If you're looking for a new book to dive into, look no further. The Monk of Mokha is your next mandatory read.
I did not plan to write this review. I pre-ordered this book after meeting Mokhtar Alkhanshali in December, whose life is the subject of this non-fiction work by Dave Eggers.
Mokhtar is an incredibly kind and humble individual. After meeting him, receiving a tour of his company, Port of Mokha, and cupping their top nine lots, I became very intrigued in knowing the story behind this incredible human being.
Mokhtar's story is far more complex than I could've ever imagined. In all reality, Mokhtar Alkhanshali should not be alive today. There have been many points in his life where he should have died or been killed considering the hardships he has faced, but somehow through incredible odds, and by God's will (according to Mokhtar's faith), he has surmounted every impossibility to pursue what is now his life's passion and work.
Mokhtar's life work is sourcing some of the world's highest quality coffee in Yemen, but it goes far beyond that. Mokhtar's company not only sources coffee, but improves the quality of the Yemeni people by offering them wages far above what they have traditionally been paid for their labor in the past. Additionally, they provide training and education to coffee farmers to help them improve their crops year after year, which inevitably raises their annual earnings when it comes time to sell the next year's crop. They also provide interest-free business loans via the Mokhtar Foundation.
This book is not just for people who have an interest in coffee, nor is it only about coffee. This book goes far beyond that. It is a story of triumph about a Yemeni-American finding his way in life and realizing his life's purpose. Dave Egger's masterfully details the life of Mokhtar. The transparency of Mokhtar's life, the struggles from childhood all the way through his young adulthood that are written in the pages of this book are both inspiring and incredibly eye-opening. This book touches on culture, travel, religion, social issues, racism, foreign policy, and so much more.
The depth to the words in these pages touches the heart and soul. This story reaches into the dark corners of our society and brings some very troubling and real issues to light.
Mokhtar was abandoned by his Government, the U.S Government, in Yemen. He was left to find his own way out or die while the Saudi Air Force dropped U.S. Bombs all around him, attacking the Houthi Rebel incursion that had overtaken the Yemeni Government.
The logo of Port of Mokha, a boat, is no coincidence. Mokhtar literally escaped with his life across the Red Sea on a small fishing boat from the terrors of Yemen's civil war and Saudi airstrikes. Extremist groups like Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as well as various militant factions were all around him.
Today, the coffee that Mokhtar risked his very life to find and show the world is some of the most exquisite and highest scoring coffee in the world in terms of complexity in flavor and quality in the cup.
In February 2017, Coffee Review rated Port of Mokha's Hayma Lot at a score of 97, the highest score ever given by the institution in its 25-year history.
Mokhtar's victory over so many difficulties and the very real issues he has faced as a Muslim Yemeni-American is a must-read story for everyone. I cannot stress that last sentence enough.
You can buy the Monk of Mokha on Amazon here.
If you would like to try Port of Mokha's coffee, they offer a monthly subscription to some of the world's best coffee for just $28 a month.