Coffee and Qishr in Yemen


Qahwa, or Arabic coffee, is a symbol of hospitality in Yemen. If you get an invitation to drink qahwa, do accept it, as it would be considered impolite to refuse. Gahwa is made from fresh roasted coffee beans to which is added cardamom, saffron or maybe a little rosewater.


Yemen has a coffee culture like no other place, and perhaps some of what we enjoy in this cup is due to their old style of trade. Exporters do not buy from farms, but through an extesive network of middlemen. Local buyers receive coffee in the pod, the entire dried cherry, and that is stored, usually in underground caverns! The coffee actually exported is usually the oldest of their stocks, not new crop coffee! But this is the way it has been, and is one reason that new Yemen arrivals often have moisture content readings in the 10.5% range, in my experience. Yemeni growers are not hurt by this system with so many middlemen, largely because the coffee land under cultivation is limited, production is fairly low due to high altitude and limited inputs, and the crop is in such high demand. Competition from the Saudis also keeps Yemeni coffee prices very high. We are offering Qishr now too (also spelled Quishir, Keshir, Geshir) - the dried coffee husks used to make traditional hot infused coffee tea, or Yemen Ginger Tea.

General Yemen Roasting Tips: These coffees are very high-grown and need to be roasted slightly longer than other arabica coffees. This is a dry-processed natural coffee, and the roast color will be uneven from bean to bean ...but we judge coffee by the "cup quality," not visual appearances: don't be an "eye-cupper". Some Yemeni coffees are very small in screen size, which might cause problems in the Alpenrost. Yemeni coffee really develops its flavors over the first 2 days after roasting, especially the body/mouthfeel. Ideally, try to wait 24-48 hours before brewing. Since this is a hand prepared coffee dried in the sun - watch out for rocks! There can be small stones in the coffee that you need to cull out before roasting and definitely before grinding as these can jam a grinder. (In wet processed coffees the stones fall out in the water channel but in dry processed coffees, small stones can escape detection and make it all the way through to the final bag.) Expect uneven roast colors from Yemeni coffees, just as with the dry-processed Ethiopian coffees. Yemeni coffees pass from 1st crack to 2nd crack rapidly, so be on your toes!