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The Monk of Mokha

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The Monk of Mokha is the exhilarating true story of a young Yemeni American man, raised in San Francisco, who dreams of resurrecting the ancient art of Yemeni coffee but finds himself trapped in Sana’a by civil war.

Mokhtar Alkhanshali is twenty-four and working as a doorman when he discovers the astonishing history of coffee and Yemen’s central place in it. He leaves San Francisco and travels deep into his ancestral homeland to tour terraced farms high in the country’s rugged mountains and meet beleagured but determined farmers. But when war engulfs the country and Saudi bombs rain down, Mokhtar has to find a way out of Yemen without sacrificing his dreams or abandoning his people.

353 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 25, 2018

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About the author

Dave Eggers

313 books8,366 followers
Dave Eggers is the author of ten books, including most recently Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, The Circle and A Hologram for the King, which was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award. He is the founder of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing company based in San Francisco that produces books, a quarterly journal of new writing (McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern), and a monthly magazine, The Believer. McSweeney’s also publishes Voice of Witness, a nonprofit book series that uses oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. Eggers is the co-founder of 826 National, a network of eight tutoring centers around the country and ScholarMatch, a nonprofit organization designed to connect students with resources, schools and donors to make college possible. He lives in Northern California with his family.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,113 reviews
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews42 followers
April 25, 2018
By the end of “The Monk of Mokha”, without a sip of coffee or ( tea for me), in me, I felt the stimulant of Dave Eggers non fiction book raising my energy.

This is one heck of an amazing rags to riches story....
From DOORMAN ....to CEO COFFEEMAN....our uplifting boost of energy comes from a guy name Mokhtar Alkhanshali......Yemeni-American.

Mokhtar grew up dirt poor......in San Francisco’s most impoverished districts: The Tenderloin District ( our older daughter once played the leading role in an indi film - at age 12 in this district- an area any mother would worry for her child) .
“Mokhtar got used to the drug dealing, which we stand out in the open air, all day and all night. He got used to the smells – – human feces, urine, weed. To the howling of men and women and babies. He got used to stepping over needles and vomit. Older men and younger men having sex in the alley. A women in her sisters shooting up. A homeless family panhandling. An elderly junkie standing in the middle of traffic”.

Mokhtar also knew just north of the Tenderloin neighborhood was Nob Hill .... One of the most expensive neighborhoods in United States, home to the Fairmont and Mark Hopkins Hotels. A few blocks away was Union Square with its pricy shopping and cable cars.

Mokhtar was a creative semi- trouble maker - rascal- as a kid. He found solutions to some of his deprivations. AND WE ....THE READER....ARE ROOTING FOR HIM ALL THE WAY. He has an incredible ‘coming-of-age’ story to tell.
He has another story to tell when at age 24 he moves to Yemen....where he learns the language- culture and works in coffee farming. He also got trapped in the violent civil war.
But Mokhtar was drawn to the Yemeni Coffee - their culture and industry. And we follow Mokhtar’s master plan to bring Port of Mokhtar back to San Francisco.

Reading this book was a little like a roller coaster ride. There were moments when your heart dropped to your feet....when he had THE WORSE LUCK.....and had to climb back up and start with nothing.... and there were moments of celebration...where you wanted to stand up and cheer!!
“Congrats To Mokhtar”

Dave Eggers spent 3 years listening to Mokhtar talk and doing research - before he wrote this book. He did a great job....got me interested ...and I don’t even drink coffee.

Two more things...then you can stop reading my chatter: ( if you haven’t already)
1- It’s my belief .... that what contributed to Mokhtar separating himself from the other junkies where he lived - is HE ALWAYS LOVED TO READ AS A KID. He stole books sometimes - but better books than cigarettes or alcohol. Mokhtar was always smart - and determined to live like the people on Nob Hill. SMART & DETERMINATION go along way!

2- In June of 2016, Port of Mokhtar
was made available for the first time at
Blue Bottle coffee shops around the United States. It was the most expensive coffee
Blue Bottle had ever sold. Complete with a cardamom cookie made from Mokhtar’s mother’s recipe, it cost $16 a cup.

Mokhtar May have become rich ....but the rest of us poor if we drink his coffee too often....but Paul will love it. So ....I plan to take Paul to Blue Bottle in Oakland for his birthday. He is normally a Peet’s or Philz’s coffee drinker.
Profile Image for da AL.
366 reviews363 followers
February 15, 2018
True account of Yemen-American. When he learns that coffee originated in Yemen, he employs passion, courage, creativity, & humanitarianism to make Yemen coffee the world's best. All that amid daunting poverty, war & politics. Pulitzer prize author. Audio narrator passable, but not a quite right fit & mispronounced eide. Story was engaging all the same.
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
859 reviews5,921 followers
June 13, 2022
He had had a dream, and dreams are heavy things, requiring constant care and pruning.

In the United States, an average of 400 million cups of coffee are consumed each day, with the beans for the caffeinated beverage coming from all over the world. While there is still some debate over the origin of coffee, one of the theories is that it comes from Yemen, a historical tradition that young Yemeni American Mokhtar Alkhanshali hoped to capture in his quest to become a great coffee company. The Monk of Mokha is the story of Mokhtar’s life growing up in The Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco to his incredible adventure of creating what would become his company, Port of Mokha, while trapped in the Yemen Civil War. Written by Dave Eggers after countless hours of interviews and interactions with the young entrepreneur, this is a non-fiction book that reads like a novel about not giving up even when outlooks are bleak and bullets are flying, and being true to yourself to achieve your dreams.
Mokhtar Alkhanshali, center

Having worked in a coffee roastery a few years back, I enjoyed the detail Eggers put into the history of coffee and the whole process from farm to cup, especially the aspects about how roasting works. It was a nice nostalgic look at the parts I actually enjoyed of a former job. I recognized some of the companies talked about as up-and-coming in the book—like Intelligentsia—and the descriptions of Fair Trade or Direct Trade coffee were cool because at the time when I was attending coffee conventions this was the big talking point. It is fascinating to consider how many hands the beans go through in order to reach your cup, and while Eggers could have dived into the ethics a bit more it was nice to see him address how frequently those working the fields are not well compensated and often exploited by wealthy coffee companies:
Any given cup of coffee, then, might have been touched by twenty hands, from farm to cup, yet these cups only cost two or three dollars. Even a four-dollar cup was miraculous, given how many people were involved, and how much individual human attention and expertise was lavished on the beans dissolved in that four-dollar cup. So much human attention and expertise, in fact, that even at four dollars a cup, chances were some person—or many people, or hundreds of people—along the line were being taken, underpaid, exploited.

