Of all the world’s coffees, those of Yemen are likely the most inscrutable. Heirloom varietals are grown in garden plots in the labyrinthine, walled city of Sana’a, and the impenetrable highlands of Hirazi. Left to dry on the coffee tree itself or picked and dried on rooftops, and husked in ancient stone mills, Yemen coffees are screened and cleaned and winnowed by hand.
The result? Fragrance and aromas that exhilarate the senses. Flavors that dance on the tongue. Complex, syncopated symphonies of spiced wine and dark fruit, cocoa and musk, sin and salvation. Or, variously; dirt, tallow, and — to quote an esteemed fellow on the other side of the pond — “overhung pheasant.” To be clear, Yemeni coffees are astonishing, or appalling. There is no middle ground.
Just as clearly, I’m long overdue for a Yemen roast, and I need to see if I can find a good stash. Meanwhile I’ll leave you with the thoughts of Sheikh Abdulkadir who penned these words in 1850:
Coffee is the common man’s gold, and like gold, it brings to every man the feeling of luxury and nobility. Coffee differs from pure, gentle milk only in its taste and color. Take time in your preparation of coffee and God will be with you and bless you and your table. Where coffee is served there is grace and splendor and friendship and happiness.
All cares vanish as the coffee cup is raised to the lips. Coffee flows through your body as freely as your life’s blood, refreshing all that it touches; look at the youth and vigor of those who drink it.
Whoever tastes coffee will forever forswear the liquor of the grape. Oh, drink of God’s glory, your purity brings to man only well being and nobility.