Ascension Coffee recently acquired special coffee beans from Yemen. This is one of the female Qabal coffee farmers inspecting her beans.
The terraced coffee fields in Yemen's mountainous Dhamar. This is one of the region's Ascension sourced their new beans from.
Ascension's purchase of rare Yemeni coffees supports women growers in the war-torn region.
The lush terraced farms in the Yemeni mountains around Qabal.
Women coffee growers from Dhamar, Yemen.
Dallas-based coffee roastery Ascension opened its first shop in the Design District in 2012. Since then, the popular shop, founded by Russell Hayward, has expanded to six locations across DFW. And even more spots for great espresso drinks and bites are on the way.
One thing that makes the roastery stand out is that Ascension Coffee only purchases specialty-rated beans, with a minimum of an 86-point score. Coffee aficionados are already aware of the company’s Cup of Excellence program, which allows the general public to sample some of the world’s best coffees. They don’t make money on these specially sourced beans ― it’s more of a service to their customers. A chance to enrich their coffee drinking knowledge and experience.
Developing relationships with growers around the world and showcasing their product is a big part of the company’s Farm to Cup philosophy. It all begins with the beans and those who produce them.
An exciting new acquisition in the Texas coffee world, Ascension recently purchased two very special lots from the unique growing region of Yemen at international auction. These beans go way beyond their Cup of Excellence program, ringing in at ten times the cost of their specialty house beans. They won these lots for many reasons ― philanthropy is top of the list.
“They are both from women-owned farms. Two different ones. We intentionally bought the only lots available that were from women-owned farms,” Ascension’s president Bill Schaffler tells PaperCity. “We wanted to raise awareness about what these farmers are doing, and want our guests to look to Ascension for these award-winning and unique experiences.”
The rarity of these lots might be lost on the casual coffee drinker, but true coffee nerds are already hot on their trail. Schaffler told me that one gentleman who was following the auction, contacted Ascension directly the following week to see when he could anticipate a taste. He’ll be making the trek all the way from Nebraska soon just to sample it. So, people in the know, understand what a big deal this is.
What Make Yemen Coffee So Highly Prized
When you think of the country of Yemen, you think of the tragic humanitarian crisis. The war-torn country has been caught in the crossfire for decades. The people are poor, especially the women.
“Terrorists have left an indelible mark on Yemen, and the coffee industry has not flourished because of it,” Schaffler says. “Although Yemen sits very near to Ethiopia, with its highly prized coffees, Yemen suffers from a flagging economy and its inconsistent supply. Coffee production is one of the few businesses that women in the region can enter. We purchased these lots on purpose, to support these women farmers.”
The money alone will accomplish a lot. From sustaining the women and their families, to enriching the local economy, it will also help them educate their children, leading to a brighter future for generations to come.
Harvesting the coffee cherries is very labor intensive, and with a decimated supply chain, shipping their product is nearly impossible. You won’t find these Yemeni beans anywhere else in the state of Texas, and they are exceedingly rare to find in the United States.
Jessica Keenan recently took over as Managing Director of Ascension Coffee Roasters. She brings with her, years of experience from Allegro Coffee, which supplies organic roasts to Whole Foods Market.
Keenan and her team finalized the Yemeni tasting notes from cuppings this week. Both lots have a unique flavor due to their specific terrior. The terraced fields around both villages are simply spectacular. Like a dreamscape, they would be an idyllic vacation paradise, if they were not trapped inside the constant turmoil of Yemen.
The Qabal beans achieved a cupping score of 87.13, with tasting notes of dried plum, cassia, and butterscotch. The Dhamar beans have a cupping score of 87.96 with tasting notes that are floral, grapefruit, and honey.
“We are not trying to profit off these coffees, but want to afford the experience our customers cannot find anywhere else,” Schaffler says. “We are trying to empower female farmers.”
This special coffee, which will be available in limited supply at the end of June, will do just that, while raising the awareness of this coffee-growing region and enriching the lives of the producers (especially women) of Yemen.