Eggers spends a fair amount of the novel looking at how Mokhtar wanted to ensure he was using his dream to not only celebrate Yemen history but help the people there (though often in life ‘ethical capitalism’ is a bit of an oxymoron). There is a great section of the novel where the woman at one of the processing factories privately informs Mokhtar of the abuse and ethical mistreatment of employees at the facility, so he creates his own and hires those employees.

'A man with a passion will never be denied.'

The novel is a fairly quick read, written very fluidly and Eggers does well to make the more info-dumping sections just as fascinating and engaging as the more action-packed elements of the novel. It is quite a riveting tale, one that made national news when it all went down in 2015, and he is a person that is so easy to root for. Mokhtar gets himself in and out of a lot of tense situations ‘either the power of coffee or the power of his charm.’ The story is gripping, with Mokhtar stuck in Yemen as the US refuses to evacuate their own citizens and people are having their VISAS revoked, and there is constant threat of attack. The latter half of the novel has him racing to escape the war and make it back to a coffee conference.
Mokhtar escaping from Yemen across the Red Sea

There is a lot going on in this book, from Mokhtar’s family history and his life story, the history of coffee, the coffee industry, a look at the Yemen war and a lot of smaller stories involved in that, and more. Eggers tries to be objective, though there is such a lack of framing that it feels a little aimless at times. It’s got a lot of good elements, but feels half-baked, almost like the ingredients never blended enough. A member of my bookclub referred to it as sort of a sampler plate, a book that gives you a decent overview of ideas and information but only a taste to make you want to seek out the specific topics and read a book on those instead. It is interesting, as people occasionally say memoirs on a topic can be too biased, but this seems the flip side where a bit more framing would have been preferred. Or at least more inside Mokhtar’s mind, as everything feels a bit just out of arm's length from the reader.

That said, it is a riveting book and one you can read in two or three sittings. This is a hard one to put down, from the writing, the story and because he is so likable. Its also a great one to recommend to people, from big coffee aficionados to those with just a passing interest in coffee or Yemen. This would make a great beach read for non-fiction readers. It is an interesting story that shows the power of determination to make your dreams come true, though at the same time reminds you that investors are the gatekeepers and often want to market your story more than your quality. A fun book, but one that reads more like a marketing piece than a non-fiction study on any of the topics within. But most importantly, this book is a good reminder of how many people are involved in the coffee process from farm to table and that we should value and respect those working hard in the fields so we can enjoy this wonderful beverage.

Profile Image for Swrp.
665 reviews
January 4, 2021
A man with a passion will never be denied.

Dave Eggers`s The Monk of Mokha is a well-written and incredible true story of a Yemeni-American Mokhtar Alkhanshali. This book also covers the history, origins and making of coffee in a detailed way.

From being a doorman at a luxury apartment block in San Francisco to owning an apartment in the same building and from having dropped out of college and not knowing anything about coffee to being a remarkbly successful businessman and a successful grower, roaster and importer of premium Yemeni coffee - the story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali is must-read for all those who love coffee and also for all those who would like to find their purpose and live their passion.
Profile Image for Lori.
308 reviews100 followers
June 4, 2018
The rags to riches story of a coffee importer, it's more interesting than that sounds. Details are suspiciously sparse toward the end, but I like a happy ending. Waffling between three and four stars.
Profile Image for PorshaJo.
453 reviews659 followers
April 14, 2018
There is a lesson in this one...or two. Don't let anyone tell you can't do something. And once you set your mind to something, you can do anything. Well, in this case, said person was almost killed....multiple times. But he DID IT! He did what he set out to do which seemed like an impossibility.

OK, this tells the story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali. A young Yemeni growing up in San Francisco, just running around, being a punk, not caring about much of anything. But he begins to see the way (after being talked to) and tries to better himself. He tries to go school, but a mistake where he looses a lot of money he was given for school, is lost. So he goes to work, really pushing hard and learning. He sells shoes, sells cars, and then is a door man in a luxury apartment building. His girlfriend makes a passing statement to him about a statue and that sets Mokhtar on his next path, er,.. quest, er ....obsession, er ...goal. He wants to bring Yemeni coffee to America. You learn about coffee cultivation, roasting and importing and so much about coffee. I'm not a coffee drinker at all, never had the desire. But I found this utterly fascinating. You hear of harrowing stories of his time in Yemen and trying to get out Yemen when violence erupts. On multiple occasions he thinks he is about to die. A great story...and in the end, he brings his dream to life. Yemeni coffee can be found many places in the US these days. And along the way, helping the coffee farmers and workers back in Yemen.

For years I have been wanting to read Eggers works. Many rave about them, there have been movies (which I have not seen) of his works, I even own a book of his, but I just never plucked him from my TBR pile. I don't know what it was about this one that when I saw it, I had to read it immediately. OK, cover love drew my attention first. I'm so glad I read this one and ignited my desire to read more of his books. And, I found out he is coming, along with Mokhtar, to a local author speaker series that I attend. So I get to hear more of this fascinating story by these two men. The only downfall....it will not turn me into a coffee drinker. I just can't. So I'll just drink my tea while I read his books and wait for his talk. Sounds perfect to me.
Profile Image for Ammar.
448 reviews217 followers
February 4, 2018
This book made me appreciate coffee more. This is the kind of book that keeps you on the edge of the seat while rooting for the main guy to get over the obstacles and attain the goals they need to get.

Mokhtar Alkhanshali was born and raised in California. His parents are from Yemen. He discovers while working as a door attendant in a large residential building that Yemen was a major exporter of coffee beans for centuries and had a monopoly over coffee trade through the port of Mokha.

He wants to revive the high quality of the Yemeni beans, and goes back to Yemen to explore the situation, but then 2011 and the Arab Spring changes everything in the region. He goes back and forth between Yemen, and some coffee businessmen in California, he learns how to grade coffee, he teaches Yemeni workers and farmers how to improve the farming, harvesting of the beans and improve their life.

