April 24, 2017
By Chris Campbell
Haraaz Coffee is a medium-dark roasted whole bean coffee produced in Yemen’s Haraaz mountain range located between the Tihamah coastal plain and the city of Sana'a. The beans create a unique and flavorful cup of coffee that is rarely found in the United States. Yemeni coffee is highly sought after and widely renowned for it’s distinct and complex flavor profile. However, you won’t find it very often in local coffee shops or grocery store aisles because of the difficulty in raising and exporting it from this troubled country. Finding a source of these rare beans is a special occasion that should be taken advantage of.
To better understand the value of these beans you first need to learn about their history. Though the origin of the Coffea plant is known to be somewhere in the African continent, it is not known exactly where. It is widely believed that Ethiopia is where coffee was first grown; most existing crops can genetically be traced back there. However, the earliest records of drinking coffee is from the Sufi monasteries of Yemen. The monks believed that coffee had spiritual or mystical properties that made them stay awake during long prayer sessions. It wasn’t long before merchants passing through the area began taking the coffee to other parts of the world and Yemen became coffee's first commercial center. Having such deep roots to the origin and history of coffee itself is only one of the reasons this bean is so special.
The flavor profile found in Yemeni coffee beans is more complex than a typical cup of joe. Depending on the roast level of each batch you might discover a range of old world flavors, from dark earthy tones with hints of bittersweet chocolate to a spicy mix of cardamom and cinnamon. This wonderful combination of flavors can be attributed to the way the beans are farmed and processed. For the past 800 years the techniques used there have remained virtually unchanged. In Yemen, terrace farming is widely used because of the heavy erosion due to the dry, rocky landscape. Stone platforms have been carved in the sides of the mountains to support the plants. The farms being located at an altitude of 3,000 to 8,000 feet also affects the final flavor of the beans. The decreased amount of oxygen at this altitude increases the density and sugar content of the beans. A higher sugar content helps to produce these wonderful complex flavors.
Being in such a dry and rocky location there is a shortage of water: the only sources are rainfall and small creeks. Because of this the coffee must be dry processed. In this process, the coffee cherries are left to dry on cement slabs for about a week or less. They are then put through a stone mill that strips the dried fruit and skin away from the coffee bean inside. This process also plays an important role in the flavor development of the beans.
Finally, a very serious issue that adds to the scarcity of this coffee is the political environment of the country. Due to the civil war in the region travel in and out of the country is at times almost impossible. This makes the Yemeni coffee that does make it out of the country a rare treat to enjoy. Only a few years ago in 2015 a group of coffee exporters had to sneak out of the country with 100 kilos of these beans. They fled airstrikes on the city by car, and then by fishing boat before being detained at the border for a few days. They finally were able to get the beans to America in time to debut them at the Specialty Coffee Association of America show. These beans are from the same crop that produces Haraaz Coffee.
The high quality of these beans means that Haraaz Coffee can be enjoyed in a regular coffee brewer. You will end up with a rich, dark cup of coffee. This also means that if you add cream and sugar to your cup, the coffee will still shine through. If you have experience with a manual coffee brewer then you will be able to discover more depth and variety in the tasting notes. Try Haraaz Coffee in a French press or a Clever coffee dripper for a richer cup of coffee. These methods are considered full immersion brewing because the coffee grains sit in the brewed water for a short time before being filtered and poured into your cup.
Opening a fresh bag will treat your senses to a familiar dark roast coffee aroma with just a hint of chocolate mixed in. If you pour out a few beans into your hand you will discover that they are smaller than typical coffee beans and aren’t roasted within an inch of their life. All too often this a common mistake that coffee roasters make when producing a dark roast. If you plan to brew them in an immersion brewer then be sure to grind them on a medium coarse setting. This will ensure that the water has a large enough surface area to extract the exquisite flavors from the grounds. Soak the coffee grounds in the brewer for thirty seconds before adding the entire amount of water you will be using. This allows the coffee to “bloom” and expel any gases left over from the roasting process. While you wait for the bloom you will begin to encounter the beauty of aromas emitted from the beans. When you take your first sip take a moment to savor the coffee. The first moments of the coffee hitting your taste buds you may find it overly dark but in the next seconds your encounter a soft dark chocolate taste wash across the rest of your tongue. This is followed by a slightly smoky finish and for a coffee bean roasted as dark as this one the smoothness of it is a very pleasant surprise. It won’t leave behind a bitter aftertaste and will leave you with a pleasant experience.
If you are looking for a dark but smooth cup of coffee to start your day off right then try Haraaz Coffee. It will not only give you an amazing taste experience but also comes with a long history to give your cup an even deeper meaning. You can truly enjoy your cup knowing it comes from expert farmers, that have worked long and hard to not only produce the coffee for you but also export it to you.
Chris Campbell is a writer currently living with his family in Houston, Texas. As well as being a coffee specialist, he is a chocolate expert who makes his own homemade chocolate.
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