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At lighter roasts: fresh ginger root, a zest of pepper, anise. At FC+: bittersweet pungent notes, dark herbs, licorice, cinnamon stick, clove, black walnut, spiced chocolate. Intense flavors with a deceptively light body, makes great Single Origin (SO) espresso. The cup here is more rooty and earthy than other Yemens, more pungent and extremely long in aftertaste. Full City to Vienna, or a blend of two different roast levels!
Ismaili is a "fabled" origin. Even in Yemen, in a local market in Sana'a, the spice-tea-qishr-coffee vendor told me his green beans (much of it broken "triage" coffee, mixed with cardomom pods) was truly special. "It's Ismaili coffee, " he said. I didn't mention that I slept on the floor of a villagers house the night before, in the mind-boggling vertical mountains of Ismaili, a landscape etched in stone with ancient terraces lined with ghat and coffee trees. The dry fragrances from the Ismaili (at 3 different roast levels) is a bit rocky, and it takes me a minute to adjust, to wrap my mind around these extreme and exotic smells; leather, dried herbs, dusty sweetness, caramel, spice, aromatic sandalwood and ginseng. The wet aromatics have clove and allspice with a bit of ginger, while the darker roast (FC+) is very pungent and intense, with suggestions of sarsaparilla and anise. Later there are some interesting sweet notes that come out, traces of butterscotch (C+) and syrupy plum wine (FC+).
Ismaili are not fruity-bright Yemens but there are some interesting berry aroma hints in the medium roast. At C+ roast the first flavors to emerge are spices: fresh ginger root, a zest of pepper, anise. I like the darker roast levels better: At FC+ it's a different beast: bittersweet pungent notes, dark herbs, Chai and "roastaroma tea" notes, licorice root, cinnamon bark, clove, some black walnut, and spiced chocolate. The body seemed heavy, but I think it is actually deceptively light and perhaps it has to do with the intensity of cup flavors as it cools. The Ismaili makes great Single Origin (SO) espresso. The cup here is more rooty and earthy than the Sharasi, more pungent and extremely long in aftertaste. Note that Yemeni coffees need rest after roasting. They have more aromatics at 12 hours or 24 hours, but really develop at 72+ hours of rest after roasting. This is even more true for espresso. The best espresso I had from Ismaili was a casual experiment; 1/3 of a C+ roast rested for a week (!) and 2/3 of an FC++ roast rested for 36 hours. Fantastic!