Barista Magazine

DEC 2017-JAN 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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However, Yemen showed [more than] 90 percent genetic diversity. This means that almost all of the world's coffee traces back to Yemen, only with the exception of Ethiopian coffee. The abundance of genetic diversity makes Yemeni coffees extremely unique. Number two: Yemeni villages are built on the tops of mountains for defensive purposes. They've carved breathtaking terraces along the sides of the mountains where they grow their coffee. These extreme elevations reach up to 2,500 meters above sea level, making them some of the highest-grown coffee in the world. Number three: We don't have much rainfall in Yemen. That means our trees are constantly under a lot of stress. This forces them to produce more acids and makes the coffees much more complex and vibrant, similar to when grapes are stressed and produce sweeter wine. AR: Twenty years ago, would you be sur- prised that you would go on to have a career in coffee? MA: I always knew I wanted to do something around social impact, but never thought I'd be working in coffee. When I was a kid my par- ents would threaten me and say I'd go back to Yemen to work on the farm if I didn't do well in school. I was involved in community orga- nizing and was on track to go to law school. I took this coffee detour and never looked back. AR: There's going to be a book about you soon—could you talk a little about that project? MA: From all the weird things that have happened in my life, this is probably the weirdest. After I returned from Yemen, I was contacted by Dave Eggers. At the time I did not know he was a famous person, so I didn't respond for about a week. We met at Blue Bottle's headquarters at 300 Webster Street in Oakland, and I remember handing him a cup of Ethiopian coffee and explaining to him why elevation matters and what varietals are. After I met with him, he called me the next day and told me that my story was really cap- tivating and inspirational and wanted to write a book about my life. I fi rst thanked him and told him no. I didn't see what was worth writing about, and I was really busy trying to fi guring how I was going to continue my work in Yemen with the war going on. Eventually I told a few friends and they all freaked out. I real- ized I had an amazing opportunity to tell the world the story of coffee. I agreed, and it's been almost three years. Dave has followed me around the world to Yemen, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. He's taken the Q course, read doz- ens of books, and interviewed my friends and family. The book is scheduled to be released January 30, 2018. AR: What do you want people to know about you? What feels import- ant to you? MA: I want people to know that coffee is a miracle. Coffee is about community and how we support and sustain one another. Coffee has crossed borders, cultures, political hardships, and centuries of cultiva- tion to fi nd its way to your cup. Every coffee has a story; you could say mine is just a little bit more interesting. 103 www.baristamagazine.com

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