Yemen is a small coffee producing country that only grows arabica plants. Coffee trees were brought from their origin in Ethiopia and introduced into the Arab empire over a thousand years ago in what is now Yemen. The coffee from Yemen was the first coffee introduced into Europe and was considered a highly valuable commodity. Because of its long history, it is the only coffee producing country with high genetic diversity outside of Ethiopia. The coffee in Ethiopia is very unique, naturally processed and difficult to obtain. Coffee production in Yemen competes with Qat, which is used locally as a stimulant and is worth much more than the coffee.
CQI began its work in Yemen in 2006, when our now executive director, David Roche travelled there to asses the industry. A comprehensive report is available from that trip here. Subsequent to that visit, CQI was involved in a number of grants with several organizations addressing everything from production, processing, cupping, barista training, and marketing. In 2010, Mr. Roche returned to take part in the 2nd conference on arabica naturals. This event was attended by an international group and over eight Yemen coffee farmers.
From 2010 to 2013, CQI was very active in Yemen with Creative Consulting and a USAID project. In 2014, CQI entered into an agreement with Land o Lakes to manage the coffee portion of a large USAID grant aimed at improving the Yemen agricultural sector. This project was very successful, leading to high profile events in Washington DC and at the SCAA conference in Seattle. A research project was done with World Coffee Research (WCR) and Texas A&M University where over 180 samples of Yemen varieties were sent to study the genetic diversity. This information has been published on the WCR website. Unfortunately, early in 2015, civil war broke out in Yemen and all international embassies were forced to leave, suspending and eventually ending this project that would have helped so many Yemen Coffee farmers. The hope is that one day peace return and our work can continue.