Port of Mokha from Yemen: Coffee Can Make a Better World

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“Coffee is about people. It’s about community and how we sustain and support one another. This coffee from Yemen’s highlands has crossed borders, cultures, political hardships, and centuries of cultivation to find its way to you. We sincerely hope you enjoy.”
–Mokhtar Al-Khanshali, Founder of Port of Mokha

This coffee from Port of Mokha is the most important coffee in the world right now. Hands down. No other coffee so clearly illustrates the obstacles that small farmers surmount everyday to bring us specialty coffee, and because no other coffee so clearly shows the promise of what specialty coffee can truly be, in the cup and in society.

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The global coffee industry was largely built on colonial and slave economies. We all know farmers should be paid more for their work, but we also know that the moral justification for higher pay is typically insufficient to move the hands of the market by itself.

Enter Mokhtar Alkhanshali. Mokhtar Alkhanshali, whose family is from Yemen, discovered specialty coffee in 2013. Yemen was the first country to cultivate and export coffee, yet he was unable to find a coffeehouse in San Francisco that carried a coffee from his ancestral homeland. Seeking to figure out why, Mokhtar learned that Yemeni coffee farmers have been discouraged from growing coffee by the instability of the commodity market, a lack of understanding of the export process, and by the more profitable opportunity to grow khat instead. Mokhtar’s life trajectory changed at that moment, and he has quite literally risked that life in the pursuit of reviving a struggling agricultural industry in a country suffering from civil war and unrest.

In the last five years, Mokhtar has traveled back and forth to Yemen, working closely with the coffee farmers there to elevate their coffee quality to previously unknown heights, into the realm of the world’s finest and most expensive wines, and helping open up new markets for them in the United States, Europe, and all across Asia. Farmers producing these plush, elegant coffees now earn a much higher price per kilo, allowing them to begin to overcome the challenges of war, competing khat and cattle farming, and land development. Applying the “Mokha Method,” Mokhtar has improved the lives of these Yemeni farmers by bringing education, micro loans, water conservation methods, an emphasis on gender equity, AND the highest prices for coffee in the world.

 

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By working closely and thoughtfully with stakeholders in each part of the value chain, Mokhtar has brought about a radical transformation of a local industry steeped in ancient traditions and has restored Yemen to its rightful place of eminence in the coffee world.

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This is the model for specialty and super specialty coffee.

There is not enough room here to properly tell you about the immense amount of work Mokhtar has accomplished in the last five years through his company Port of Mokha, so I encourage you to read the full story of Mokhtar’s harrowing journey in the new book by Dave Eggers, The Monk of Mokha and try a Chemex of one of the Port of Mokha microlots from Al Durrar, Yemen in our cafes.  First edition, signed copies are available online here with a wonderfully beautiful coffee from Port of Mokha and in our Mudhouse cafes.

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