Coffee Feature

Mocca Sanani-Ismaili

Sometimes we come across a coffee that’s so special that it’s difficult to decide if the taste or the history behind it is more remarkable. In all likelihood, this is the bean that started it all. Yemen was not only the first country recorded to have brewed coffee as a beverage, but it’s also the first to build an industry around it. “Mocca,” phonetically identical to “mocha,” is derived from “Mokha,” one of the first seaports used to ship coffee across the world. If you’ve ever wanted to taste coffee in its original cultivated form – the flavors and smells that first sparked a world-wide love affair – look no further.

This is where it all began

When you brew up a pot of Mocca Sanani-Ismaili, you’re tasting descendants of the oldest coffee plants on Earth. When the green beans arrive, they are decidedly unremarkable and lacking in distinctive aromas, making the transformation in the roaster all the more magical. Heat reveals notes of jasmine, sweet cocoa, and berry.

With ongoing geo-political turmoil in Yemen, sourcing coffee grown there has become increasingly difficult. When we get these beans, grown in their country of origin, it’s truly something special. However, to preserve the heritage and history, coffee growers have transplanted the same exact seeds to Hawaii. This gives us an interesting insight into just how much a region’s climate can affect the final product, even wheel dealing with genetically identical coffee beans.

“…you’re tasting descendants of the oldest coffee plants on Earth.”

The Yemen-grown crop invites exploration and lets detect something different in the cup with just minor changes in the roasting profile. We did several test batches with this one to find its sweet spot. Going too dark brings out a funkiness that quickly develops into unpleasant bitterness. A light roast allows natural sweetness with a true complexity to shine through. Drink it as it cools, or experiment with different brew methods, and you’ll be rewarded with new discoveries every time you drink it. Notes of caramel, chocolate, jasmine, and any number of dried fruits shine through if you look for them in the cup.

Descendants of the same Mocca plants, cultivated in Maui, tell an entirely different story. Here, we see a perfect example of the balance between smoky and sweet that some coffees are able to straddle. The Hawaiian edition is not nearly as complex, requiring us to roast fully into the medium level of the roast spectrum to pull out the nuance of flavor. Chocolate notes here are more akin to dark than milk. It’s a coffee that reveals everything it has to offer up-front and doesn’t leave nearly as much to explore in the cup. It’s a perfect coffee to enjoy bundled up on a cold day.