Growing up as Yemeni Americans, coffee has always been a part of our co-founders, Mokhtar Alkhanshali and Ibrahim Alaeli's cultural identity. Born in Liverpool, England, Mokhtar grew up somewhere between the green mountain top terraces of Yemen, and the inner city hustle of Brooklyn, New York and the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. His family has been growing coffee for at least nine generations. Stories of Yemen's famed port of Mocha, where coffee was first commercialized and introduced to the world, were always a source of pride for him. His first memories of Yemen were during his adolescent years when he lived there for over a year with his grandparents. It was during this time that Mokhtar first learned about his family’s ancient agricultural traditions from the teachings of his grandparents, and it was there that he had first hand experience with coffee with his family’s own coffee trees.
Ibrahim Alaeli’s story starts at the small village of Hajjaj in central Yemen. Before going to college and obtaining his degree in Computer Science, Ibrhaim worked as a farmer on his family’s land. It was there that he learned his family’s ancient heritage and practices in growing fruits and vegetables. After moving to the U.S and becoming a citizen, following in his family’s’ legacy he founded CaliFresh Produce. With a customer base of hundreds of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best stores, restaurants, and retailers, CaliFresh is committed to quality and reliability. He specializes in procuring the best quality, peak-of-the-season produce from local, national and international sources, and distributes them both nationally and internationally. Ibrahim is a passionate human rights activist, who has led and organized protests and rallies in support of the people of the Arab Springs demand for freedom and justice
Ibrahim and Mokhtar have worked closely over the years on many projects throughout California and particularly in San Francisco and Oakland with their Yemeni community. Most of their work is around youth programs in leadership and community empowerment through civic engagement. Knowing that Yemen is the poorest Arab country, with half of its population under the poverty line, they decided to do something to help their family’s homeland. Over the past year, Mokhtar and Ibrahim have thoroughly researched the specialty coffee market and supply chain in Yemen, and understand both the potential and the limitation of the current systems. Yemen is a country where half of the population is below the poverty line, and 75% of farmers are women. Khat, a national drug consumed by 90% of the population, has become the cash crop by which Yemen’s dwindling water supply is being exhausted. For every one coffee farm there are at lest seven Khat farms. After studying and researching the Specialty coffee market and the Coffee sector in Yemen, they realized the most important stop for coffee along its route through the supply chain from the farmer to the cup is the processing mill. In their research of the top buys of Yemeni coffee, they found that the biggest issue with Yemeni coffee is the low quality and the inconsistency from shipment to shipment. To effectively solve this problem they decided to start the ground work for building a state of the art, modern coffee mill and in 2014 they founded Mocha Mill.
Since founding Mocha Mill Ibrahim and Mokhtar have completely immersed themselves in the specialty coffee world. Mokhtar took it upon himself to become a specialty coffee sensory analyst's. He had the opportunity to began his training and self development with the world-renowned coffee expert Willem Boot and his incredible team over at Boot Coffee. This work has demanded that he learn and master over 20 sections on coffee related subjects, such as green grading, roast identification, identify 36 different types of smells, the various different acids found in coffee, recognizing all 16 coffee defects, pass a series of triangulation blind cuppings and a host of other skills. After months of practice (and lots of caffeine) he decided to take the rigorous “Q” grader coffee exam. On August 27,2014, Mokhtar made international news by becoming the first licensed Q grader from Yemen.
They chose the name “Mocha Mill” because of its historic significance. Mocha is a city port in Yemen where coffee was first commercialized world wide. One of the first known written works on coffee dates back to the 14th century Muslim Monk, Abū Bakr ibn 'Abdallāh Al-'Aidarūs, who lived in the port city of Mocha. This Yemeni monk is credited with the earliest historical work on coffee. Mokhtar and Ibrahim want to revive this lost history and the legacy of this monk. In his time Coffee was about study, devotion and doing good deeds.
Mokhtar and Ibrahim believe that Mocha Mill is a company that serves a higher ethical purpose to not only find great coffee, but to also serve the family farmers who grow these amazing coffees, and hope that their coffee puts blessings in the lives of those who drink it. They believe that because their coffee mill will use modern practices in processing while helping farmers blend more effective methods of growing and harvesting, with their ancient heritage of Yemeni coffee cultivation, Yemen will once again play a major role in the global coffee trade. They believe in Yemen and its people and their goal is to help Yemeni farmers by empowering them with the knowledge and tools to bring positive changes in the quality of their coffees and lives.