For centuries, the authentic, true Mokha of the Yemeni highlands was little more than a whispered myth. Today, we celebrate a renaissance of this irresistible coffee – and are committed to turning the conversation up louder.
The Birthplace of Coffee
The southern part of the Arabian Peninsula is more than just a location on the map, it is an important crossroads between Asia and Africa, a commanding strategic location along the trade routes connecting the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean. It is part of the so-called ancient “cradle of civilization” of this part of the world.
Bordering the waterways of the Red Sea Yemen provided the ancient world with the luxuries and necessities unobtainable elsewhere. This is the Land of Sheba, the birthplace of coffee.
Specialty coffee finds its first expressions in Arabica beans, cultivated here in their birthplace. Arabica Coffee accounts for 65-80% of the world’s production. It was first cultivated and used as drink in Yemen by Sufi Monks. Producers and merchants traded it via the port of Mokha, the famous port where today’s “Mocha” drink has inherited its name. Coffee from this part of the world is naturally sweet, hence a “Mocha” drink today is a mixture of hot chocolate and espresso seeking to simulate the ancient flavour. However, from now on there is no need for consuming simulation of this magical drink, when you can obtain it right here with us at Sheba Coffee.
We at Sheba Coffee have been blessed to inherit our heritage from the ancient Kingdom of Sheba, and now we are dedicated to building a new legacy for Yemen's future.
Ruled by the legendary Queen of Sheba – or Saba (سباء) – was a Southern Arabian kingdom which stretched from today’s Yemen all the way to Ethiopia. It is this land from which the coffee drink originated in the 15th century and where we take our name.
Origination of the Coffee Plant
It is said that the wild Coffee Arabica plant first appeared in southern Sudan, flourishing naturally and spreading into Ethiopia. There is early evidence that the fruit of the coffee plant was being eaten as a trail snack within Ethiopia. It is not clear from here on who was the first to roast, grind and turn the fruit into the drink we know today as Coffee.
Strongest evidence for origination of the Coffee Drink
Late in 1450 there is clear evidence that Yemeni Sufi monks were the first to propagate the coffee plants outside Ethiopia. Many believe they were also the first to create the coffee drink as we know it today. Supporting this is the connection they have with the ottoman empire which was in its prime of alchemy and other sciences.
However we look at it, Historians all agree that Yemen is the first country to grow coffee as a crop, and make the most of its location as a trade link between east and west. Word quickly spread and coffee was exported across the Middle East from Yemen’s Port of Mokha then eventually to Europe and the rest of the world.
In many way one could argue that the:
The Birthplace of the wild coffee plant is Sudan
The Birthplace of the consumption of the coffee cherry is Ethiopia
The Birthplace of the propagation and spread of coffee as the drink we know today is Yemen
More on Coffee's History
It is said that the first coffee house was Kiva Han which opened in 1475 in Constantinople. If true, the coffee would have been grown in Yemen. The first coffee house in Europe, Blue Bottle, opened in 1645 in Venice using coffee beans left behind by the Ottomans after the siege of Vienna in 1683. This coffee would have also been from Yemen. The first coffee house in London was to open a few years later in 1652.
Yemen was the world’s main exporter of coffee until the 17th/18th century when the popularity of the Indonesian coffee grown by the Dutch on the volcanic island of Java overshadowed the Yemen coffee trade.
As far as coffee blends go, the first blend in history was the Mocha-Java blend, a coffee which also had a great reputation.
Sheba Coffee reintroduces you to the majestic Yemeni Coffee. Grown in the oldest coffee growing country in the world, where farmers have owned and cultivated their land for multiple generations.
In 2020, a new discovery has been made which has taken the coffee world by storm. A new mother coffee plant has been discovered within Yemen; this mother plant does not exist anywhere else in the world. The discovery further supports the argument that Yemen truly is the Birthplace of Coffee (more on this coming soon).
· The World Atlas of Coffee; James Hoffmann
· The Coffee Dictionary; Maxwell Colonna-dashwood
· The world of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug; Bennett Alan Weinberg