AL-BAHA, January 2, 2024 — Nestled within the Shada Mountains, high in the Al-Baha highlands, an aromatic symphony of coffee trees permeates the air, giving rise to a unique variety of coffee beans known as Shada coffee. This exquisite blend derives its name from the two majestic peaks that oversee its cultivation: Shada Al-Asfal (Lower Shada) and Shada Al-Ala (Upper Shada).
These mountains, standing as the highest peaks in the Tihama plain, create a breathtaking backdrop for the agricultural endeavors of over 280 farmers. Statistics from the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture branch in Al-Baha region reveal that more than 54,000 coffee seedlings flourish on these slopes, yielding an impressive 12 tons of coffee annually.
The twin peaks, with Shada Al-Ala reaching a towering elevation of 2,200 meters and Shada Al-Asfal standing at approximately 1,500 meters, host not only the thriving coffee culture but also a diverse range of trees tended to by the locals. However, the heart of their agricultural pursuits remains firmly rooted in the cultivation of Shada coffee.
Local farmers employ remarkable methods to care for their coffee trees, as explained by Ali Al-Ghamdi, owner of a farm on Shada Al-Asfal mountain. Rainwater is stored in ingeniously carved rocks resembling water tanks, providing the essential hydration for the approximately 700 Shada coffee trees on his farm. Al-Ghamdi emphasizes the meticulous care from planting to processing, resulting in abundant and high-quality production.
Shada coffee, prized for its unique flavor profile, commands a price ranging between SAR100 and SAR150 per kilogram. The dedication to quality extends beyond the farms, with a nearby cave transformed into a Shada coffee museum. Here, a rich display includes not only coffee but also an array of produce like bananas, mangoes, lemons, and various tools used in coffee preparation.
Stretching from Shada Al-Asfal to Shada Al-Ala, the resilient coffee trees, some exceeding 150 years in age, continue to yield bountiful harvests. Abdullah Al-Shadawi, a farmer who follows in his forefathers' footsteps, tends to around 300 of these longstanding trees. According to him, the fertile soil of the region significantly contributes to the quantity and quality of the yield, with an additional 3,000 seedlings on Al-Ala.
Fahad Al-Zahrani, Director of the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture branch in Al-Baha region, underscores the ministry's commitment to the area's agriculture, particularly the cultivation of Shada coffee. He affirms that the ministry strives to provide necessary facilities and support to farmers, aiming to bolster the growth of coffee production.
Al-Zahrani details the thriving coffee landscape, indicating that Shada Al-Asfal mountain hosts 150 farms with 24,000 coffee trees producing 5 tons annually. On Shada Al-Ala mountain, approximately 130 farms boast 30,000 coffee trees, contributing 7 tons yearly. The ministry's initiatives include distributing 80 liters of insecticides annually to farmers and implementing a reclamation project for agricultural terraces, benefiting 93 farmers.
Furthermore, the ministry has undertaken the Coffee City project in the north of Al-Baha city, spanning 1.6 million square meters. This ambitious venture aims to create 1,000 job opportunities and cultivate 300,000 coffee trees, underscoring the region's commitment to the flourishing legacy of Shada coffee.