Taste The Place, Yemen & Coffee In Michigan

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A traditional pot of Yemeni coffee, mixed with cardamom and ginger, is served with a Yemeni sweet honey bread at a new Yemeni coffee shop in Dearborn, Mich. Owner Ibrahim Alhasbani sees himself as part entrepreneur, part cultural ambassador for his home country. Zahir Janmohamed

The salt, at National Public Radio (USA) has a story today about coffee, entrepreneurship and cultural illumination that is about tasting the place, a once and future key theme of our pages:

The 35-year-old owner of a new Yemeni coffee shop in Dearborn, Mich., never imagined he would enter the coffee business. Ibrahim Alhasbani was born in Yemen and grew up on a coffee farm outside the country’s capital city of Sana.

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A view inside Qahwah House, a Yemeni coffee house in Dearborn, Mich. The city has a high concentration of Arabs and Arab Americans (qahwah means coffee in Arabic). Zahir Janmohamed

“I had enough coffee in my life,” Alhasbani says. “But when I moved to America and the problems started back home, I told myself I have a chance to show that Yemeni coffee is really good and that Yemen is more than just violence and war.”

A couple of months ago, he opened Qahwah House in Dearborn, a city with a high concentration of Arabs and Arab Americans (qahwah means coffee in Arabic).

Alhasbani is fond of reminding customers that the first known coffee shipments in the world were allegedly launched from the Port of Mokha in the 1400s.

Yemeni coffee is known for its strong floral and spice notes, and the cup Alhasbani prepared for me was served like a cup of masala chai, with a heavy amount of cardamom and ginger, as well as a hint of cinnamon. He charges about $5 a pot, a huge contrast to some companies that sell a pound of Yemeni coffee for $250. He can do this because of ties to his family’s business back home.

“These beans are 100 percent from my family’s farm,” Alhasbani says, beaming.

Today he sees himself as part coffee entrepreneur, part cultural ambassador. But this wasn’t the career he expected. After completing his studies at Sana University in business, he worked at Yemeni Airlines, where his father spent his entire career. Desk life bored him and he began working for Red Bull, the energy drink company, which was just entering Yemen at the time. Soon he was traveling across the Middle East and Europe, earning accolades for his marketing acumen.

“I did so well, people in Yemen thought I was the founder of Red Bull,” Alhasbani says with a wide smile.

With the money he earned, he and a business partner opened a café in Sana called Amoré, which specializes in Italian-style coffee like cappuccinos. He also launched two restaurants and planned to open more. But those plans were derailed when the tensions escalated in Yemen after the Arab Spring of 2011…

Read the whole story here.

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