At lighter roasts: Dried banana, strawberry, apricot, turbinado, all-spice. At darker roasts: dark chocolate, bittersweet pungent notes, dark herbs, licorice, overripe banana. Great Single Origin (SO) espresso. City+ to Vienna.
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 cardamom pods) were 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 cup has always had a big spicy character, not the fruitiest Yemen coffee but with a unique flavor profile. It's amazing, with all the issues in Yemen, we were even able to get coffee exported in 2012. But here it is, and it is cupping really well.
Like most of our Yemeni coffees, Ismaili cups well along the whole roast spectrum, and its aroma and flavor profile is as variant as the roast possibilities. In the dry aroma, lighter roasts showed milk chocolate, strawberry, and banana bread, whereas darker roasts brought out overripe banana, dark berries and cacao nibs. Ismaili's crust smelled of macadamia nuts, chocolate brownie and baked brown rye, while the break released spice fragrances such as clove, cinnamon, and all spice. Darker roasts even showed signs of plum pudding. This is a very pleasant cup at City+/FC. There's a lot of dried fruit in the cup, such as tamarind, strawberry, apricot, and sliced banana. It has a rustic sweetness that is akin to natural, unrefined sugars like muscavado, or turbinado. Full City+ roasts brought out a much more intense flavor profile with strong bittersweet notes throughout. Up front we were greeted with dark berries such as blackberry and raspberry. It's still a relatively "spicy" cup, but more in line with sarsaparilla or even licorice root. There's lots of cacao in the finish alongside hints of aromatic wood. The darker roast profiles made a nice Single Origin (SO) espresso, and would also be a great component to an espresso blend. There was a lot of dark fruits in our shots, and a really nice huckleberry acidity. Whether cup or SO espresso, like all Yemeni coffee, Ismaili benefits from a few days rest. 48 hours is great but we found 72 hours to be best. This is even more true for espresso. The SO espresso was very intense and complex. With Ismaili it's fun to try a melange of 1/3 City+ roast and 2/3 FC or FC+ roast, either for drip or espresso.