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Yemen coffees are wild and amazing, rich, heavy, chocolaty cups that keep you going back for more and more. Most Yemen is sold generically from the Sanani region and may consist of coffee from various farms, varietels, and even crop years all mixed together! This one is from the Matari region and is a traceable lot from a newly founded co-op in Yemen. The co-op operates in the Fair trade model, and is socially responsible -- which is almost unheard of for Yemen coffee.
So the price on this coffee is way out there and deserves an explanation. I really didn't want to buy something so expensive. I had several Yemen samples to try, but this one blew me away. The others I don't even remember. I became obsessed with this one. I knew I couldn't make any money on this expensive of a coffee, so I brought in a friend who has extraordinary taste ability, but has only started tasting coffees in the past year. Hence, he has had great Kenyas, Ethiopians, Sulawesi, Costa Ricans.....but never a Yemen. I made him a mug of this and said, "I need you to talk me out of this one. Look at the price...I can't afford it. Convince me I don't need to buy it." He took a few sips and said, "well, you absolutely have to buy this, so we'd better figure out how to sell it..."
Why is it so expensive? Well first, the taste and quality of this coffee honestly are worth the price. Wonderful Malty quality (think guinness beer) -- grains and wheat that only a great Yemen will have. Then a remarkable banana taste -- a flavor I've only found once before (in a very expensive Ethiopian). Besides this, there is chocolate, spices, and citrus (sweet orange). So this coffee tastes like banana bread with chocolate chips and an orange glaze. You will not forget it. SECOND, Yemen coffee is a dying export. They are producing very little, and exporting very little. So supply-demand is at play. THIRD, Yemen is a very expensive country to deal with. The anarchy, terrorism, and violence creates high risk in business dealings. Every single bag of coffee has to be x-rayed when it goes through US customs. Lots of expense.
Not all home roasting systems can handle Yemen. In general, Yemeni coffee beans are very small, but since they are not sorted by size, there are also large beans mixed in. The coffee produces large amounts of chaff. It is a natural processed coffee and should not be roasted too darkly. If you're up for the challenge, you will not be disappointed. The grains, bitter herbs, dark fruits, banana, and baking cocoa gives this coffee a dark sultry spiciness that pairs well with chocolate and desserts.
I am getting nice results at a variety of roast levels. At City roast I'm tasting extra malt and grains and finding it to be very satisfying. A few degrees darker brings out more of the banana and orange and chocolate notes. 5 degrees more and more of the bitter herbs and spices take the spotlight (it is still very satisfying and enjoyable at this level) A few degrees more and we're getting close to the 2nd cracks. At this point it tastes slightly too dark. The malty flavor is gone, and a taste of seeds and chocolate are the main flavors. However, if you like espresso, take it into the rolling 2nd cracks, which tends to happen about 20 seconds into the slow second cracks. At that point, you have the most amazing cocoa-tasting espresso I’ve ever tasted (if only I could afford to give my coffeeshop customers 100% Yemen for their espresso, I surely would).