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Yemen Lays Claim to the Birth of the Coffee Industry, Beginning in Remote Sufi Monasteries Over 500 Years Ago


Ibn Arabi Sufi Monk

The Discovery

In 1450, Sufi monks in Yemen were the first to cultivate coffee plants and brew the drink we know today as coffee.

Yemen Coffee Traders Shipping by Camel

Camel Transport

Coffee traveled from Yemen's highlands by camel.

Cartographer Jan Jansson's Turcicum Imperium Map Mocha, Yemen

Port of Al Mokha

Yemen monopolized world coffee trade for 200 years, shipping tons of sterile beans from the port of Al Mokha.

Thriving Coffee Shop in England

Global Pastime

Drinking coffee gained popularity worldwide, with coffee shops opening in Europe beginning in 1650.


Taste Tradition

Coffee With Purpose

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Putting Extremism Out of Business

Optimistic Coffee Farmers in Yemen

Creating Jobs in Yemen

We believe that coffee farming can serve as a productive alternative to political violence.

Hand Peace Sign Painted with Yemen's Flag

Making America Safer

Economic growth in Yemen creates stability and security. Thus, coffee is an alternative to U.S. military intervention.

The Port City of Al Mokha, 1680

Sun Kissed

An Experience

Delivered Straight to Your Door

I Want It

Al Mokha Blog

Is a $1 Billion Coffee Sector in Yemen a Good Idea?

October 12, 2016

This post is Part 4 of a five-part series on measuring Al Mokha's impact in Yemen. (Links to Part 1Part 2, & Part 3)

In my last post, I talked about numbers, about progress and about impact we could measure at Al Mokha. Economists tend to get wrapped up in numbers. This group of people is richer, you might say, and an economist wants to know, okay, but how do measure “rich”? Is it how much money or how many assets they have; is it how much they earn? How do you get a representative sample to answer your questions? How do you know that someone’s observable (or unobservable) characteristics aren’t influencing the way they perceive the question?

Economists have largely settled these questions. With a little effort, you could get to a point where you could measure “rich” satisfactorily, where you could answer the question of who is richest.

But some questions are simply unanswerable within the paradigm of statistical causality. Some of those questions are ones that Al Mokha wants to answer.

For instance, is coffee the best answer to Yemen’s woes?

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Yemen's $1 billion Coffee Opportunity

July 12, 2016

This post is Part 3 of a five-part series on measuring Al Mokha's impact in Yemen. (Links to Part 1 & Part 2)

Erin and a Tanzanian woman smiling with an orange dirt background
Author (on right) in Nyarugusu, Tanzania, during a project for the International Rescue Committee 

As a development economist with interests that are a little outside the norm, I spend a lot of my day thinking about how to measure unmeasurable things. How prevalent is a certain belief? And how does it affect people’s behavior? Can one violent event, or experience, be objectively seen as worse or more violent than another? And if so, what determines that violence—scope, tenor, frequency? How do we fix it?

So, when Anda told me he wanted to start thinking more about impact and measurement at Al Mokha, I jumped up and down with glee. From the moment he and I first talked development and coffee in Cambridge almost a year ago, I’d been questioning, "cool, but how do you measure that?"

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