We’re lucky here in Europe. We have access to many of the best coffees in the world, from Asia, to Africa and South America, and even as far as the South Pacific Islands.
A few weeks ago, we received a sample from a relatively nearby country that brought Europe its first taste of coffee; Yemen. The first coffees drunk in Europe were imported from the ancient port of Mokha – hence the name “moka”.
Musallam Trading, one of the largest exporting company in Yemen sent us a sample of their coffee. This Raimi coffee is one of the finest prepared dry processed arabicas we have seen in a long time. With less than five defects per 300g, this is Specialty Grade by any measure. The fairly small coffee beans are a mixture of native Yemeni cultivars. The coffee is sun dried.
Dry processed coffee is basically picked off a tree, and laid out to dry on screens, patios, or, in Yemen, usually on the roofs of houses. This old processing technique yields a mixture of unripe, ripe, and overripe coffee cherries. In addition, the drying both causes interesting flavours, but potentially also defects. And all these defects have to be picked out later.
This coffee was excellently sorted, with very few ‘bad’ coffee beans remaining in the batch. We tasted this coffee using a number of brewing methods. These are our cupping notes.
The cup opens with a buttery, caramel aroma with chocolate, and some sweet flowery notes (vanilla/orchid-like). Layered underneath that is a complex mixture of wild aromas that is hard to put your finger on; leather, tobacco, perhaps even peat.
The cup displays a pleasant mild acidity, akin to that of dry red wine.
Even at light roasts, this coffee has a smooth, buttery mouthfeel.
The coffee has a very complex cup. First, there is the sweet buttery flavour, somewhat like fudgy caramel. There is also a milk chocolate touch. The flowery notes are quite apparent at light roasts, as are the complex leathery, tobaccoey flavours.
In the aftertaste, the caramelly/chocolaty flavours last a long time, with the wild notes beautifully layered underneath.
Light roasts are great for filter drip. It will also well work for espresso, if you prefer a slightly brighter cup. As espresso, this dry processed coffee produces a beautiful long lasting crema.
At darker roasts, the acidity is still present, although more subdued. The body becomes even heavier, and smoother. The caramel and milk chocolate flavour changes towards dark baking chocolate, or perhaps cocoa powder. The flowery notes are more subdued, but still come out as the cup cools. Similarly, the wild flavours are still there, growing stronger in the cooling brew.
The aftertaste is long with many of the complex flavours recurring.
We feel darker roasts are perfectly suited for vacuum coffee makers (siphons), and single origin espresso. Adding a little hot water to the espresso (Americano-style) will bring out more of the complexity.
Such wild notes are characteristic terroir for Yemeni coffees. In this Raimi coffee, the flavours are fairly mild. While that may disappoint some, we feel it blends in well with the overall flavour. It makes this an excellent, complex, yet very accessible and beautifully balanced Yemen coffee. We recommend this Yemen coffee for all brewing methods, for filter drip, siphon, and espresso. Don’t add too much frothed milk, as it will lose much of the complexity of the cup.
We found Musallam Trading an excellent partner, and a reliable source of great coffees. The coffee we tasted is by far one of our favourites of 2011 (harvest of October – December).
Coffee tasted: Yemen Raimi (Dry Processed Arabica) from Musallam Trading
Aroma: caramel, chocolate, sweet flower (vanilla/orchid), leather
Flavour: fudgy caramel, chocolate, vanilla, leather, tobacco/peat
Body: heavy, buttery
Acidity: mild, enjoyable, like dry red wine
Aftertaste: long, with recurring flavours
Overall: complex cup, great terroir, well balanced