This book delivers on many levels, it shows the real region, it describes what people go through every day in a region plagued with war. A must read for any person who enjoys coffee, politics, history, and human stories.
Profile Image for Brian.
Author 1 book981 followers
February 1, 2018
In a world filled with misery and pain, it's refreshing to read a well written, non-fiction story of a member of our race who overcomes all shades of adversity to succeed when every deck is stacked against him. Like his excellent Zeitoun, Eggers writes in an easily accessible narrative style that draws the reader into every facet of the story - whether it's the personal history of the protagonist or an encompassing background on the world of coffee, the prose is mesmerizing. I ended up playing hooky from work today because I couldn't put this down. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Anne .
443 reviews360 followers
January 27, 2021
This was an interesting rags-to-riches story about a young Yemeni-American man growing up in San Francisco. He struggles trying to find his calling until he hits on importing coffee beans from his homeland to America. I enjoyed much of Mokhtar's Alkhanshali's story. Unfortunately, the narrative often left Mokhtar behind while going off on many digressions. For instance, Dave Eggers went into the minutiae of the coffee business which can be very interesting, but as told by Eggers it was mostly rather dry. However, I did learn about a special kind of coffee, kopi luwak, or civet coffee which is gathered from the feces of a cat-like mammal, the civet. The civet eats the best of the ripest cherries (inside which are the coffee beans), and its digestive system ferments the cherry, leaving only the bean. This leaves out the need for people to do the processing; plus, the coffee has a musky and smooth taste, considered delicious by many. Kopi luwak is popular and its purveyors charge a premium for it. One of the coffee merchants in the biography was not impressed and called this, "Coffee from assholes for assholes." I looked up the prices online. It sells anywhere from $35-$200 per pound.

Though I enjoyed the tangent about Kopi luwak, I found it difficult to stay engaged during most of the story detours. I also felt a bit annoyed by the way Eggers dramatized Mokhtar's visits to Yemen. There was a civil war going on at the time so Mokhtar and his traveling companions ran into difficulties, but the way the story was written everything from the ruts in the roads to the never-ending dangerous border crossings in and out of Yemen were all highly dramatized. At the same time the author was signaling that they weren't in any real danger. In the end it felt more like one big adventure, which in a way, it was.

I loved the ending of the story which brought tears to my eyes. Overall, I'm glad I read this biography, learning Mokhtar's story and about Yemen where coffee was first cultivated and consumed as a beverage..
Profile Image for Donna.
541 reviews182 followers
March 5, 2018
Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.
Mark Twain

This is one of those nonfiction books that seems so unbelievable that if it were fiction, you’d think the author should have tried for something more realistic. But had the subject of this biographical novel, Moktar Alkhanshali, stuck to what was considered possible, he wouldn’t have achieved all that he has, and at such a young age. Though maybe his youth and optimism, with a touch of naïveté thrown in for good measure, had something to do with it.

Moktar, a Muslim Yemeni American who grew up in a tough neighborhood in San Francisco called The Tenderloin, was a restless young man who knew how to survive in any situation, but had a habit of cutting corners and cutting school, and abandoning secure jobs, and even losing money and opportunities to further his education. But he was also intelligent and resourceful, and he was driven to be an activist, spurred on by his great pride in his Yemeni heritage.

His parents had sent him to live with his grandfather in Ibb for a year when he was in eighth grade, hoping it would straighten him out. It was there he learned the Arabic language and learned of Yemen’s struggle toward a democracy. So years later, something clicked when his close friend Miriam, dismayed by all his screw ups and bad luck, and all his talent going to waste with his inability to see something through to the end, pointed to a famous statue across from the hotel where he was a doorman. She hoped it would inspire him enough to have a goal and make something of himself. The statue was of an Arabic man drinking coffee, positioned in a spot where the old Hills Bros. coffee factory used to be.

Curious about the statue, Moktar did some research into the origin of coffee, tracing it back to Yemen and learning how it had evolved. Long ago, Yemen had been the only place where coffee had grown, and it had been a crime punishable by death for anyone to sneak out even a seedling. Though gradually, people from other countries did just that, and the French and the Dutch rose in prominence in the industry, while Yemen lost ground.

A light bulb went off over Moktar’s head then. He decided he wanted to restore the good name of Yemen by reviving the coffee industry there in the wake of the terrorism and drones they were known for exclusively now. But this was easier said than done. First off, Moktar knew nothing about coffee or the industry, and he had no money to invest in learning about it or to even buy a ticket to Yemen. And should he find the money he needed, the coffee produced in Yemen was now of inferior or varied quality because untrained farmers had lost the knowledge to grow it. And no one from other countries wanted to risk their necks to do business there because of the war and having to deal with local tribes and marketeers who were intimidating. Plus qat, a narcotic, was more profitable to grow there for local use, so farmers would have to be convinced to gamble on planting more coffee instead.

But obstacle courses were nothing new to Moktar. And he had made up his mind. He would resurrect Yemeni coffee by marketing it as a specialty coffee and reviving the ancient varieties. There was still the little matter of finding a way to get the coffee out of war-torn Yemen should it even be good enough to compete in quality. But he would worry about that later when he got to that point.

Oh boy. This was an adventure, all right, that any sane person shouldn’t have embarked on. And if you read this book, you'll learn exactly why that is when strapped to Moktar’s back every step of the way as he goes from a boyhood of aimlessness to being an idealistic and driven young man pursuing his dream while empowering Yemeni farmers. You’ll also learn a lot about the coffee industry, everything from how coffee is grown to how it’s graded for quality to how it’s stored, roasted, and sold. And you’ll learn about the exploitation of many of its farmers worldwide, and hopefully you’ll be inspired enough to look for only free trade coffee in the future.

In another author’s hands, all those details might have been boring or bogged down the story at the book’s heart—the inspiring coming of age story of Moktar. Because this book wasn’t just about the end result of him starting his own company. It was also about how it all began. But Dave Eggers did a great job presenting everything in an organized and conversational tone that had the book reading more like an autobiography in which I imagined Moktar sitting down to tell me his own story. The parts about his boyhood were extremely interesting and well written, and they had me rooting for him to succeed from the start. And the parts where he’s older and back in Yemen, working with the farmers, was very inspiring.

I did feel that the book went on a bit long and some of the less important details about the coffee industry could have been cut. But overall, Moktar’s story kept me riveted and turning the pages. Should you read this book and find any of his story too incredible to be true, know it has been verified by many people he came into contact with. You might also find it incredible that six ounces of Yemeni coffee sold by Moktar’s company Port of Mokha costs $65. And even more incredible, a cup of his Yemeni coffee at The Blue Bottle up north in California costs $16, though it does come with a special cookie. Read this inspiring book and find out why this amount is completely justified. And have lots of fair trade coffee on hand because if you’re like me, reading about all that coffee will make you crave it like mad.

Make coffee not war.
(A slogan on one of Moktar’s t-shirts)
Profile Image for Marie.
736 reviews52 followers
December 21, 2017
Eggers was the reason why I picked up this book—someone at work handed me an ARC and I was like sure why not? I didn’t even realize it was non-fiction until after the first chapter

But holy cow, it was spectacular. It’s about a Yemeni-American who wants to bring high quality Yemen coffee back to the US and the rest of the world. I had no idea about the history of coffee and wouldn’t have thought I would find it so interesting, but Eggers writes the history portions with his famous storytelling touch. Not to mention that Mokha’s story is absolutely crazy. My only complaint is a small one—I thought the ending didn’t have enough detail. Then again, the story is still going on.

