Mad Priest Coffee Roasters, a small coffee roasting company in Tennessee, just spent their savings to purchase a lot of the newly discovered Yemenia coffee species. The Qima Coffee Auction was in partnership with the Alliance for Coffee Excellence and drew some of the biggest names in coffee from around the world to pay upwards of $140 per pound. And Mad Priest decided to purchase this coffee during a pandemic when sales are way down, no less. Why would they do that?
According to Mad Priest owner and roaster, Michael Rice, “I want to be a part of history, I want Mad Priest to be a vessel of the global coffee revolution through this new coffee species. No, I’m not gonna make money on this. But as a company, we want to give accessibility for something big like this to the general public. We want to give people the opportunity to purchase this coffee from Yemen, and in doing so, play a role in changing the future of the coffee industry. We all need to be part of something bigger than ourselves.”
Mad Priest is not new to Yemeni coffee; they offered a coffee from Yemen previously, in 2017, and the coffee was a special release called “The Original Hipster”. Mr. Rice says that this new Yemenia coffee is a whole new world, though, and obviously will have a higher price tag. The Yemenia coffee will be available to purchase from Mad Priest in store and online starting Nov. 1 in 4oz bags, and they will be hosting various coffee cuppings and educational opportunities surrounding the release for the month of November.
What exactly is Yemenia? A few weeks ago, Qima Coffee announced that they (together with World Coffee Research) had discovered a new coffee mother species, called Yemenia. Up until now, there have only been a few mother species (Bourbon/Typica, Ethiopia Heirloom) under the main species, Arabica. Why is this a big deal? With climate change and unrest around the world, the coffee industry has been facing massive challenges, said officials. So in more recent years, there has been more concerted effort to develop the specialty coffee industry in new countries (like Myanmar), as well as new processing methods, to help alleviate the strain on the global coffee community in order to meet consumption demands. New genetics in coffee potentially means expanded ways to produce better coffee with more resilience to disease and greater production capacity. And it’s a big deal for the war-torn country of Yemen, too, that is in desperate need of economic and social support, said officials.
Contrary to popular knowledge, Yemen has been part of the story of coffee for centuries, pretty much since the discovery of coffee. Though the coffee plant was discovered in Ethiopia, Yemen is the first place where coffee was cultivated as a crop and introduced as a drink to the world. And Yemen was responsible for the beginning of the coffee house movement in the 1500/1600s, which spread throughout the Middle East and beyond, creating a space for socializing, intellectual discourse, political debate, and of course, lots of chess. Coffee from Yemen has always been unique but very expensive for its quality, because of the processing and infrastructure challenges with the war and famine there. Then the last couple of years, there’s been more development of coffee in Yemen with companies like Qima Coffee and Port of Mokha/ Mokhtar Alkhanshali (his story is told in the popular book, The Monk of Mokha). Mad Priest is honored to be just one part in what Qima coffee is calling, “The Yemen coffee revolution”.