Rarity 01: Yemen Ali Al-Lahaba Natural Udaini


Bean name Rarity 01: Yemen Ali Al-Lahaba Natural Udaini
Country Rarities
Region Al Haymah Al Kharijiyah, Saan'a
Other info Lemon curd, clementine, dark chocolate, star anise


Aside from Ethiopia, Yemen has one of the longest (and we think among the most interesting) histories with coffee production. The region is largely to thank for the global spread of coffee, both as an agricultural product and as a beverage. Yet in recent years it has had a dramatic decline in both the production and, unfortunately, the quality of its coffee, which is largely due to political and social upheaval.

Coffee’s discovery in what we now recognise as Ethiopia was the beginning of the story, but it is spice traders and devout Muslims from the Arabian Peninsula who are credited with turning the local crop into an international one. For one thing, the plants themselves made the jump across the Red Sea. They were transplanted for the first time in Yemeni soil in the 17th century as the merchants sought to corner the coffee market, both for their own personal use and for trade with Europe.

It was via those trade routes that the beverage spread in popularity. By the late 1600s, Yemen was the world’s coffee powerhouse in every sense. It was a plant from Yemen – probably the Moka variety (so-called after the country’s major port, Al Mokha) – that made its way to Java and began the enormous Dutch plantations there, which subsequently fed plants to the rest of the New World.

However, since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and thanks to recent political strife and natural disasters, Yemen has gone from being one of the wealthiest nations in the world to being one of the most aid-dependent and war-torn. The country has been in the midst of a brutal civil war since 2015, and its other seemingly most-newsworthy characteristics are its water impoverishment, an increasing dependence on the narcotic plant qat, and its appearance on the U.S.A.'s recent 'Travel Ban'.

It’s among the most dangerous and difficult places in the world to survive – let alone to do business and to help communities. Despite this, we’ve seen a small, very fragile bloom in the last few years of people doing just that and using coffee as a way to a better future.

This coffee is produced by Ali Al-Lahaba and 35 small farming families of the Al-Ruwad cooperative in the Al Haymah Al Kharijiyah District of Yemen. Bait Al-Lahaba is a family of farmers, both men and women, who first moved to the Saan'a region to grow coffee at the end of the 18th century. They represent one of the oldest groups of coffee producers in the whole of Yemen.

Like many other producers in Yemen, the community faces a great number of challenges to grow their coffee, but they have particularly struggled due to declining coffee prices domestically and some improper practices by coffee traders in the past. The local infrastructure poses further challenges: the terrain is rugged, water is scarce and transport links are nonexistent.

As a community, they are putting a lot of effort into improving the quality of their coffee by working on dedicated irrigation channels to make the most of the scarce water available. They're focusing on soil nutrition, good tree care and continually selecting and planting the most suitable coffee varietal seedlings. They've spent the last few years really focusing on their farming practices, with the aim of increasing their production volumes and quality levels. This has brought them domestic success in Yemen; thanks to this, they were approached by Qima Coffee, who we have teamed up with to bring you this excellent and exciting lot.

Their goal is to produce some of the highest quality coffee in the world, and to see Yemen recognised internationally as a leading coffee-growing region. By sharing this coffee with you, we hope you'll get to see the amazing potential of coffee in Yemen. We look forward to hopefully working with Bait Al-Lahaba and developing a relationship over the coming years.

This wonderful, complex lot brings classic Yemeni flavours alongside the overripe fruit of careful natural processing. It starts with sweet citrus - think lemon curd with a segment of clementine. Then there's a hint of booze alongside dark chocolate, but what stands out most for me is a sweet and juicy body. On the finish there's a little mango and that kick of spice which is so uniquely Yemeni. In this case it's star anise and a tiny hint of mace, which lingers into the aftertaste.

Country: Yemen
Governance: Saan'a
District: Al Haymah Al Kharijiyah
Cooperative: Al-Ruwad Coop
Producer: Ali Al-Lahaba
Process: Natural
Drying time: 27.5 days
Varietal: Udaini
Altitude: 2,300 m.a.s.l.

Cupping notes

Clean cup None/8
Sweetness None/8
Acidity None/8
Mouthfeel None/8
Flavour None/8
Aftertaste None/8
Balance None/8
Overall None/8
Correction +None
Total None

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