If you have even the slightest interest in coffee or Yemen, it’s a good book for you. If nothing else, it will give you some good tidbits to wow people at the next party you attend.
Profile Image for Adriaan Jansen.
152 reviews24 followers
February 28, 2018
''When Mokhtar made a mistake, Hamood was angry only if Mokhtar made an excuse. 'Own the error and correct it', he said. Hamood had a thousand proverbs and maxims. His favorite was 'Keep your money in your hand, never in your heart'. He used to say that a lot.
'What does it mean?' Mokhtar asked
'It means that money is ephemeral, moving from person to person', Hamood said. 'It's a tool. Don't let it get into your heart or your soul' ''. (page 28).

The Monk of Mokha tells the amazing adventure of Mokhtar Alkhanshali's efforts to revive the art of making quality coffee in Yemen. While Mokhtar's adventure is amazing, unfortunately the book itself disappoints, in two ways: They way it is written, and the actual information that is provided.

This is a non-fiction book that is part biography, part adventure story and part business book. The standard for the combination biography-business book is set by Walter Isaacson's superb biography about Steve Jobs. Isaacson combines a layered multifaceted description of Jobs' character with key business insights. On both of these dimensions, the Monk of Mokha falls short.

The main problem: In this book, Mokhtar is a one-dimensional superhero, with one superpower: He can talk himself out of any situation.

Detailed descriptions that would give depth to his character are mostly absent. For instance, his relationship with Miriam, who seems such a vital influence in Mokhtar's life in his early twenties, is only mentioned in passing. The information we get is that ''they dated for a year or so, but the odds were long'' (page 3) because they belonged to different ethnic backgrounds. How he really feels about her, and their apparent breakup, is not mentioned. Even less attention get her feelings for him.

There are also some contradictions, or paradoxes, that, if explored more, could have given a more detailed idea of Mokhtar's personality. Two examples:
- Mokhtar grows up in a dodgy neighborhood in San Francisco called the Tenderloin. ''The Tenderloin taught you to think quick, talk fast'' (page 31). Mokhtar learns these lessons: ''By middle school, Mokhtar had become a fast learner, a fast talker and a corner cutter'' (pag 16). However, at his first coffee conference, when he wants to introduce himself to someone, all these lessons have strangely disappeared, and Mokhtar is all of a sudden described as shy (page 100). This is not necessarily inexplicable, but it would have given his character more depth if this contrast had been explored more.
- Both in school and at an after-school program at a mosque, Mokhtar is a corner cutter who finds trouble difficult to avoid. However, not much later he is described as an autodidact, who reads plenty of books. Again, an exploration of this contrast, that could give more understanding of his personality, is missing from the book.

Another aspect that I didn't like about the way the book is written is the abuse of explicit suspense. Several times it is mentioned explicitly that Mokhtar thought he was going to die. If the threat of death is mentioned often, it becomes less believable. I appreciate it more when a writer describes an event or a situation in such a way that the reader himself can only draw one conclusion: This is scary or dangerous. Here, in order to create the suspense, the writer has the main character saying many times that he thinks he is in a dangerous situation, which I came to feel as less powerful than a possible better description of the very real threats. Examples: ''He figured the odds of survival were about 60 – 40'' (page 171), ''Mokhtar knew he might die here'' (page 223), ''Now Mokhtar believed he might die'' (page 256), ''Grim possibilities ran through Mokhtar's mind. Secret prisons. Illegal detentions'' (page 289), ''Thinking that there was a remote chance he'd be detained, send to Guantanamo'' (page 295).

I also had several questions about the information that is provided.

1. Mokhtar of course is on a noble mission, reviving the Yemeni coffee culture and providing the Yemeni coffee farmers with a better life. On his second visit to Yemen, Mokhtar promises Malik, a coffee farmer in Haymah, that he will buy all his coffee ''at a price 5 times what he'd been paid before'' (page 186). Wonderful. Then, once the business is starting to take off, it is mentioned that ''his farmers would be making 30 % more than what they'd been making before'' (page 300). 30 % more is not quite the same as 5 times more, but still, wonderful. Then, in the epilogue, it turns out that Mokhtar's specialty coffee from Yemen is sold at US $ 16 a cup. Now I start to wonder: Before Mokhtar arrived on the scene, Yemeni coffee was a commodity product. For a cup of commodity coffee, US $ 3 seems reasonable. He sells his coffee for more than 5 times more than the commodity coffee, and his suppliers just see a 30% increase, while they had been promised 5 times more? Of course, it is well possible that my reasoning is too simple, but without further explications on these numbers, the books leaves unpleasant questions unanswered.
2. On pages 93 to 95, Mokhtar's explains the benefits of direct trade, without interference of loan sharks and brokers, between himself and Yemeni coffee farmers. Direct trade will remove the middle men. All this sounds like a good idea. Then, two things happen:
First, the first time he meets an actual middle man, in his grandfather Hamood's city Ibb, Mokhtar describes this middle man as ''Highly ethical and fair'' (page 129). Strange, because apparently ''he had millions of dollars under his control'' while coffee in Yemen ''was sold so cheap – mostly to brokers and loan sharks – that it was nearly unworkable for any Yemeni farmer'' (page 95). Loan sharks are bad but the first one Mokhtar happens to run into is OK?
Second, after his first visit, it turns out that he has access to 3 farmers who can provide superior coffee. Now I expected him to focus on those and trade directly. But no, he ends up buying from that same middle man from Ibb (page 198). What happened to direct trade?
3. On his first visit to Yemen as a coffee enthusiast, Mokhtar first visits his grandfather Hamood in Ibb. There he sees the coffee plant again: ''They came to the row of coffee trees hugging the wall of Hamood's compound. 'Do you remember these?' Hamood asked. Mokhtar touched the glossy leaves. He remembered'' (page 127). Some time later, during that very same first visit, Mokhtar mistakes an olive tree for a coffee plant. '' 'That's not coffee', Yusuf said. Mokhtar had been carefully examining an olive tree'' (page 150). I don't understand.
4. Sometimes characters seemed to appear out of nowhere. Best example is Abdo Alghazali on page 195. He advises Mokhtar not to get in touch with Andrew Nicholson, an American coffee mill owner in Yemen. Without questioning, Mokhtar follows this advise. 5 pages later, Andrew and Mokhtar do meet and almost instantly get along well. ''Almost immediately Mokhtar realized that Abdo Alghazali had wanted to keep Andrew and Mokhtar apart'' (page 200). Who is this Abdo? Why did Mokhtar follow his advise without questioning? And why did Abdo want to keep Andrew and Mokhtar apart? We are left in the dark.

