Blue Bottle at Fifteen: Our First Single Origin

Coming full circle with a coffee from Yemen


Given the all-too-easy tendency to think of coffee as ‘just’ coffee, we look to single origins to celebrate individuality and to turn our attention to the infinite range of possibilities within just one drink.
— Green Coffee Buyer Charlie Habegger

No one ever said the legwork, research, and occasional mountain-scaling that go into sourcing single origins was easy, but consider the payoff: When we introduce a new single origin to our guests, we know we’re sharing with them an utterly unique flavor experience. With all the possible permutations of climate, terroir, growing conditions, sorting, processing, shipment, and roasting, no two single origins are ever alike in deliciousness. 

Which is why, fifteen years after our founding, our very first single origin still holds a special place in our hearts. Grown in Yemen, where coffee was first commercially cultivated hundreds of years ago, this single origin was an exciting milestone for a tiny coffee company that was born in an Oakland potting shed. 

"I remember reading about coffee from Yemen years prior to tasting it, so I had this exotic idea of Yemen as a coffee appellation before I had any sensory experience of it," says James. "I had procured a bag of MAO Horse Harar (an Ethiopia) some months earlier to use in a version of Bella Donovan and my contact at Royal Coffee, David Kastle, mentioned that he had a lot of coffee from Yemen that I might enjoy given my fondness for that Harrar. It was at least double the price of any other coffee I was buying at the time, but, then as now, I tended not to care if I liked drinking it. The combination of the pungent blueberry, cardamon, moss, and dust notes of the coffee, the elevated price, the rarity, and the conversation around it made it one of the most talked-about origins of my first few years in business."

Despite that coffee's deliciousness, a variety of factors, including events leading up to the country’s current political crisis, brought down the quality of Yemen coffees considerably enough that Blue Bottle didn't purchase any more until last year's transcendant Port of Mokha

As we learned from Mokhtar Alkhanshali’s death-defying journey to bring us the transcendent  last year, Yemen’s coffee culture continues to thrive despite the odds against it—which is all the more reason to appreciate its significance in our history.