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Yemeni coffee needs Yemeni cuppers

9 Dec
Trainer Manuel Diaz collecting the sample forms from the cupping participants. Diaz is from Mexico and has over 20 years of experience in the coffee industry.
Photo by Malak Shaher
Yemen Times
Published:09-12-2010
SANA’A, Dec. 9 – A large group of young men and women sat in front of 26 plastic cups of water, mixed with different ingredients. The task was to test their genetic abilities in identifying the different flavors.This tasting exercise was the first of its kind in Yemen. Of the 80 participants, only 25 passed this test. The successful candidates will eventually become Yemen’s first batch of coffee cuppers.Coffee cupping is the technical process through which coffee is graded based on its quality and origins.

Small and Micro Enterprise Promotion Service Agency (SMEPS), affiliated to the government’s Social Fund for Development was behind the tasting experience.

SMEPS carried out the cupping training as a first step of a year-long process to create young Yemeni coffee cuppers, certified by the International Speciality Coffee Institute.

“The trainees do not need have any prior experience in coffee cupping but we preferred to select people who already have experience in coffee,” said Mervat Haidar, senior project officer at SMEPS.

Ismail Faez, 23, was excited to be part of the training. As he immersed himself in the different varieties of mixtures, trying out his tastebuds, he acknowledged that this training will help him perform his job better as he works in a coffee shop.

“The most important thing is that they should have a ‘genetic’ ability to taste the faintest coffee flavor,” said cupping trainer Manuel Diaz.

Diaz is from Mexico and has over 20 years experience in the coffee industry.

“With this training we can have local experts who are able to grade the coffee produced locally and hence control the pricing and originality,” explained Haidar.

Currently, when Yemeni companies need to export coffee, they have to send samples to the clients who grade the coffee and determine its price.

Iglal Al-Baqiri, 28, works as a sales agent for Al-Ezzi coffee company. She was also a participant in the training and was 100 percent sure that this is what is needed to boost the coffee market in Yemen.

“As Yemenis, we have been famous for our coffee for ages. We have to have local cuppers to identify the grade and price,” said Haidar.

“Therefore Yemeni coffee needs Yemeni cuppers.”

This training is one of many steps SMEPS is carrying out to revive Yemen’s reputation as the homeland of coffee, especially since it is the only country in the world which grows 100 percent of the sun-dried natural Arabica coffee.

Next week, Yemen will host the second International Arabica Naturals Conference following the first one held in Mexico three years ago.

“The conference and the cupping training are two parts of a larger project, which also includes a study on coffee productivity in Yemen,” said Wesam Qaid, director of SMEPS.

The productivity study includes examining the productivity of certain types of Yemeni coffee and finding ways to improve it.

Coffee cupping

The cupping processes involve defining the coffee quality by tasting it, smelling it and observing the color and shape of the coffee beans. Coffee tasters, or cuppers, have to be able to recognize the slightest differences between coffee types in flavor, smell, color, texture and appearance.

A professional cupper can determine age, quality, roasting and the place of production of the coffee.

In Yemen, coffee is grown between 900 and 2000 meters above sea level. The Yemeni coffee boasts a superior lingering taste and an exceptional resistance which is rated 93 out of 100, according to experts from the International Coffee Organization (ICO).

In Yemen, there are over 15 coffee types, which differ depending on where they are grown and the appearance of the coffee beans.

The different types of Yemeni coffee take their names either from where they grown, such as Al-Matari or Al-Harazi, or from the shape of the coffee beans such as Al-Tofahi (apple-like).

The first coffee type known to the world was the Mocha coffee which was exported from Mocha port in Hodeida, a city by the Red Sea.



Amira Al-Hakimi filling in the forms in which 26
types of water mixtures were identified. Amira
made it to the next round.

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