Yemeni Coffee Is Officially Back, But It Isn't Cheap
You may think of "mocha" as a chocolatey Starbucks drink, but as Bloomberg highlights, that's the coffee equivalent of fake news. Even though Starbucks may seem expensive, true mocha coffeewill cost you a hell of a lot more than that—$240 a pound. Why? Because the beans from Mokha, Yemen are as delicious as they are hard-to-find. And now, Bloomberg reports that for the first time in years, the famed Yemeni beans are being imported to the United States, thanks to a coffee roaster named after the Yemen port that shipped the beans way back in the 1400s.
Port of Mokha, the roaster we can thank for bringing back the chocolatey beans, was started by Mokhtar Alkhanshali. “Ninety percent of the world’s coffee can be traced to Yemen,” Alkhanshali told Bloomberg. “There are a few different organizations like the World Coffee Research Organization and the Coffee Quality Institute that have done studies on coffee genetics.”
Alkhanshali's family is from Ibb, which is in central Yemen. He decided to put together his two passions: Yemen's farming traditions and America's startup culture. “Our first year’s production was a half a ton,” Alkhanshali told Bloomberg. “Six months later, it was one ton. Now, a year after that, we have 120,000 farmers and 10 tons’ worth of production.”
Port of Mokha is now one of the only importers that provides Yemeni coffee--and according to roaster and co-founder of the Cup of Excellence coffee grading program George Howell, Port of Mokha is higher quality.
“You rarely get these more subtle nuances of spice and floral that are in Mokhtar’s coffees,” Howell told Bloomberg. “They have something I had never tasted before...That’s why I was willing to pay the enormous price for this coffee. It’s extraordinary. As a roaster, you just have to get it.”
There are 30 roasters worldwide that will sell Port of Mokha's beans, including New York's Blue Bottle and Seattle's Slate Coffee. You can view the full list of roasters here. One thing’s for sure: if you’re a coffee fan, you’ll want to try this ASAP--because you may not always have the chance. "The legend of Yemeni coffee being the most ancient, going back to the roots of coffee itself...it was unique," Howell said. "...Given the war, the fact that any coffee is coming out of Yemen at all...it's really a miracle."