11 March, 2010

Yemen? What's that?

What do you think about the fact that Yemen is featured by both Lighthouse and Blue Bottle? Hasn't that been a non-contender for a while?

This got me thinking about coffees from Yemen. I've literally only had one conversation about the coffees of Yemen that I can even remember....and it wasn't that favorable. I've read a decent amount about it and I know Ukers book speaks well of it. The major draw back (and don't read to much into this...I like Natural coffees) is that it is naturally processed...and a risky coffee that comes at a high price. The choice to carry it may lie more in the personality of the roaster than in anything else. Maybe this season's crop is really great...it seems that Blue Bottle kind of infers that the last few years hasn't been as good as what they have found in the current offering. Lighthouse, on the other hand, has always carried it. I'm pretty sure he carries a standard set of origins and rarely differs in his selection.

I wouldn't classify Yemen as a non-contender...more of a coffee that can be so weird that many just don't spend the time to get to know it. It can be a wildly fruity and savory coffee, some say meaty...an odd characteristic for a coffee, one that could turn alot of people off...especially in the pop-fad light, sweet and clean coffees we are appreciating (and talking about) so much. I wish I could talk about Yemen with some personal experience, but aside from cupping maybe two samples in the past 6 years (one that I roasted way too dark on a little 5# roaster) my last drinking was Starbucks Sanani....circa 1998. It would be very interesting to taste a Yemen at a light roast. Probably overwhelming and definitely unlike any other tasting...but maybe most put a little darker (full city) profile on it to tame it.

The other side of this that really intrigues me is that arguably Yemen is a true example of how coffee was designed to taste. This is where coffee naturally occurred and the dry processing of the coffee is how it was prepped since before history. This coffee is barely even cultivated...it grows wild and is picked and processed on small patios much like, if not exactly like it was more than a thousand years previous. Maybe it is just me, but I'm drawn to understand how something tasted before we (humans) got to thinking too much about it. This isn't to say that technology and understanding hasn't made coffees better, it has. But there is something nostalgic about tasting something in its most purist and unaltered form...before taking it to the other side of the world, or hybridizing, or processing with water...coffee is it was first experienced.

So maybe Yemen is showing up on the menus of roasters that feel nostalgic about coffee and want to experience something a bit more unadulterated. I can appreciate this...too much human involvement and we typically mess it all up in the end.

Join me in the debate that naturals are the 'true specialty coffee'!

(ok...that last line was a joke!)


  1. i had a siphon of the yemen when i was at blue bottle last summer... it was really pleasant - not really wierd at all. i would agree with saying that it was a bit "meaty". we had it at 10am, and followed it with a belgian beer. i think the employees were a little surprised to have that order!

    in my opinion, it was interesting to try, but it didn't really impress me all that much. the ethiopia misty mountain (or something like that) made a much more memorable siphon, but i'm glad to have tried a yemen.

    all that being said... it's a decent coffee, probably worth trying, but it won't really change your life.

  2. I agree that for the sake of nostalgia it is a must taste. Now I'm intrigued and will have to have a little chat at Stumptown to see if they can hook me up with a tasting.

  3. So I got the scoop at Stumptown this morning...apparently they got some last year (he named the particulars but my memory isn't good enough to recall them...I was surprised I remembered Yemen!) anyway this year they have yet to source it but I've been told they will check into the possibility. He said the government is shady there at best. He also said that they don't drink it roasted there...they prefer tea. interesting.

  4. Hmmm...I've got to think that it is hard if not impossible to direct trade so Stumptown probably stays away from it...you should ask Wolf...he roasts there now, maybe he has some insider thoughts too.

  5. Hi Ryan,
    Yesterday (Sun.)your Dad and I did a bit of coffee shop hopping....and no one had any Guatemalan coffee! The folks at Zoka said that it is is not in season at this time....so we returned without Guatemala coffee...But did purchase some Yemen from Lighthouse. Was surprised at the lack of knowledge we encountered...response we received mostly was ahh you need to talk to the roaster I just make the drinks ( quote from Lighthouse staff) Zoka told us Guatemala coffee is not in season!
    Think I now have everything I need to package up Jazzy's gift and some coffee for the Papa!
    Love, Mom

  6. Hmmm Zoka. Well harvest in country takes place between December and April depending on region. But even so I think most roasters keep a Guat in stock from late season '09 but maybe less and less since other central origins have grown in quality over the past several years... Thanks for the Yemen! -rp