New genetic group of arabica coffee discovered in Yemen

Yemen. Image courtesy of Qima Coffee

After several years of research into Yemen’s coffee genetics, Qima Coffee in partnership with Dr Christophe Montagnon from RD2 Vision has announced the discovery of an entirely new genetic group of arabica coffee in Yemen.

As part of Qima Coffee’s R&D programme, the company undertook an unprecedented and ambitious project to investigate and map out Yemen’s genetic coffee landscape, driven by Yemen’s historic role in shaping the spread of arabica coffee. After years of work, Qima Coffee conducted the largest genetic survey in Yemen’s history, covering an area of over 25,000km2. Using DNA fingerprinting technology, the study assessed 137 samples of Coffea arabica across three categories: Ethiopian accessions, worldwide cultivated varieties, and a Qima breeding population from Yemen. The research has been submitted for publication in the Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution journal.

The findings showed that today, Yemen is home to almost all of the cultivated varieties in the world. The results also unveiled that the entirely new group of genetics can only be found in Yemen. This new group was coined ‘Yemenia’, which translates in Arabic to ‘the Yemeni mother’. The discovery represents the most significant finding in arabica coffee since the 1700’s and 1900’s when the last two major genetic groups of coffee were discovered, i.e Typica/bourbon and the SLs respectively.

Genetic tree of arabica, courtesy of Qima Coffee

To assess the cup quality of Yemenia, Qima Coffee partnered with the Alliance for Coffee Excellence to assemble an independent jury of 35 expert cuppers from 24 leading global coffee companies across 14 countries. The assessment was done blind, and the cup quality of the Yemenia coffees was found to be exceptional with numerous coffees scoring 90+.

“This has been my best experience so far in tasting Yemeni coffee; explosive character and totally far from what I usually get in my cup of Yemen,” said international judge, Angelo Benedict Abordo of Cherry Beans Specialty Coffee in Qatar.

“These coffees were mind-blowing,” said international judge, Raphael Braune of Supremo Kaffee in Germany. “The cleanest and by far the sweetest Natural I‘ve had in a long time. Yemenia has the berry-notes of the SL28, the sweetness of a yellow bourbon and the complexity in aroma as a Geisha. To sum it up – it has the potential for a perfect cup coffee!”

The ACE Qima Yemen private collection auction will take place on 15 September. For more information, visit: allianceforcoffeeexcellence.org/private-collection-auction-qima.

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