My conclusion: Mokhtar's adventure is amazing and his efforts to help and improve the lives of Yemeni coffee farmers are admirable. I am just sorry the book doesn't match Mokhtar's exciting story and his good intentions.
Profile Image for Jack.
275 reviews7 followers
February 8, 2018
It's hard to articulate my thoughts on this book better than Michael Lindgren already has in the Washington Post, but what the hell I'll give it a shot - I liked the book, I don't regret reading it, but I won't recommend it to others, because after having read Eggers' fiction and memoir, I'm frankly disappointed.

Monk of Mokha is the remarkably true story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a Yemeni-American Millennial who overcame some pretty harrowing odds to become a successful importer of specialty coffee from war-ridden Yemen. This story traces Mokhtar's journey from being an aimless 23-year old doorman in San Francisco into the bourgeois world of specialty coffee, into Yemen that was just starting to break out in civil war in 2013, and ultimately back to San Francisco for a victory lap as a resident in the luxury building where he was once the doorman.

Mokhtar's story is truly gasp-worthy - full of danger, narrow misses, remarkable charisma, fortunes and misfortunes. It's a good-ole swashbuckling picaresque, bootstraps and all. However, Eggers is more suited to fiction and memoirs. The accounting of the story is a bit dry. Eggers lays out the facts, his prose is clear and vivid. And yes there is artistry to his exposition when he diverts us to little histories of coffee and Yemen culture, and yes there's craft to how he undoubtedly chiseled secondary diversions away to leave behind a taught narrative. However the thing that made "heartbreaking" and "you shall" electric with energy and infused with magic was I think his license to invent. The literary license in these previous works allowed him to toe into the realm of Marquez, Rushdie, and the best travel writers, who reveal the truth through telling lies. This is what art after all is supposed to do right?

I believe the right way to tell character non-fiction stories is to let the life and history with all its peculiarity lead and ultimately determine the themes and narrative. Eggers' immigrant trilogy in contrast is very much a "framework-first-then-fill-in-appropriate-content-later" enterprise. It's a noble thought, but this approach stifles the possibilities of the stories unfolding in interesting and unexpected ways. In this book it's obvious Eggers is on a mission to to valorize ideals of democracy, liberalism, diversity, tolerance, empathy (all ideals I agree with by the way), the cost of this is that the book comes off as less imaginative, more pedantic, and ultimately flat.

There remains certain moments of utmost satisfaction - "guilty pleasure passages." In one, Mokhtar, recently back to capital Sana'a from exploratory coffee visits out in the Yemen countryside, he appears out of place as a gruffed up provincial yokel in an internet cafe. A posse of wealthy Yemeni girls take pleasure in mocking him in English, and are shocked when he retorts in perfect American English. In another, a group of rough Yemeni gun-toting types are target practicing with their AK's, failing repeated to hit a bottle in the distance. They see Mokhtar as a soft city-slicker from America, and are shocked when he hits the bottle on the first shot then cooly walks off into the sunset. I only allow myself to enjoy these moments because they actually happened. Scenes this satisfying in a novel would just be obvious and overwrought.

Lastly, Mokhtar's story, while truly amazing, actually gets to be a bit tiresome toward the ends. The stakes always felt high, but there emerged a repeating pattern of: hero walks up to the cusp of catastrophe, catastrophe never quite materializes, instead dissipating serendipitously, hero casually continues his journey toward pre-destined glory. His story is truly a remarkable and fortunate and TRUE one, but it just feels like lazy screenwriting...
Profile Image for Kasa Cotugno.
2,356 reviews455 followers
June 4, 2023
I love the way Dave Eggers tells a larger story through a personal lens. As with Valentino Dent (What is the What) and Abdulrahman Zeitoun, he has taken the life of Mokhtar Alkhanshali and crafted it into a book so readable and yet so informative and true it becomes a real page turner. His books are proof of his extraordinary empathy, and this one is no exception.

Mokhtar is a young man of Yemeni heritage, who grew up on the mean streets of San Francisco's Tenderloin, but his family was supportive if puzzled by some of his choices. He held many low paying jobs, never giving up hope that he would discover his calling even when at his lowest. It was a chance text from a friend that sent him across the street from where he was a doorman (lobby ambassador) to the Hills Bros. building on the Embarcadero, where he saw the twenty-foot statue of a man in full Yemeni dress grasping a cup of coffee to his lips. Despite the flowers on the statue's thobe (no self respecting native would ever wear that), he was struck by the relationship to the coffee cup, which led him to study about the origin of history of coffee and the role Yemen played in its manufacture.

I'm not giving anything away by revealing that he eventually finds success as an importer of coffee from Yemen and the founder of Blue Bottle Coffee, but it is that history, his experiences in discovery and marketing, and his reasons for developing the industry in his native land that make this book a real Eggers work. High recommend.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,470 reviews565 followers
January 20, 2019
I generally enjoy Dave Eggers' books and novels and The Monk of Mokha is no exception. He tells the story of young man and his improbable, sometimes harrowing journey to become a coffee entrepreneur. I love to drink coffee but until now had no idea about how it is grown, picked, sorted, roasted. Fascinating. And I appreciated learning more about Yemen.
Profile Image for Krista.
1,368 reviews544 followers
January 5, 2018
Conditions in Yemen were deteriorating. Virtually no goods were being shipped out of the country. Activity at the ports was concentrated on importing essentials. Medicine was scarce and the vast majority of the country was suffering from food insecurity. The UN considered Yemen on the brink of famine. No one was prioritizing the export of coffee to international specialty roasters.

The Monk of Mokha is a work of narrative nonfiction by noted storyteller Dave Eggers: Focussing on the compelling story of one Yemeni-American's efforts to reboot his ancestral homeland's coffee industry, this book provides a microhistory of coffee itself, an overview of the often overlooked country of Yemen, an introduction to America's “third wave” of coffee production/consumption, and the whole is used as a progressive lens through which to evaluate the ways in which we weigh the value of someone's work. What I found in this book was certainly interesting and informative, I just wanted more: more on coffee, more on Yemen, and I especially felt this to be a lost opportunity to bring the world up to date on what Amnesty International refers to as “The Forgotten War” (but I suppose if Eggers dwelled too much on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, it would be hard to craft a feel good story out of using the country's bombed-out ports for exporting coffee to international specialty roasters so rich folks can spend fifteen bucks on a cup of brew). Still, this is a dramatic true life story that certainly demonstrates Eggers' stated thesis: “how these bridge-makers exquisitely and perhaps most bravely embody this nation's reason for being, a place of radical opportunity and ceaseless welcome”. Note: I read an Advanced Reading Copy and quotes used may not be in their final forms (I just can't help myself). Four stars can be considered a rounding up after much mental back and forth.

