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Civil warBut 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 feetwhen he had THE WORSE LUCKand had to climb back up and start with nothing and there were moments of celebrationwhere 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 jobgot me interested and I don t even drink coffee Two thingsthen 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 Mokhtarwas made available for the first time atBlue Bottle coffee shops around the United States It was the most expensive coffeeBlue 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 richbut the rest of us poor if we drink his coffee too oftenbut Paul will love it SoI plan to take Paul to Blue Bottle in Oakland for his birthday He is normally a Peet s or Philz s coffee drinker 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 disappointedMonk 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 picaresue bootstraps and all However Eggers is 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 Maruez 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 pedantic and ultimately flatThere 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 overwroughtLastly 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 walks up to the cusp catastrophe catastrophe never uite 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 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 The rags to riches story of a coffee importer it s interesting than that sounds Details are suspiciously sparse toward the end but I like a happy ending Waffling between three and four stars 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 chapterBut holy cow it was spectacular It s about a Yemeni American who wants to bring high uality 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 This book made me appreciate coffee This is the ind of book that eeps 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 "the obstacles and attain the goals they need to get Mokhtar Alkhanshali was born and raised in California 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 uality 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 their life This 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 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 uite right fit mispronounced eide Story was engaging all the same. 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.
Dave Eggers è 3 charactersPrivate Arrangements (Forged of Steele, 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 uality because untrained farmers had lost thenowledge 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 at a narcotic was profitable to grow there for local use so farmers would have to be convinced to gamble on planting 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 uality 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 uality 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 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 You Are Not A Gadget kept me riveted and turning the pages Should you read this book and find any of his story too incredible to be truenow 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 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 warA slogan on
one of Moktar s t shirts There is a lesson in this oneor two Don t let anyoneof Moktar s t shirts There is a lesson in this oneor two Don t let anyone 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 illedmultiple times But he DID IT He did what he set out to do which seemed like an impossibilityOK 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 uest erobsession 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 storyand 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 YEMENFOR YEARS I HAVE "in YemenFor years I have 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 now 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 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 of this fascinating story by these two men The only downfallit 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 Wow 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 "coffee or tea for me in me I felt the stimulant of Dave Eggers non fiction book raising energy This is one heck of an amazing rags to riches storyFrom DOORMANto CEO COFFEEMANour uplifting boost of energy comes from a guy name Mokhtar AlkhanshaliYemeni American Mokhtar grew up dirt poorin 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 Forever Faithful (Forever Faithful, 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 Suare with its pricy shopping and cable cars Mokhtar was a creative semi trouble maker rascal as aid He found solutions to some of his deprivations AND WETHE READERARE 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 Yemenwhere he learns the language culture and works in coffee farming He also got trapped in the violent. Hali 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. .
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 28The Monk of Mokha tells the amazing adventure of Mokhtar Alkhanshali s efforts to revive the art of making uality 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 providedThis 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 Friendfluence key business insights On both of these dimensions the Monk of Mokha falls shortThe 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 himThere are also some contradictions or paradoxes that if explored could have given a 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 uick 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 depth if this contrast had been explored Both in school and at an after school program at a mosue 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 understanding of his personality is missing from the bookAnother 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 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 Mokhtarnew 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 295I also had several uestions 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 % than what they d been making before page 300 30 % is not uite the same as 5 times 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 "commodity product For a cup of commodity coffee US 3 seems reasonable He sells his coffee for 5 times than the commodity coffee and his suppliers just see a 30% increase while they had been promised 5 times Of course it is well possible that my reasoning is too simple but without further explications on these numbers the books leaves unpleasant uestions unanswered2 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 "sharks are but the first one Mokhtar happens to run into is OKSecond 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 trade3 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 Theseyou remember these 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 uestioning 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 One Part Woman keep Andrew and Mokhtar apart page 200 Who is this Abdo Why did Mokhtar follow his advise without uestioning And why did Abdo want toeep 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 Truth is stranger than fiction but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities Truth isn tMark TwainThis 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 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 na vet 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 Stranger 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 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 Alkhans.