Shabbir A. Ezzi

Al-Ezzi Industries; Haraaz, Yemen

Innovation: The rebirth of Yemen coffee with an emphasis on impeccable quality, traceability, and price-premium incentives

Innovation: The rebirth of Yemen coffee with an emphasis on impeccable quality, traceability, and price-premium incentives

Though it was once some of the world’s most prized coffee, from one of the world’s richest places, Yemen’s agricultural-export industry has all but collapsed since the 1950s, as a prolonged period of political, economical, cultural, martial, and climatic unrest has gripped the country. Without major intervention, coffee production here appeared absolutely doomed, as it has faced widespread replacement by a narcotic plant called qat, which is easier and more profitable to grow. Shabbir A. Ezzi, an entrepreneur with a vision for the revival of Yemeni coffee, made a significant investment of time, money, and on-the-ground engagement to initiate programs to incentivize coffee production and offer a stable marketplace for the farmers who are willing and able to meet Ezzi’s demanding standards.

He pays competitive prices and offers traceability and recognition for coffees that are picked ripe and processed meticulously—dried on raised beds or on impeccable patios, rather than allowed to dry inconsistently rooftops, the traditional method. As a result, Ezzi has partnered with more than 2,500 small coffee farmers in the stepped farmland of Haraaz, and has encouraged many to focus their energy and precious resources on coffee, rather than qat. The coffees themselves capture Yemen’s glory days: Big, red, ripe fruit, jammy acidity, heavy mouthfeel.