So, who is “The Monk of Mokha”?

(Shaykh Ali Ibn Omar Alqurashi) al-Shadhili, a Sufi monk, had gone to Harar, married an Ethiopian woman and brought the coffee plant – which hadn't been cultivated yet; it was still wild – back to Yemen. Here, in Mokha, he invented the dark brew now known as coffee. Local lore had it that it was al-Shadhili who was responsible for Mokha's ascendance to the center of the coffee trade. And it was he who introduced coffee to the traders who came to Mokha, and who extolled its medicinal qualities.

This little known history – that coffee was first processed and brewed in Yemen – became a point of pride, and eventually a bit of an obsession, to a young and directionless Yemeni-American who was raised in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco by hardworking immigrant parents. When Mokhtar Al-Khanshali first heard of the monk al-Shadhili, and later learned from his mother that coffee cultivation went back generations in their family, Mokhtar decided to educate himself; eventually becoming the first Yemini Q Grader of Arabica coffee beans in the world (a prestigious and internationally recognised designation). Whenever he asked people in the industry, however, about the quality of Yemeni coffee, he always heard that it was particularly terrible; only suitable for dumping on the commodity market. Not willing to accept that, Mokhtar went to Yemen and met with farmers; eventually teaching them how to properly cultivate, harvest, and prepare their crops for export. When Mokhtar eventually got a decent sample out of the country – in a thrilling episode as Yemen descended into civil war – it went on to garner the highest rating ever given to a coffee strain. Today, Mokhtar imports tonnes of Yemeni coffee beans into the US – each variety of which can be traced back to its farm of origin, where its producer is given a fair and decent profit – and after processing and roasting in his own facility (Port of Mokha), Moktar sells this superior product to the world (a three 4 oz sample variety pack will cost you $158 US).

Now, I would never spend something like twenty dollars Canadian on a single cup of coffee, but this “third wave” is apparently about approaching coffee the same way a sommelier evaluates wines: when the best in the world is identified, the discerning consumer should be expected to pay more for it; the producer should be expected to profit from providing excellence. And as this story is presented – Mokhtar pays his farmers many times what they used to receive, easing their poverty and freeing them from loansharks and the exploitative commodities market – this seems like an objective good. On the other hand, someone needs to be able to afford to buy coffee at that price, and Eggers uses this book to sneer at class stratification, using the San Francisco setting to demonstrate the unfair chasm between the haves and the have-nots. The reader is supposed to join in Eggers' outrage that Mokhtar (a college dropout without a life plan and sleeping on his parents' floor at twenty-five years old) takes a job as a doorman at a luxury high rise, making $18/hr to open the door for people who won't sully their hands to do so for themselves:

By hand, Mokhtar couldn't open both doors. They were too heavy and too big. With the button, though, the resident could stride through a fantastically wide and welcoming gateway of glass, unobstructed. They could enter the lobby, and Moktar, the Lobby Ambassador, could greet them. He'd be happy to greet them. It cost him nothing to look up and say hello. But to leap from the desk, to rush over, eager and panting, only to push open a door that could be opened with a button – it was a self-evident outrage and an assault on his pride. Especially when the residents passed through the lobby, entered the elevators and flew up, to apartments high above him, places he'd never seen.

A self-evident outrage and an assault on his pride to do what he was well-paid to do? I don't think I can follow where Eggers is trying to lead me with that. As a Canadian, I have no stakes in American politics, but it didn't escape my notice that Eggers writes vaguely of the “high paranoia of the Bush years”, and frets about the future for Muslims under Trump (a man, Eggers stresses, who was not elected by the people but whose presidency was only made possible by the electoral college), but while the actual indignities that Mokhtar experiences (racial profiling at airports, the US State Department refusing to evacuate American citizens when war breaks out in Yemen, the frequent American drone strikes within Yemen and the collateral civilian deaths, the Saudis using American-built weapons to bomb Yemen) all happened during the Obama years, Eggers doesn't link his name to any of these specific policies. This book has a particular political slant, and I just want to acknowledge it.

Still, this is an interesting and informative story, told well, and less than four stars would feel peevish.
Profile Image for Yun.
513 reviews20k followers
April 8, 2019
The Monk of Mokha is the true story of a young Yemeni American man named Mokhtar who became fascinated with coffee, especially its origin in Yemen. He wanted to elevated the quality of coffee there and bring it to the world, while also ensuring that the local coffee farmers are paid a more fair share for their hard work so that they can make a living wage. While Mokhtar was working to achieve this, Yemen was embroiled in a civil war, making his mission even harder and sometimes mortally perilous.

Even though the premise of this book sounds interesting and so many people loved it, I honestly found the book to be pretty boring for the most part. (And I feel so bad for saying so!) I think this is definitely a case where my interests just didn't align with what the book is offering. I drink coffee occasionally, but that's as far as my interest in coffee goes. So to read chapter upon chapter on the origins of coffee, its varietals, its growing and processing methodologies, etc. made my eyes glaze over. There are also many pages with dry facts about the Yemeni civil war, most of which I've already read about elsewhere.

The only thing I found interesting was the details about how much work goes into growing and processing coffee plants before they become the coffee beans we all know, and how little of that effort is translated into fair pay for the farmers doing the grunt work. It is certainly something that is deserving of attention, and I'm glad the book highlighted this gross pay inequity.

Otherwise, this book was a pretty disappointing read for me. I debated not-finishing it, but thought if I held out, it would get more interesting. And while the last few chapters were certainly more entertaining as they showcased Mokhtar racing to reach his goals, it just never became fully compelling to me. I think this is a case where my lack of interest in coffee really impeded my ability to get into the book.
Profile Image for Dan.
1,106 reviews52 followers
January 8, 2019
The children holding AK-47s — this was new. Mokhtar landed in Sana’a on October 27, 2014, and was confronted with the patchwork of overlapping military units, security forces and ragtag groups of Houthi or pseudo- Houthi rebels all over the airport and the roads to the capital.

In the non-fiction book Monk of Mokha, we follow the recent rags to riches story of a Yemeni American named Mokhtar Alkhanshali. Mokhtar grows up very poor in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. While in his twenties, after the high cost of college ends his educational dreams, he eventually hits on an idea to harvest high end coffee beans from war torn Yemen where his grandfather still lives. In a word Mokhtar is desperate but also very persistent.

