yemen – they slowly evolved through a process known as genetic drift. Today, 98% of the Arabica varieties cultivated around the world can be traced back to Yemen, through the genetic base known as the mother of Arabica.
For the past four years, Qima has been running an R&D program with Dr Christophe Montagnon of RD2 Vision, mapping out a genetic survey on the coffees of Yemen. With climate change, water security, and urbanisation threatening the sustainability of speciality coffee, their work has led to one of the most important findings in the history of coffee: Yemenia. A subspecies within the Arabica coffee population.Â
Growing exclusively in Yemen, Yemenia not only holds the history of coffee but guards the key to the future of coffee. Some of you might remember the â€œYemenia: Bigger than Gesha?â€ interview James Hoffmann had with the founder and CEO of Qima, Faris Sheibani. A fascinating talk about the work they do, the discovery of Yemenia and what comes next – you can watch Jamesâ€™ video here.
Bait Alal and The Qima Alchemy Series
Introduced to Bait Alal a couple of years ago when we collaborated on sourcing and roasting a Yemeni coffee for Berlin-based cafe Ben Rahim, we were thrilled to see it on the auction list.
The first village Qima started working with, Bait Alal is home to 150 coffee-growing families – some of whom have land ownership documents dating back hundreds of years. Here, growing coffee is deeply rooted in the history of the area and considered a symbol of pride.
The result of many years of experimenting, with over 1300 processing methods tried, tested and tweaked, the Qima Alchemy Series represents the next generation of coffee processing innovation. As explained by Qima:
“We seek to add sensorial value to coffees through applying innovative processing methods to enhance and embolden the coffees’ cup profile, whilst maintaining the intrinsic flavours and notes that represent the terroir and the genetic background of the coffee.
The Alchemy Series relies on a combination of pressure (up to 10 bar/145 psi), temperature control, gas regulation and managed drying, to develop a truly unique set of coffees with unparalleled flavour, expression and structure. All of our processing and fermentation protocols are underpinned by principles of chemical engineering, ensuring our innovations are both sensorily unique and scientifically novel.”
As a coffee processed in this way, Bait Alal’s complexity is highlighted by bright flavours, flowing from the cup like a tapestry bringing together character and taste.
Amid a humanitarian crisis, having insight into the rich coffee culture of Yemen is no small feat. Thanks to organisations like Qima Coffee, we get to share in the diversity and future of Yemeni coffee. A moment to savour.
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BAIT ALAL - PREORDERÂ£40.00