‘You ever look across the street?’
This simple unadorned line from the book is the pivot of this true story about Mokhtar an American-Yemeni and his vision of bringing Yemeni coffee to international prominence, just as Shaykh Ali ibn Omar al-Shadhuli, the Saint (ok, Monk) of the Yemeni port-city of Mokha, did centuries ago.
Anyone who has ever started a business can identify with the exhilaration of shaping a not-yet-fully-formed idea, of seeing for the first time an unrealised opportunity.
Reading this book you will learn a lot about the history of coffee, its cultivation, and its distribution. You will learn about the exploitation of farmers by the forces of the ‘commodities’ market. You will learn about Yemen and its beautiful people and customs.
But you will also see through Mokhtar’s eyes the chaos and heartbreak of civil war and its particular ability to bring both glimmers of hope and crushing hopelessness.
Mokhtar didn’t always have all the answers, and he certainly did not have any funds. But he did have a simple - seemingly naive - idea that he saw through with dogged tenacity.
Coffee gave Mokhtar a purpose, and in many ways, coffee was his salvation.
The Monk of Mokha