The Al Hamdani family business is over a century old. Its true passion and the source of its continuous success lie in the flavour and quality of Yemeni mocha coffee beans and the family’s long experience in the coffee industry. In a short profile and an interview with Ahmed Ali Al Hamdani, Chairman of Al-Hamdani for Mocha Coffee, we discover the incredible journey of a Yemeni family business transcending challenges and time.
Over 130 years ago, Ahmed Naser Ahmed Al Hamdani established what is today known as the renowned Yemeni coffee company “Al Hamdani for Mocha Coffee” with his son Ahmed. Father and son started their endeavour in Bani-matar (Baoan market is where coffee farmers from various Yemeni cities meet to sell their coffee bean crops), Yemen, in 1870. Bani-matar is till date well-known for the quality of its coffee beans. The Al Hamdani family collected and bought coffee beans from the whole region. They peeled and cleaned the coffee beans manually and sold the them in Hodeidah and Aden.
In 1994 the main branch of the Al Hamdani for Mocha Coffee company was relocated to the capital, Sana’a which is about 25 kilm far of Bani-matar. This strategic decision played a great role in expanding the business outside Yemen. The family business started to develop the business by directly exporting coffee to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Arab countries and to find agents throughout the Gulf countries.
The Al Hamdani family continued to be involved in planting as well as processing coffee and the family’s many coffee farms in Bani-matar are managed by local farmers. It is part of the Al Hamdani’s strategy to provide local coffee farmers with interest-free loans in order to help them to reap the crops. The family began with providing coffee farmers with this service over 70 years ago and has dramatically increased the number of loans over the past few years. Yemeni coffee farmers continue to face substantial financial burdens as their activities often require substantial investment in infrastructure.
Over the last century, the progress in technology has played an important role in the coffee industry. Nowadays, modern machinery is used at all stages when processing coffee beans; sorting, peeling and clearing. The Al Hamdani family began to incorporate such new technology into their business from 1991. The main purpose behind this was to increase the efficiency of the production process as well as to maintain the high standards in quality. The family felt the benefits of these changes quickly and was able to increase production.
In 2000, the Al Hamdani company opened its first branch outside Yemen in Saudi Arabia and Qatar under the name of (Green gold Corporation). In 2006, another branch was opened in Kuwait(Green gold Corporation). In 2008 , the Coffee Processing Factory, a complete coffee factory with new machinery and mills was built in Yemen, with high production power.
The Al Hamdani family has faced many challenges to maintain the quality standards associated with the reputation of the Yemeni mocha coffee beans. One of the challenges is caused by Yemeni as well as national fake companies to export non Yemen Coffee beans under the name of green Yemen mocha coffee beans. There is an inherent need for global standards and specifications for Yemeni mocha coffee. Another challenge is that the coffee industry lacks support from the public sector. Due to the lack of services and facilities provided to coffee farmers, coffee planting has decreased in many areas in Yemen. A third challenge is the scarcity of water, which adds to the problem because most of the coffee farms in Yemen fully depend on rainwater.
The Al Hamdani family business has braved many challenges over its century of existence. They attribute their business success to the fact that they have successfully kept their dedication to the coffee industry in the family. Today, there are about 15 family members who are working in the company alongside numerous non-family employees.
Q&A with Ahmed Ali Al Hamdani
Ahmed Ali Al Hamdani joined the family business in the 1980ies as part of the fourth generation. He is presently the Chairman of Al-Hamdani for Mocha Coffee. His experience in the coffee industry, he feels, has developed his knowledge in many areas of life. His passion for the industry and for the family business drives him to continue innovation.
What were the three most important things that you have changed or added to the business since you joined the company?
• Opening locally branches for the company.
• Exploring new European and Arab market through many agents for Mocha coffee in these markets for our products.
• Founding a complete factory to process Yemeni mocha coffee beans.
• In 1995 we added Many European markets to our export list side beside to Arabic market including Canada, USA, Japan. We have succeeded in becoming a trusted coffee brand in these markets.
Al-Hamdani for Mocha Coffee is part of the Yemen Mocha Coffee Association; what is the role of this association?
The association is still very young: It was established in 2008 by the Al-Hamdani and the Al-Kabous family for best practice in the Yemeni coffee industry. We are hoping the association will be very active in the future and to encourage and train the Yemeni coffee farmers. Our chief role is to support the coffee farmers by providing and facilitating access to loans for them.
Today, the association has eight members who are merchants and over 100 members who are coffee farmers. Due to the current situation in Yemen, however, the association cannot develop or expand its activities as rapidly as we would wish.
How do you transfer your passion for coffee to the next Al Hamdani generation?
I try to transfer the passion for coffee to the next generation of our family by making them participate in the field as well as telling them about my experience. We teach the next generation everything about the coffee business and involve them in it as well. There are ten young members of the family who have already joined the business.
What are your future plans for Al-Hamdani for Mocha Coffee?
My future plans are to stretch market our brand all over the world in order to promote the high quality of Yemen mocha coffee beans; a quality that cannot be found in any other coffee and increasing the production power of Mocha coffee through stretch the planted land of Mocha coffee. We participate in many coffee fairs internationally in such as China, Denmark, Germany as well as Ethiopia. We are also participating in the Scae World Coffee-2012 Fair in Vienna – Austria
The Al-Hamdani family has been in this field for over 130 years; what do you think is the main reason behind the success and the continuity of your family business?
We are a family that feels proud of this business even though we are active in other trading streams as well. Our main focus has always been the mocha coffee business.
Tharawat Magazine, Issue 15, 2012