Hesham Al Ghazali: From the Heart of Yemen to the Pinnacle of the Coffee World

At the heart of Yemen’s rich coffee heritage and the evolving culinary scene in Dubai, Hesham Al Ghazali stands out as a third-generation coffee expert, SCA-certified professional, and passionate blogger. Hesham’s journey is an inspiring story of dedication, tradition, and innovation, seamlessly blending the intricate flavors of coffee with the art of fine gastronomy. Join us as we delve into his personal and professional journey, uncovering the inspirations, challenges, and dreams that fuel his passion.

How did your passion for coffee begin, and what inspired you to become an expert in this field?
My passion for coffee began in 2020 when I received the last harvest from my grandmother’s farm after her passing in the same year. My goal was to continue our family tradition and to showcase Yemeni coffee to the world in the best possible way.

What were the main challenges you faced during your journey to becoming SCA certified?
The courses offered by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) were enjoyable and filled with valuable information, greatly enhancing my skills. The biggest challenge was passing the online exams, which required precise and exact answers, demanding a lot of preparation and accuracy.

As a Yemeni, what is your personal story with Yemeni coffee?
My story with Yemeni coffee begins in my childhood, where it always connected me to cherished family members such as my grandparents, my father, and my relatives. Coffee has always been a part of our daily lives, filled with warm memories and strong family bonds.

How do you see Yemen’s historical role in the coffee industry, and how can this heritage be preserved today?
Yemen has a fundamental and historical role in cultivating and spreading coffee around the world. We are among the first to grow and export coffee, and Yemeni coffee is renowned for its high quality. Preserving this heritage requires continuous efforts to promote Yemeni coffee globally, achieved through the creativity and dedication of young Yemenis who are now actively developing this industry.

What changes have you noticed in the Yemeni coffee industry over the years?
I observed that the coffee industry did not attract much interest from Yemeni youth in the past. However, with the emergence of the third wave of coffee, it has started to attract a significant number of young people who are now keen on developing and enhancing this field.

How do you see the future of the coffee industry in Yemen and the Arab world?
I see a bright and promising future for the coffee industry in Yemen and the Arab world. We are now in the third wave of coffee, which focuses on educating consumers and raising awareness about quality and innovation, which will positively impact the development of this industry.

What innovations or improvements do you think will make a significant difference in the coffee world?
There are many improvements in coffee cultivation and processing, especially with the growing interest from our Saudi brothers, creating greater opportunities in the region. Additionally, there are new and innovative methods of processing coffee that introduce unique flavors, attracting new consumer segments. There are also notable advancements in coffee extraction tools.

Do you have any current projects or future plans related to coffee that you would like to share with us?
Currently, I am a coffee producer, selling it globally thanks to my direct contact with farmers in Yemen. I am learning new methods of coffee cultivation and processing, and I plan to teach these modern techniques to Yemeni farmers for free, either through the United Nations in Yemen or other personal initiatives, to help them compete on regional and global levels.

As a food lover and coffee enthusiast, how do you balance these two passions?
Both are closely intertwined. For me, coffee and food complement each other, and it’s common to see both together on the same table frequently.

What advice do you have for young people who want to enter the coffee world?
I want them to know that the coffee tree is generous and giving, and that behind every cup of coffee are the efforts of many people. My advice is to focus on both the humanitarian and commercial aspects, as many people focus solely on the commercial side and forget their role in helping farmers sustain their livelihoods and provide a decent life for their families.

How do you enjoy coffee in your daily life, and what is your favorite way to prepare it?
I enjoy roasting coffee regularly at home and preparing it in the traditional Yemeni way (Qishr) or as espresso. Occasionally, I use the V60 method.

How can we enhance the culture and awareness of Yemeni coffee’s importance in the world?
Coffee is a national product and a cultural heritage. Every Yemeni should enter and innovate in this field because its benefits for the country and Yemeni families are significant and crucial. We can take Ethiopia as an example; it is now one of the top five coffee-exporting countries, with substantial financial returns.

What is your role in raising awareness about Yemeni coffee and its culture?
I represent Yemen in the best possible light to the world, given my presence in the UAE, which is one of the largest hubs for coffee trade globally. I have a wide network of relationships worldwide, and I strive to convey the history and quality of Yemeni coffee and its products in the best way possible.

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