Coffee connection? How Saudi Arabia’s growers hope to fill your cup.

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In remote villages of the Jazan region on the mountainous Saudi-Yemeni border, coffee has been many things over the centuries: a symbol of hospitality, a means of peacemaking, even a currency. Now, an ambitious new plan by the Saudi government envisions yet another role for this ancestral crop: a national industry aiming to fill your next morning cup.

With the government pitching prosperity for one of the oldest, if unheralded, coffee-growing regions in the world, farmers are looking for the first time to share their generations-old passion for Arabica khawlani coffee beyond their borders.

Why We Wrote This

In Saudi Arabia’s mountainous southwest is a region steeped in the culture of coffee cultivation. The local brew increasingly is in demand in the country’s trendiest cafes and, officials hope, is poised to make a splash around the world.

The drive to build a local industry coincides with the explosion of specialty coffee consumption in the kingdom. With the recent expansion of social freedoms have come thousands of new cafes – and a more discerning taste for coffee.

Kal Coffee, a Jeddah-based importer and wholesaler, and the kingdom’s first licensed coffee-quality evaluator, has witnessed a surge in demand for single-origin-sourced coffee from various countries. Most in demand? Homegrown.

Kal recently assessed a new brand of Jazan coffee. Says Kal director Abdullah Bagaba, “Frankly speaking, the results were stunning. They have very good coffee, and there is still huge room to improve.”

JAZAN, Saudi Arabia

Gibran al-Maliki walks through clouds and into the tree-lined stone terraces hugging the mountainside – treading the same path his family has walked for generations.

He stops to bend down and gently squeeze a sapling’s green-red cherry between his fingers. Ripening too fast, he says.

“Seven centuries and the farming process is still the same,” he smiles, “and the joy is still the same.”

Why We Wrote This

In Saudi Arabia’s mountainous southwest is a region steeped in the culture of coffee cultivation. The local brew increasingly is in demand in the country’s trendiest cafes and, officials hope, is poised to make a splash around the world.

Here in the remote villages dotting the mountains of the Saudi-Yemeni border, coffee has been many things over the centuries: a symbol of hospitality, a community uniter, a means of celebrating and peacemaking, and a currency.

Now, an ambitious new plan by the Saudi government envisions yet another role for this ancestral crop: a national industry aiming to fill your next morning cup.

Amid government pitches of prosperity for rural communities, these farmers are looking for the first time to share their generations-old passion for Arabica khawlani coffee with the world. Yet locals say tradition, as much as market economics, will determine Saudi coffee’s future success.

The big plans for Saudi Arabia’s small-time coffee farms are the vision of the Saudi Coffee Company, an entity formed and launched in May by the government’s Public Investment Fund, which aims to pour $320 million into the fledgling coffee sector over the next 10 years and grow an additional 900,000 Arabica trees. Currently there are 200,000 coffee trees under cultivation in the Jazan area among the 400,000 overall in southwest Saudi Arabia.



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