JEDDAH: Ali Al-Diwani’s agricultural career “accidentally” led him to become the Kingdom’s first licensed coffee grader.
The native Jazan began his coffee career after following in the footsteps of his ancestors as a farmer and fruit trader who exported passion fruit from Hodeidah in Yemen to Saudi Arabia.
“In 2010 I was invited to a coffee bean workshop in Sanaa, Yemen, which was presented by a group of Mexican coffee experts. Unfortunately, the translator had problems translating some agricultural terms. Because of my farming career, I have a great agricultural English glossary and became your personal translator for the rest of your trip, ”he told Arab News.
It was the beginning of a journey that changed his life from being a fruit farmer to being a coffee investor, producer, evaluator, seller, supplier and artisan roaster.
Two months later, Al-Diwani was hired by the same Mexican coffee expert he had translated for to lead a coffee project in Yemen for three years.
“There were many inspiring details about coffee that fascinated me to realign my career. That’s why I specialized in growing coffee. “
Soon after, Al-Diwani became one of the leading suppliers of specialty coffees in Saudi Arabia and one of the founders of Caffeine Lab, a pioneering specialty coffee business in the kingdom.
“My work in agriculture has immersed me in great knowledge and the strength to start in this world and take quick steps,” he said.
Al-Diwani began investing in the Burra region in Yemen, which has more than 5 million coffee trees. There he founded the first coffee growing association and was supported by 500 farmers. “You have to walk for hours or days to reach the forest with the coffee trees. This is one of the places I call coffee paradise – where the mountain turns into a white carpet after flowering and turns red after fruiting. “
Science of Specialty Coffee
The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) defines specialty coffees in their green stage as “coffee that is free from primary defects, has no Quakers, is the correct size and is dried, is free of defects and dirt in the cup and has special characteristics. ”
Al-Diwani and his friend Abdullah Bajabaa founded a specialty coffee shop called “Kal Coffee” – the first Saudi company to supply green coffee beans and local specialty coffees specially from Al-Dayer Bani Malik in Jazan.
Three years later he opened his own “Origins” coffee laboratory in Jeddah for green coffee beans with roasters and a training room.
Al-Diwani gained profound experience with coffee specialties through worldwide explorations and became one of the Saudi pioneers of the “science of coffee beans,” as he calls it.
• 80 million kg of coffee beans arrive in Saudi Arabia every year.
• Coffee beans should meet a certain standard to be considered a specialty coffee and should not have any defects.
• Fungal damage during transport can affect the bean and ruin the entire harvest.
• Proper storage is important to maintain the value of the crop.
“In 2016, I became a licensed coffee grader for the Specialty Coffee Association of America,” he said.
Al-Diwani’s passion for coffee redefined the meaning of coffee beans for many young Saudi entrepreneurs by offering them an internationally certified course at Origins. It consisted of educational courses in a range of subject areas related to the coffee industry, including barista skills, brewing, green coffee, sensory skills, and roasting.
Between 2017 and 2020 he trained more than 50 certified Saudi coffee specialists. “There is absolutely amazing growth and performance just keeps getting better,” he said.
He is also a coffee grader at the Coffee Quality Institute of America.
Roasting – from the farm to the coffee cup
According to Al-Diwani, an artisanal coffee roaster is required to prepare beans for the perfect cup of coffee. “During training, I always ask the roasters to watch how the beans are roasted in the machine. It takes five minutes to either burn off an entire year’s crop or make some great coffee. “
There are several stages coffee cherries go through before they reach a cup of coffee, he said. A single coffee tree can contain more than six different types of coffee notes and symbols. Therefore, there are sensitive spending and risk phases at each step before the product reaches the consumer.
“One of the most difficult phases in planting coffee is harvesting the right coffee beans for specialty coffees. If the coffee cherries are harvested at a ripe stage, it is commercial coffee, ”he said. “The harvest has to be dried on the same day so that it does not ferment or go moldy.”
Coffee quality depends on several factors, including the purple coffee bean harvest, good drying, storage method, roasting, and presentation. Consistency in coffee is a “mark of excellence,” he said.
Specialty coffee shop in Saudi Arabia
Al-Diwani said many young Saudis have the same obsession with exploring the world of specialty coffees that the country is one of the few to find such a variety of coffee processors and types.
“The future of the coffee business in Saudi Arabia is very promising at a manufacturing level and is seen as one of the fastest growing markets in the market,” he said.
For those planning on starting a coffee business, Al-Diwani said that passionate coffee entrepreneurs need to have a thorough understanding
how Arabica coffee is rated and rated.
The high demand for coffee in Saudi Arabia sparked coffee companies around the world to believe that Saudi Arabia is a huge market for specialty coffee and commercial coffee. “Eighty million kilograms of coffee beans come to Saudi Arabia every year and demand is growing as people here do not accept poor quality coffee,” he said.
“We are dealing with a large number of international green bean companies and most of them have started opening offices in Saudi Arabia. This is an indicator that the coffee market in the Kingdom is large and growing at a tremendous rate.”
According to Al-Diwani, there are three main aspects to a specialty coffee business that need to be considered in order to stand out from other coffee startups in the kingdom. “First is the location, second is the customer experience and the high quality of the coffee, and third is a well-trained barista and a professional coffee roaster.”
Al-Diwani is currently developing a line of roasting machines called DQ Diwani Quality.
In 2014 he won an Italian photography award for a picture taken in Burra, Yemen, that shows the variety of colors of coffee cherries that are spread out on roofs to dry.