The country of Yemen plays an indispensable part in the history of coffee. The vast majority of commercial coffee varieties first came to Yemen from Ethiopia before spreading around the world. In fact, for centuries European researchers assumed coffee was endemic to the peninsula, as indicated by the name Coffea arabica.
But Yemen is also poised to play a crucial role in coffee’s next chapter. Recently, researchers in partnership with Yemeni coffee exporters Qima Coffee made a staggering discovery: a previously unmapped gene pool of coffee varieties. Qima is marketing this new cluster of varieties as Yemenia. With climate change and leaf rust decimating coffee production around the world, the discovery of new Arabica varieties offers new genetic material to breeders, not to mention unexplored flavors for coffee lovers.
The discovery comes at a pivotal time. A long, devastating civil war has created in Yemen what many are calling a humanitarian disaster. (The BBC recently shared a harrowing account of children being targeted by sniper fire.)
A group of coffee companies, including Qima Coffee, Square Mile Coffee, and Intelligentsia, have come together to put on an event to raise funds for charities working in Yemen. Amal Yemen, which translates to “Hope for Yemen,” will take place on March 26th. According to the event website:
Amal Yemen is a spontaneous movement designed to illuminate Yemeni coffee history, culture and arts while raising funds for humanitarian relief efforts… It is an attempt to better understand the dire circumstances Yemeni people are facing due to conflict and catalyze new efforts to address them.
The event’s program includes a guided coffee tasting with Geoff Watts of Intelligentsia, a presentation from Christophe Montagnon about the Yemenia coffee variety cluster, and a Yemeni Oud performance by Ahmed Al Shaiba. Participants can purchase a coffee kit, containing eight different Yemeni coffees, each roasted by a different specialty roaster. The coffees will highlight the regional and varietal differences found throughout Yemen. Tickets for the event can be purchased on Eventbrite.