New genetic coffee group discovered in Yemen

caffeine magazine australia new coffee group yemenia

We look at the events that led to the discovery of Yemenia is a new member of the arabica species.
By Ben Bicknell of Five Senses Coffee | Image courtesy of Qima Coffee

Over recent decades, there have been regular injections of new roasting technology, espresso machine refinement, and even coffee processing methods; but we’ve seen very little in the way of new additions to the raw plant material… until now.

This is one of the reasons that the recent identification of an entirely new genetic group in Yemen is so significant – genetic diversity offers a more robust agricultural future.

Another reason is that the benefits have been firmly connected to the ownership of the traditional smallholder farmers of Yemen’s dramatic landscapes – the oldest coffee cultivation in the world – who have been wracked by civil war, climate change and a wildly fluctuating global market.

Faris Sheibani founded Qima Coffee only a few years ago when he identified the opportunity for coffee to lift up the livelihoods of the people of his native Yemen. Seeing the potential for coffee to provide much needed income, Qima partnered with Dr. Christophe Montagnon of RD2 Vision to spearhead research to map the genetics of the coffee that has been cultivated on the terraced hills of Yemen for centuries.

The studies identified an entirely new genetic ‘mother’ group within the species of Coffea arabica – Yemenia – and the results in the cup were excellent!

Joining forces with the Alliance for Coffee Excellence (of COE fame), in 2020, Qima hosted a blind cupping of these distinctive coffees and the resulting top lots were offered to the world at an international auction. In partnership with Upstream Coffee Imports, Five Senses Coffee managed to secure this special natural process coffee from the Mutawasat Community – one of only 15 lots worldwide of this new genetic discovery.

While these coffees are without doubt expensive, the real stand-outs are the increased genetic diversity adding to coffee’s resilience, and the potential positive impact on the livelihoods of the world’s oldest coffee farming community. The fact that the coffees from the Yemenia group are being likened to Gesha and turning up some intriguingly delicious flavours is just the icing on the cake!

Ben Bicknell is Strategic Projects Manager at Five Senses Coffee

This feature appeared in issue 02 of Caffeine magazine Australia

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