There are approximately 70 coffee-producing countries in the world, many of which have become synonymous with the popular caffeinated beverage. According to the World Economic Forum, a look at the leading producers in 2020 reveals that Brazil and Colombia, along with Vietnam and Indonesia, will account for approximately 70 percent of the global market share. However, production is not the only indicator of coffee nation significance. Yemen, for instance, does not even crack the top 20, but in terms of coffee history and culture, it is on par with any other country on earth.
Ethiopia and Yemen are the two countries most frequently associated with the origin of coffee, and each has its own myths, legends, and origin stories. Although both countries have a long history, it is generally accepted, as pointed out by Perfect Daily Grind, that coffee plants originated in Ethipioa and coffee drinking and cultivation originated in Yemen. According to Qima Coffee, the earliest example dates back to the middle of the 15th century and involves Sufi monks who drank the beverage to fuel their nighttime meditations. Yemen became renowned, however, for its trade in coffee, which by the early 18th century had become the country’s most profitable export. According to Perfect Daily Grind, Yemen held a global monopoly on coffee at this time, with trade centered on its principal port.
According to Perfect Daily Grind, the town that facilitated Yemen’s coffee trade was called Al-Makha, and its primary product became known as Mocha. Yemen guarded its prized export with vigilance and refused to sell seeds or plants. According to Qima Coffee, however, the smuggling of coffee seeds became a cottage industry, with the Dutch, British, and French all smuggling seeds in order to establish their own production in distant colonies. The most renowned was the one started by Dutch traders in Java, which, according to Perfect Daily Grind, contributed to the creation of Mocha Java, one of the world’s most enduring coffee blends. However, the competition destroyed Yemen’s coffee monopoly. According to Qima Coffee, Yemen’s production accounted for only 6 percent of the global supply in 1800.
Today, Yemen’s coffee production represents an even smaller portion of the global market (only 0.1 percent , per Quima Coffee). Its coffee culture, characterized by traditional family-owned farms with trees grown at higher altitudes on terraced slopes, persists, however. According to Al-Aqeeq, the cultivation methods have not changed in 500 years, and no chemicals are used even today. Yemen’s distinctive dry-processing — a result of its arid climate — and time-honored techniques are discernible in every drop, as are chocolate-like notes. The National Coffee Association describes Yemen’s coffee flavor as “deep, rich, and unique.” What else would you expect from the nation that has been making it the longest?