In the early days of speciality coffee, one of its driving forces was the desire to do good. As well as being motivated by a love of coffee and a desire to increase quality, its exponents believed speciality coffee could outdo fairtrade in making a real difference at origin. But as the speciality scene has grown more businesslike, a certain cynicism has set in.
Qima Coffee, though, is making a difference. It originates in Yemen, a nation ravaged by a civil war that the UN calls the world’s worst man-made disaster. More than 20 million Yemenis are “food insecure”, while two million children are acutely malnourished. It’s against this background that Qima has set out its mission.
Yemen has a case for being the birthplace of coffee: the beans were first commercially planted, roasted and traded there. Dave Eggers’ 2018 book The Monk Of Mokha told the story of Yemeni-American Mokhtar Alkhanshali’s mission to restore Yemen’s coffee to the heights of quality, raising Yemeni income – and improving lives – as a result. Yemeni-British entrepreneur Faris Sheibani founded Qima Coffee from similar motivations – but Faris wants to operate on a bigger scale.
When processing, marketing and selling Yemeni coffee worldwide, Qima implements a “partnerships over trade” model in which the farmer is treated as a partner as opposed to simply a seller. This means farmers receive the highest upfront