How has specialty coffee become such a pop phenomenon?
Beyond the soaring success of brands like Blue Bottle, Stumptown, and Counter Culture, specialty coffee’s internal culture has developed with incredible speed: complete with its own competitions, events, publications, and pop references, the large and close international community is fueled by a level of passion and engagement you’d be hard pressed to find in any comparable field. What about this product leads to such a high concentration of industry pride?
On Sunday a select group at our Santa Clara cafe was privileged to hear Mokhtar Alkhanshali speak to his own passion. Our Port of Mokha collaborator began with a condensed history of coffee, placing Yemen squarely at the heart of the romance between humans and “the drink of the righteous people.” With infectious enthusiasm and joy, he told us of the Sufi monks who used this "wine of the bean" to continue worshipping when they became weary. He spoke of its long history of conflict, of leaders who banned it and a pope who baptized it.
Coffee shops, he informed us, became the crossroads of the classes, where intellectuals and farmers and workers of every collar and stripe could share their knowledge and wisdom...as well as their discontent with the status quo. Many a revolution was fueled at least partially by coffee; so too were the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. The Boston Tea Party was organized in The Green Dragon, one of America’s first coffee establishments.
Coffee, in short, has long been the unofficial beverage of humans collaborating towards their collective betterment. This is what has inspired so many in our generation to become aware that an improving world requires all of us to direct our efforts wisely. Coffee is a huge trade, and the impact of these efforts is already being felt by producers and consumers alike. What better day than International Human Rights Day to celebrate this magical brew?
When we first decided to work with Port of Mokha, we were prepared to take a loss. The response to more luxe holiday offerings has varied widely over the past several years. Regardless, we were eager to become a part of this wonderful coffee’s journey, and to establish a relationship for further offerings in the future.
Port of Mokha and Chromatic are aligned in the understanding that honest dealings have far more power to change the world than any act of charity (trade not aid!) We share a desire to make high-end treatment of humans an inextricable part of our sense of "high-end."
We’ve been delighted although not very surprised by the warm response from our community of fiends and friends. Al-Durrar offers a transcendent experience only the marriage of nature and human attention can produce, and its unique attributes deserve proper appreciation; yet we feel certain the positive response also represents a strong vote of kinship with the generational farmers of Yemen; a collective desire to help them survive and thrive through a civil war.
May the success of this coffee be an inspiration to the entire industry, as well as other industries around the globe.
(To learn more about Mokhtar’s journey, check out Dave Eggers’ new nonfiction novel, The Monk of Mokha, coming out early in the new year of 2018.)