The author reminds us that Yemen was the birthplace of the coffee plant and that some four hundred years ago the Dutch smuggled coffee plants out of Yemen. The beans and plants were eventually distributed around the world to places like South America where the climate led to a better yield and the number of workers were much higher than Yemen. So in a few centuries Yemen coffee was forgotten about. In 2014, at the time of this story, coffee was still grown in Yemen but not as an export. There was so little remaining farming knowledge that even separating out the high quality beans from the low quality beans was not practiced.

So Mokhtar sees an opportunity but must build an export business in Yemen in 2014 and 2015 amidst the Houthi rebels and the Saudi bombings and the general lawlessness of Southern Yemen. We know from the beginning of the book, the prologue, that he Is ultimately successful in his dream and that his business is a big success. Most of the book takes place in Yemen detailing many dangerous situations that Mokhtar escapes from including bombings or that he talks his way out of including kidnappings and impromptu road blocks. It all makes for some enjoyable and dramatic reading. The beginning of the book is a little slow as we learn that Mokhtar’s employment prospects are flaming out.

I can’t honestly judge if all of this book is true. There is no bibliography, the story is very current and the author’s relationship with the subject is not at arm’s length. The author, Dave Eggers, goes to some length to state that he corroborated Mukhtar’s stories. I am not exactly sure how he hunted down these anonymous people in Yemen, which is still a war zone, but I also reasoned that to operate in southern Yemen would present many life threatening situations for just about anybody who ventured there, especially an American.

Dave Eggers is an engaging writer and at times his prose is quite masterful. This book does not read like most non-fiction books, it is a fast read and carefully constructed. Eggers’ style reminds me a little of Hampton Sides, who is one of my favorite authors.

I rate this book as 4 stars. The writing was 4.5 stars and the story of Mokhtar was more like 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Sherril.
260 reviews56 followers
April 18, 2018
I read this book because it was written by Dave Eggers. I absolutely loved "Zeitoun". I liked "What Is The What" and "Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?"
was intriguing. So I was fairly sure I would like The Monk of Mokha. I was wrong. For the most part it read more like a tag line for a specialized kind of Yemeni coffee. The best thing I can say about this non-fiction book is that it served to enlighten me a bit about the people, geography, politics, wars and culture of Yemen, but I stress the words, a bit. I already knew a little about the country because of the Yemenite Jews living in Israel and of course due to its being in the news of late. As for the story about the young Yemeni American man,
Mokhtar Alkhanshali and his quest to become a successful entrepreneur by reviving the historical coffee trade from his ancestral country, Yemen, well, it just didn't engage me as an interesting story. I may have liked it more as a piece on NPR, but as a book, it was ho-hum. 1 1/2 *'s
Profile Image for Celia.
1,194 reviews152 followers
May 20, 2023
I really need to write a review on how much I liked this book.

Suffice it to say I do love Egger's writing in this book and have decided Mokhtar Alkhanshali is my newest hero. He defied death and insurrectionists to bring Yemen coffee (the world's ORIGINAL coffee) to America and the world. After much effort and suffering, he finally did that and his first cups cost $16.00.

If you like coffee, you will like this book as it relates how coffee beans are harvested and made into coffee and what it takes to be an authentic coffee evaluator.

I was blessed to hear Dave Eggers interview Mokhtar at the Library of Congress Book Festival on Sep 1 of this year. Having already read the book, I smiled and nodded throughout the 50 minutes of interview.

5 stars

BTW, this review is dedicated to my friend, Elyse, who turned me on to this book.
Profile Image for Jim.
1,128 reviews66 followers
October 26, 2022
I found this to be a very compelling story, the story of an American man, Mokhtar Alkhanshali, born and raised in San Francisco. He becomes fascinated with the history of coffee--and that the country of his family-Yemen-was the originator of it. So Mokhtar determines to revitalize the art of Yemeni coffee production. He travels deep into his ancestral homeland--at the time civil war engulfs the country. It's a story of a remarkable man and also a history of coffee--and a suspenseful story of survival in wartime. It's the story of Mokhtar's mission to bring the best of Yemeni coffee to the world.
Profile Image for Jim Higgins.
120 reviews25 followers
January 24, 2018
Terrific story (nonfiction) of a young man who found his calling reviving coffee trade in Yemen. In addition to its strong literary and narrative qualities, it's an excellent business book!
Profile Image for Judith E.
547 reviews191 followers
May 6, 2018
3.75 stars.

A real life, modern adventure story that is ripe for movie making. Mokhtar Alkhanshani rediscovers the Yemen coffee producing history and globally brings Yemen coffee to recognition and production. His dangerous journey reveals the beautiful but tumultuous setting of Yemen that has been subjected to uprisings, revolutions, invasion, kidnappings and bombings all within recent history. Mokhtar is an inspiration and a role model of ingenuity and hard work leading to great success.

An easy and fast read.
Profile Image for Michelle.
280 reviews16 followers
January 12, 2019
This is the best work by Dave Eggers that I’ve read to date. Really opened my eyes and makes me appreciate my multiple cups of coffee per day. I will never again complain about the price of my locally roasted fair-trade espresso beans.
The arc of this true story was more engrossing than many fictional ones I’ve read. I have so much respect for Mokhtar, his vision, dedication and « getting things done » abilities. Can’t wait to visit San Fran and taste some Blue Bottle Yemeni coffee!
Profile Image for Jay Chi.
65 reviews2 followers
January 28, 2018
Endlessly fascinating and engrossing read. It tells a story of the difficulties and dedication it takes to be a successful entrepreneur; it offers advice and inspiration to college students (or any person really) who is unsure about where their passions lie and what career path to pursue (spoiler: it's okay to fail a few times); it tells the rich history of the humble coffee bean. I was expecting this book to be fiction, but was nonplussed to find it is actually nonfiction and essentially a biography of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, who is now a successful entrepreneur and CEO of Port of Mokha coffee.

