There are some people who wear their hearts on their sleeves. And then there is Hakim Sulaimani who wears the motto — De-gentrify your coffee, on his shirt. This quotation is almost a mission statement for the 28-year-old soft-spoken Yemeni ex-pat in Brooklyn. Some 7000 miles away from his native country, Sulaimani is working tirelessly to build an entirely new coffee-based economy for Yemen in his Sunset Park coffee shop.
Sulaimani is the founder and owner of Yafa Cafe, a lively coffee shop in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. Sulaimani comes from a family based in Yafa, a district located in Southern Yemen. The Yafa Cafe is filled with deep notes of freshly roasted coffee mixed with the sweet scent of cardamom. The front left wall is decorated with a series of photographs, each depicting a different side of his ancestral family home in Yafa. Another wall is accentuated with woven baskets originating from the same region. The entire café is a heartfelt ode to Yemen with each piece of décor, each item on the menu, and especially with each cup of coffee.
For Sulaimani, the mission of his life is clear. He wants to do the same thing for Yemeni coffee that Starbucks has successfully done for Indonesian coffee. When he was seven years old, Sulaimani started to take pride in Yemeni Coffee, after he got to know that Yemen was one of the birthplaces of coffee in the world. That fact stuck with him even during his college time in NYC, where he used to spend lots of time in various coffee shops, only to choose Yemeni coffee as a viable career option. His vision quickly morphed from an online coffee beans business to a full-fledged café, and he opened Yafa Café in 2019. Today, the modern menu of the café includes customer-favorite Yemeni items like za’atar avocado toast, cardamom-brown sugar latte, and some highly popular breakfast burritos.