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September 2014 Newsletter

One week .. that's all the time it took to sell out of the August
Special coffee, the Panama Maunier Bourbon, and I thought that was
pretty fast going. At least until I notified everyone that had pre-
committed to the Yemen Bani Matar that the coffee was on sale. 4
days later and my Yemen was all gone too. It turns out that my
customers are both discerning and voracious when it comes to the
very best coffees in the world.

Which of course left me with a huge problem, it wasn't even
September and my September special was sold out. Some hasty
discussions with one of my colleagues who had also cupped the Yemen
have led me to acquiring an extra supply, at a somewhat higher
price. So we do have a September special, and it is

Yemen Bani Matar

The initial aroma is cacao and dried fruit. First sip is amazingly
intense, with flavours of bittersweet chocolate and raisins spread
throughout the palate, minimal acidity and huge body. The finish is
smooth but equally intense and lingering. The closest taste analogy
would be Lindt 85% Cacao with a coffee edge.

Bani Matar is one of the coffees from the high altitude mountainous
region surrounding Sana'a. Photos I have seen of coffee cultivation
in this area show the coffee growing on trees rather than the low
shrubs seen in other areas. I'm told this is because the plants are
both very old and that this is the way they are cultivated. I don't
know if this means that the beans are a slightly different varietal
to the other Yemen Arabicas, but the taste is quite distinctive.

One thing that isn't often appreciated is that virtually all of the
Arabica coffee plants grown in the world are direct descendants of
plants or seeds originally smuggled out of Yemen. Legend has it that
Baba Budan, an Islamic Sufi mystic, smuggled seven coffee seeds out
of Yemen and into India in the early 1600's. Historical fact is that
in 1616 a coffee plant was successfully transported from al-Makha
(Mocha) to Amsterdam by Dutch sailors. At close to the same time
there were already attempts by the Dutch to establish coffee
plantations in Indonesia using seedlings from India.

More than half the Arabica coffee grown today can trace its lineage
from a few plants transported from the West Indies to Reunion
island, and most of the original West Indies coffees from a single
plant brought from Amsterdam to Martinique. This makes Arabica, with
all its sub-species, varietals and mutations, basically a
monoculture. It also makes Arabica extraordinarily susceptible to
disease and climate change.

It's pretty obvious that increasing the genetic diversity of coffee
should be a high priority. Dr. Aaron Davis of the Royal Botanic
Gardens in Kew, U.K. has used DNA to identify over 100 different
species of coffee, many of which are new to science or have been
previously classified as something else. Most of these species are
found in the highlands of Ethiopia or on the island of Madagascar,
off the east coast of Africa. Many of them are threatened by manmade
deforestation for resources or farming. Only a dozen or so have ever
been cultivated to the point that we know basically what they taste

Dr. Davis has even identified an indigenous Australian Coffee
species, Coffeea Brassii, growing in the Cape York rainforest. As
far as I know no one has ever collected beans and roasted them, but
who knows, they may one day be a monthly special!

Until next month


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