pot on fire place in mountains

Yemen – From where the art of coffee drinking was spread to the world

‘If Ethiopia is the heart of coffee, Yemen is the mind.’ Albert Zijlstra, Volcanocafé

‘While coffee was discovered in Ethiopia, it was the Arabs who developed coffee cultivation to an art.’ – Hayes’ Coffees, Illinois, USA


Between the 8th and the 12th century, wild Coffea plants had been discovered in the jungles of Ethiopia. It is believed that local nomadic mountain people were the first ones noticing the coffee’s stimulating effect.

During the 14th century Arabian traders brought wild coffee seeds from the Ethiopian Horn of Africa  – across the narrow stretch of the Red Sea – to the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula – to now modern-day Yemen, which used to called  ‘Happy Arabia’.

Because of its fertile land, Yemen was known in ancient times as Arabia Felix (Latin for “happy” or “fortunate” Arabia).

Source: here

The Coffea plant was cultivated for the first time on plantations, in the volcanic soil of the Yemeni mountains. It quickly became the main crop.

It was also in Yemen, where coffee beans were roasted, boiled in water and brewed as a drink for the first time – similar to the way it’s being done nowadays.

Coffee had been used a medicine or religious aid at first. Calling it qahwa – an Arab word for wine – Arab Sufi monks were drinking coffee to stay awake during religious ceremonies throughout the night more easily. However, it was only a matter of time that this beautiful, stimulating product of nature would flourish into a widely enjoyed beverage on the Arabian Peninsula and beyond.

Last but not least, Yemen is the birthplace of the global coffee trade. From the Red Sea port of Mukha (Mocha), Arabs brought coffee to the world.

Sheikh Shabbir Ezzi, a businessman at Al Ezzi Industries describes coffee as a gift from the ancestors of the Yemenis. “You can see how important coffee was for Yemen from the emblem of the country. Inside the bird’s heart is a coffee plant.”

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