Yemen Coffee - DNA Mapping in Order to Create a Market Segment for Premium Third Wave Coffee Marketing - Background Paper
“If Yemen had proprietary terms that are widely recognized—as Mocha once was—then it could have enormous value in the marketplace. In order to achieve this, the issue of varietals, their characterization, and their taxonomy must first be addressed. More than most countries, Yemen lends itself to differentiation based on unique flavors and corresponding agro-ecological zones.” USAID Yemen Coffee Assessment
"Hybrids vs Heirlooms – Kevin Knox in “Coffee Basics”, states that ---“As is the case with many domesticated agricultural products today, the issue of growing heirloom varieties versus modern varieties is a great concern to the specialty coffee industry. Older versions of the arabica plant are preferred by many specialty coffee buyers for their superior and distinctive taste qualities. Specialty coffee buyers concerned about flavor and the future existence of fine coffee encourage growers to continue cultivating heirloom plants. They are also willing to pay the higher price that support growers in doing so.”
The link above is to a recent study by Luis Fernando Samper on the Coffee Marketing Intangibles. This multi-billion dollar market offers unique opportunities for Yemen's coffee sector.
The following is a program description of a coffee marketing initiative in Yemen.
Yemen is creating a unique and valuable market segment for its Arabica coffee.
Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica L.) is the basis of the global specialty coffee market and commands premium prices for high quality, unique origin, and special taste or cup characteristics. Yemen, the origin of cultivated Arabica coffee began growing this crop as early as the 6th century C.E. with genetic material brought from Ethiopia. Yemen’s coffee is considered the basis for all specialty coffee production worldwide.* Finding ways to market this uniqueness is key.
Cultivation of Coffea arabica started in Yemen as early as the 6th century. Original genetic material came from Ethiopia where the greatest diversity is found. In terms of modern specialty coffee, the entire genetic base is built on two genotypes from Yemen: (1) Typica; and (2) Bourbon. The specialty coffee industry highly values the taste and cup characteristics of “heirloom” varieties of Coffea arabica. Source:”Coffee Species and Varietal Identification,” Tools for Identifying Biodiversit
Using DNA mapping, coffee type and origin can be certified which could form the basis of an appellation process that identifies coffee as a product category linked to a specific geographic and genetic origin comparable to wine and cheese product categories certified by geographic origin.
Yemen lacks the national institutions to create a verifiable certification system but there is the potential to create a benchmark system through DNA mapping to verify geographic and genetic origin. This system could be implemented by the World Coffee Research Center at the Borlaug Institute at Texas A&M in coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, Republic of Yemen Government (ROYG). This certification system could form the basis for a premium coffee marketing program.
Yemen has progressive coffee exporters that are already developing their own certification and traceability program (e.g., Al-Ezzi Coffee Exporters, Al-Hamdani Coffee Company, Yemen Coffee Export Company, etc.).DNA Mapping could provide the type of independent certification that would provide the basis for establishing a product category of geographic and genetic origin. These coffee product categories could create an appellation framework for Yemeni coffee.