I love coffee, so perhaps it's no surprise that I loved this book. This is a great book for any coffee lover. It provides a nice overview of the history of coffee along the way without being too bogged down by details. I finished the book inspired by Mokhtar's story and his passion to have more goals and do more in my own life. In some ways, his story is your standard 'rags to riches' story, but I feel like reading about Mokhtar's struggles, his debts, the pressures he faced from his family... it really is so much more. A great book by Dave Eggers.
Profile Image for Haifa.
164 reviews29 followers
January 16, 2021
ماذا تحكي لنا الاسطورة ؟ وماذا تُخبرنا الحقيقة عن وجود واصل اشهر مشروب في العالم القهوة
تحكي لنا الاسطورة عن راعي اثيوبي تناول ثمار القهوة واستشعر النشاط والقوة بعد ملاحظة هذا النشاط على قطيع الاغنام التي يرعاها
اما الحقيقة فهي اذا كنت من عشاق مشروب الموكا فأسمه يعود الى ميناء المخا في اليمن اول ميناء اُشتهر بتصديره البُن للعالم
في اربعينات القرن الماضي ٩٠٪؜ ��ن البن في العالم كان من اليمن
وحتى وقت ليس بالبعيد لم يكن للبن اليمني اي وجود عالمي اختفى لاسباب كثيرة منها استبدال اليمنيون لمزارع البن بمزارع القات
والذي يفضله اليمنيون على القهوة ذاك ال��شروب المر

راهب المخا

حكاية عودة البن اليمني الى العالمية على يد شاب طموح شُغف حبا باليمن
مختار الخنشلي المهاجر اليمني الامريكي الذي اعاد البن وزراعته في اليمن من جديد بعد ان كان مقتصرا تصديره الى السعودية فقط
في ٢٠١٢ بدأت رحلة العودة من الصفر في ظل ظروف معيشية قد تكون الاسوء والاشد قسوة على اليمن وشعبه

ايمانه الشديد بابناء وطنه صعد بالبن اليمني الى العالمية حيث صُنف بن المزارع اليمنية من اجود انواع البن في العالم
هذه الحكاية اشبه بالحكاية الخيالية في احداثها ومغامراتها

رواية جميلة وثرية بمعلوماتها عن القهوة وراهب المخا
Profile Image for Liza Fireman.
839 reviews144 followers
April 20, 2018
I will start by saying: this book is very very different than The Circle. And, it is mostly a book for coffee lovers, because it has a fair share of talking about coffee in addition to a beautiful drive and entrepreneurship.

Mokhtar Alkhanshali's story is extremely interesting. At age twenty-four he works as a doorman, doesn't seem to be too passionate about anything much. And then, he finds the coffee. He is not an expert when he starts, not even a great enthusiastic, but he becomes one. And he goes through so many hoops and obstacles, that it is admirable.

Here are the things that we most of the time don't think of when we get ourselves a cup of coffee: Any given cup of coffee, then, might have been touched by twenty hands, from farm to cup, yet these cups only cost two or three dollars. Even a four-dollar cup was miraculous, given how many people were involved, and how much individual human attention and expertise was lavished on the beans dissolved in that four-dollar cup. So much human attention and expertise, in fact, that even at four dollars a cup, chances were some person—or many people, or hundreds of people—along the line were being taken, underpaid, exploited. If only once in a while we will remember this, we might enjoy our coffee even more, and appriciate the hard workers who made it happen.

Yemen is also not a very safe place. There was an organized evacuation for American citizens. And the State Department offered vague indications that Yemeni Americans should find passage out of the country by any means available. The funeral was a target—terrorists had made a habit of bombing funeral gatherings to double their body count.

Mokhtar tried and succeeded to achieve amazing outcomes. Not only to get coffee from Yemen, not only to improve the coffee there, and get it to be consistent and outstanding, but also to care for the farmers there, and improve their revenue from coffee. The direct-trade roaster invariably will pay more than the Ethiopian farmer has sold his beans for in the past. Freed from the merciless will of the global market, the farmer might sell his coffee for three dollars a pound, ten dollars a pound, twenty. There are rare varietals from all over the world—from El Salvador, Hawaii, Panama—that sell for forty dollars a pound. The effect was immediate and profound. If, through direct trade, the farmer gets a dollar more per pound, the transaction has radically changed the farmer’s life and the lives of his pickers and staff. If the farmer gets forty times the commodity rate, then what had been a break-even endeavor becomes a profession—and everyone involved could live with dignity and pride. It is definitely a business, but has altruistic aspects, and a personal heritage aspect for Mokhtar.

It's a remarkable story, and you will find passion, entrepreneurship, courage, creativity and humanitarianism. This book made me appreciate coffee even more (and I am a fan of drinking coffee, and definitely far from being expert on how to make it). There was at times a bit too much about the coffee, but overall above 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for MetroBookChat.
63 reviews6 followers
January 24, 2018
NEXT time you slurp a cup of coffee, spare a thought for the humble bean that produced it. In Dave Eggers' latest socially conscious non-fiction book, a bean's journey involves being trapped in a city pounded by Saudi bombs and twice being taken captive by armed militia, and escaping a war-torn country by fibre boat to make it to a cup.

It's a detail in the story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, an aimless twentysomething from San Francisco's Tenderloin district who decided almost on a whim to become a coffee importer on learning that coffee had first been produced in his family's native Yemen. Knowing almost nothing about the industry (and having only ever drunk the odd cup of coffee to boot), he embarked on a research trip to his ancestral country, persuaded the last remaining farmers in Yemen's floundering coffee industry to sign up to his vision and was in the process of exporting several high-quality samples to the US when Yemen descended into civil war.

Eggers has produced these novelistic-feeling non-fiction books before, and in each instance has allowed a certain self-righteousness on his part to sometimes infect the story.

For all the incident-packed narrative, there is a lack of complexity in the telling, as though Eggers sees his book not so much as a deeply researched piece of reportage than as a glossy, feel-good film. Yet Mokhtar's story is a remarkable one, full of derring-do, tenacity and exceptional luck. That this book feels most of all like a promo vid in book form for Mokhtar's fair-trade Yemeni coffee company, Port Of Mokha [sic], is probably a churlish observation.
Profile Image for Lacy.
43 reviews17 followers
January 19, 2018
I won a Goodreads giveaway to get the Monk of Mokha, so here's my review! It's a few weeks into 2018, and I predict this will be the best book I read this year. Before reading this book, I didn't know much about coffee, and I knew Yemen was located south of Saudi Arabia but knew little else about the country. Now I've traveled in reading to Yemen's coffee farms and cities, and know how the seeds of the coffee plant fruit become the drink so much of the world consumes. But it's Mokhtar who really makes this book. His search for a meaningful life really resonated with me, and his persistent willingness to take risks made this book a delight to read. Dave Eggers takes us on a journey through his life that's incredibly inspiring and gripping. This book isn't just for coffee aficionados, but for anyone who wants to be reminded there's so much goodness in humanity.
Profile Image for Donald.
1,408 reviews9 followers
February 6, 2018
I really enjoyed reading this book! It very much reminded me of "Zeitoun" and "What Is the What", which I also enjoyed! This book is the story of Mokhtar, a Yemeni American man who wants to export coffee from Yemen to the U.S., specifically the Bay Area. It's a pretty amazing story, and the reader learns a lot about coffee along the way. And Yemen too! It also helped that I live in the Bay Area, so I really connected with the location and I've been to Blue Bottle! Now I want to try his coffee! Well done Dave Eggers, well done!
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