Release #28: Yemen Khulani Education Lot 2021
Yemen is the country where coffee arrived after its very first migration: from its birthplace in the highlands of southwestern Ethiopia, across the Red Sea, and ultimately to the Arabian peninsula. While it is not clearly known how coffee came to make this initial journey, whether by trade, or perhaps in the pockets of pilgrims making their way from Ethiopia to Mecca, it is certainly the case that coffee was well established in Yemen by the 15th century and Yemen was the first place that coffee was cultivated for trade and export out of the hugely significant port city of Mokha. As with the Indonesian island of Java, the massive importance of Mokha to the nascent international coffee trade is indicated by the fact that “Mocha” is a word that has often come to serve as a generic term for coffee itself.
While Yemen was the dominant force at the beginning of the coffee trade, and even as recently as the 1950’s produced approximately 65,000 tons of coffee annually, its production has plummeted closer to 9,000 tons in recent years as the country has navigated prolonged political instability, brutal civil war, and a widespread humanitarian crisis due to population displacement, acute shortages of food and water, and a worsening economic climate that has been exacerbated by continued fighting and the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these unimaginable challenges, coffee continues to hold great economic and social significance for the people of Yemen and a small group of visionary exporters and traders continue to work against huge obstacles to improve the livelihoods of Yemeni coffee farmers.
Fatoum Muslot, the daughter of prominent Yemeni exporter Ali Hebah Muslot, founded her own coffee export business, Pearl of Tehama, in 2015. Despite facing significant obstacles as a female business owner operating within a domestic coffee trade that remains largely male dominated, Fatoum has built an impressive operation and works tirelessly as an advocate for the communities of smallholder farmers that she works with. In 2021 Passenger released three Yemeni Education Lots that had been carefully prepared by the Pearl of Tehama team. These fascinating coffees were the first from Yemen to be presented on our menu, and we are excited to share a second taste of two of them as Freezer Friday releases at the time of writing.