The Monk of Mokha

The Monk of Mokha

From the best-selling author of The Circle, the 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--and his riveting tale of escape.Mokhtar Alkhanshali grew up in San Francisco, one of seven siblings brought up by Yemeni immigrants in a tiny apartme...

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Title:The Monk of Mokha
Author:Dave Eggers
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Monk of Mokha Reviews

  • Marie

    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 to

    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.

  • Lacy

    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

    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.

  • Jay Chi

    This book was an endlessly fascinating and engrossing read. I read it nearly in one sitting. I'm a fan of Dave Eggers, so I dived into this book expecting it to be fiction, but was nonplussed to find it is actually nonfiction and essentially a biography of Mokhtar Alkhanshali. 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 wha

    This book was an endlessly fascinating and engrossing read. I read it nearly in one sitting. I'm a fan of Dave Eggers, so I dived into this book expecting it to be fiction, but was nonplussed to find it is actually nonfiction and essentially a biography of Mokhtar Alkhanshali. 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 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 to want to do more by Mokhtar's story and his passion. 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 is so much more. A great book by Dave Eggers. Highly recommended.

  • Krista

    is a work of narrative nonfiction by noted storyteller Dave Eggers: Focussing on the compelling

    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

    (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”?

    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

    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:

    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.

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