“Yemeni coffee is personal for us.”

An ancient tradition receives an infusion of new skills

March 13, 2024

Throughout history Yemeni women have played a pivotal role in cultivating and harvesting coffee. Now they are becoming more involved in the later stages of production.

UNDP Yemen

Yemeni coffee holds a special place in the hearts of coffee connoisseurs. The appeal lies not only in its exceptional taste, but also in its rich cultural heritage. Yemen is one of the oldest coffee regions in the world, and the place where it was first commercially cultivated. Mokha Port on the southwestern coast of the Red Sea, has long been exporting arabica coffee of exceptional quality, so much so that it has become a by-word for coffee excellence. 

Throughout history, Yemeni women have played a pivotal role in cultivating and harvesting coffee, which is grown in the highlands. Recently, more women have become involved in coffee cupping and roasting, a delicate and skilled process that involves preparing and tasting coffee beans to assess distinct flavours and quality. 

Amira, 29, is a certified coffee cupper and believes women should participate in every  stage of Yemen’s coffee industry, not just growing it. 

This prompted her to start her own training course in tasting and identifying the distinctive types of Yemeni coffee. Her aim was to include more women in the chain of a long and venerable profession that dates to the Middle Ages. 

"I had a dream to spread more information about Yemeni coffee among Yemeni women and contribute to increasing the quality of coffee in Yemen. I announced the training, and the turnout exceeded my expectations,” she says.

Coffee cupping is the practice of evaluating the quality of brewed coffee by drinking and tasting.

UNDP Yemen

Coffee is an important part of Yemen’s economy and UNDP, funded by the European Union, has launched the Strengthening Institutional and Economic Resilience in Yemen (SIERY) project to support it. 

Amira trained five women on the characteristics of Yemeni coffee and the cupping and tasting process. The trainees learned how to dry, roast, grind, and taste coffee and grade it for quality.

The experience has opened new doors for Elaf Al-Jabal, 23, who believes that young people in Yemen can make a distinguished contribution to one of their country’s most precious natural resources. 

"Yemeni coffee is personal for us, and when I present it, I want to present it in a correct, unique, and innovative way."
Elaf Al-Jabal, 23.

Amira imparts the knowledge she gained on coffee cupping by organizing trainings for other Yemeni women.

UNDP Yemen

Siham Shuja Al-Din, 35, comes from a family working in the coffee trade. Her goal is to encourage the role of Yemeni women in coffee production and promotion.

"We want to educate the community, especially women, about the importance of coffee crops, from the beginning of cultivation, to the market," she says.

Altogether the SIERY project, has trained 45 Yemeni young people how to roast and cup coffee with the support of national partner, the Small and Micro Enterprise Promotion Services. This process improves the quality of coffee beans sold at local and international markets. Eight participants received training on the international certification for coffee cupping in Amman, Jordan in July 2023.

The project also includes a value chain study in Al-Haymah Al-Kharejia and Manakhah, Sana’a Governorate, grants and training for 300 coffee farmers in these districts, and professional support for 45 small coffee enterprises.

Amira and her trainees mean to continue to develop their professional skills and to encourage more women to join them.

Boosting the coffee sector requires the involvement of women and Amira's training sessions are doing exactly that.

UNDP Yemen

Yemeni coffee already has the cachet and the pedigree. Credentialled and ready to go, Yemen’s newest coffee tasting experts now want to see its excellence reach even more people. 

"As young people, we know coffee as a drink, but we haven't usually attempted to learn more about it. Today, as women, we don't want to stop at farming only, but we want to be a part of promoting the coffee sector,” Elaf says.