GROWER: 615 farmers organized around Pearl of Tehama
VARIETY: Jadi, Dawaery, Tuffahi
REGION: Sa’adah Governorate and Ibb Governorate, Yemen
ALTITUDE: 1700 – 2400 masl
CUP NOTES: Brandy, Cedarwood, Coffee blossom
This coffee is produced by legacy farmers of various sizes in the high mountains of Sa’adah and Ibb Governorate. Coffee-growing families in Sa’adah and Ibb, similar to many others across the country, tend parcels of terraced land passed through many generations. Coffee is the one crop that continues to survive above all others, both for the livelihood it provides, as well as being a deep social tradition that keeps communities together.
Maintaining coffee trees in a climate as dry, high, and uniquely challenging as Yemen’s western and northern ranges, requires the kind of proven techniques that only generations of farming can bestow. Coffee farms are terraced on arid, incredibly steep slopes. Bore holes are dug manually into the rock to access individual water reserves for each tree wherever rain is scarce. Coffee trees are spaced generously, about 1000 per hectare (compared to 4000-6000 common in Latin America), both by necessity on the narrow terraces, as well as for better groundwater access and erosion control. Raising young coffee trees is a matter of hardening them for a lifetime of vicious elements and water scarcity. Older coffee trees become very spacious and tall, and often end up hanging their branches over the terrace edge, known locally as “hanging gardens”. Above the coffee, shade trees are carefully selected and positioned for how well they block water evaporation. As can be imagined, productivity is very low in such conditions. And still, over one million people work in Yemen’s coffee trade, from farm to export.
Pearl of Tehama, the miller and exporter who manages all transportation, milling, and exporting of partner farms’ coffee, is a family business founded in 1970. For many years, all coffee was exported under the name of the family patriarch and founder, Ali Hiba Muslot. After his death in 1980 his three sons continued using the family name until 2012, when the family business, including other trades and retail, was split up. The coffee export business was reborn as Pearl of Tehama for Import, Export, and C.A.S, and is still owned by Ms. Fatoum Muslot, the late Muslot’s daughter. Fatoum’s eldest son, Yasser Al-Khaderi, is the company’s general manager.
Yemen continues to suffer from protracted conflict that has cost many lives and displaced over 3 million people. Two-thirds of the country is in need of food or medical aid. It has not stopped the Muslot family and Pearl of Tehama from dutifully managing and exporting the coffee harvests of the farms and families they represent; something they can be very proud of given the conflict’s overwhelmingly ruinous effect on much of Yemen’s international trade. Not only this, but Pearl of Tehama has established a consultancy for other service providers in coffee, particularly exporters, to help expand Yemen’s coffee sector safety net and even increase the coffee’s availability and competitiveness abroad.