About Yemen Port of Mokha Microlot
Mokhtar Alkhanshali has reinvigorated the market for top quality coffee from Yemen. He is a young Yemeni-American looking for a passion in life, and discovered the history and heritage of coffee excellence in his ancestral homeland and decided to make it a career. He offered growers in Yemen a chance to turn from growing Qat, a narcotic, to coffee by assuring them that if they followed the path of excellence - growing, harvesting and processing coffee the very best way - he would pay them the highest possible price for the highest quality coffee. Those who participated in the program had strict rules to adhere to: picking only fully ripe cherry, drying to precise standards, etc etc.
Mokhtar's life and exploits with coffee are the subject of a best selling book by Dave Eggers called "The Monk of Mokha". We are told it will be made into a motion picture in the near future. Some of Mokhtar's coffees have garnered very high critical acclaim, one getting a 97 out of 100 points in Coffee Review. We first met Mokhtar in Seattle four years ago, right after his dramatic return, or shall we call it an escape, from Yemen. He fled as civil war broke out, making his way in a small boat to Djibouti. The boat has become his logo and emblem. We saw Mokhtar this year when he visited New Haven and, knowing the quality we seek, he sent us an assortment of a dozen small, high-end lots. We roasted and organized an exciting cupping in which we favored three of the lots but one in particular really grabbed us. The beans were very small, as some Mocha varieties can be, and we just needed to verify they would not be too small to roast in our machinery. After a larger scale test we bought the coffee and Mokhtar said he thought that might be the one we would pick, one of his favorites as well.
- Varietal: Udaini (Ancient Typica)
- Elevation: 2150-2300 meters
- Processing method: Sun-dried natural, raised African bed
- Farmer name: Al Jabal Village Segundos/Small bean lot
- Drying time: 21 days
- Region: Hayma
- Country: Yemen
- Coordinates: 15° 10'42.0"N, 43° 57'15.4"E
This small village from where this coffee was grown has less than 30,000 trees, most farmers have less then 200 trees, each tree yielding 1 to 1.5 pounds of coffee. Cherries are covered midday from 11am-2:30pm (the time with the strongest sunlight) to elongate the drying period. This gives more time for the starches to convert to sugars, making the coffees sweeter and brighter. This lot is the second pass on the density sorter. The origin elevation is among the highest on earth for growing coffee, and gives these beans a unique flavor, with a tamed wildness.
Beginning at age 25 Mokhtar started obsessively reading, tasting, and learning everything he could about coffee. He felt that the quality of Yemeni coffee had greatly declined over the past century as farmers had determined they could make more money by cultivating Qat. Mokhtar spent three years traveling in Yemen, surveying more than 30 coffee growing regions. Some farms were so remote, they were accessible only by a 3-day hike through the mountains.His mission: if he could persuade farmers to elevate the quality of their beans, they would get paid a higher price than Qat, and would embrace growing coffee again. He had to educate and train farmers on best practices, from using organic fertilizers to harvesting only ripe fruit to drying and processing. As their coffee improved so did their income.
In March of 2015, after years of working with his farmers, Mokhtar was ready
to share some of these top coffees with the world and had two suitcases packed
with green coffee samples from different farms which he planned to take these to
to the Specialty Coffee conference in the US. Civil war broke out on the night
he planned to leave; both civilian airports were bombed and no commercial flights were operating. While neighboring countries like India, Somalia, and Pakistan were finding ways to evacuate their citizens, the US was not taking any action. Mokhtar resolved to do whatever was needed to do to get out. He headed for the Port of Mokha where he hired a fisherman to take him across the Red Sea in a small fishing boat. With his two suitcases of coffee, and the clothes on his back, the boat traveled for 7 hours - with no radio or navigation instruments - before reaching the shores of Djibouti on the northeastern shore of Africa.
His physical and spiritual journey to resurrect the best virtues of Yemeni coffee became the subject of The Monk of Mokha. In late 2018 the first Port of Mokha coffee auction took place and prices in excess of $100/lb. were achieved for some lots. Clearly, the aspirations of Mokhtar and the contributing farmers have been achieved. The lot we selected was not from the auction but rather small lots sent to us by Mokhtar as described above. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
Cup Characteristics: A wild, unique flavor akin to the best coffees from Yemen and this ancient Typica varietal. Floral aromas when ground. Big dark fruit flavors. Bold raisin and black plum. Inky. Intense. Long finish.
Roasting Notes: Natural processed coffees tend to roast quicker than washed varieties and generally produce more chaff. Roast slowly to develop a fuller profile and pull the roast before second crack. These beans are small but should pose no problem. We tested in a Behmor grid and nothing fell through in our test. We did a commercial test in one of our drum roasters and again, no problem. These are not tiny "mocca" beans but are small compared to most.
Yemen coffee facts:
Population (2006): 21.4 million People
Coffee Production: 50,000 bags (60 kg)
Country bag capacity: 132 pounds - 60 kg
Domestic Consumption: practically none
Coffee Export: 50,000 bags (60 kg)
Cultivated Area: About 7700 hectares (19,000 acres)
Arabica Introduced: Around the 6th century from Ethiopia.
Specialty Coffee Regions: Bani Mattar (Mattari), Haraz (Harazi), Bani Ismail (Ismaili), San'ani
Farms: About 300,000 very small family owned farms.
Botanical Varietals: Ismaili, Typica, Matari, Bourbon, numerous ancient heirloom species.
Yemen was the first county to cultivate coffee. The legendary Omar and Kaldi ascribed the power of Yemen coffee as life affirming. Mocha itself is shrouded in myth and has become synonymous with coffee. All Yemen coffees are naturals meaning the coffee is dried in its husk without fermentation, then milled. While not certified as organic, Yemen coffee is grown as it has been for hundreds of years, without man-made fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Yemen produces truly world class coffee.