Mocha is one of the more confusing terms in the coffee lexicon. The coffee we call Mocha (also spelled Moka, Moca, or Mocca) today is grown as it has been for hundreds of years in the mountains of Yemen, at the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It was originally shipped through the ancient port of Mocha, which has since been replaced by a modern port and has fallen into picturesque ruins. The name Mocha has become so permanently a part of coffee vocabulary that it stubbornly sticks to a coffee that today would be described more accurately as Yemen or even Arabian.
The World’s Most Traditional Coffee. True Arabian Mocha, from the central mountains of Yemen, is still grown as it was over five hundred years ago, on terraces clinging to the sides of semiarid mountains below ancient stone villages that rise like geometric extensions of the mountains themselves. In the summer, when the scrubby little coffee trees are blossoming and setting fruit, misty rains temporarily turn the Yemen mountains a bright green. In the fall the clouds dissipate and the air turns bone dry as the coffee fruit ripens, is picked, and appears in on the roofs of the stone houses, spread in the sun to dry. During the dry winter, water collected in small reservoirs often is directed to the roots of the coffee trees to help them survive until the drizzles of summer return.
Yemen coffees are processed as they have been for centuries. All Yemen Mochas are dry or natural coffees, dried with the fruit still attached to the beans. After the fruit and bean have dried, the shriveled fruit husk is removed by millstone, which accounts for the rough, irregular look of Yemen beans.
The husks of the dried coffee fruit, neatly broken in half by the action of the millstones, are used to make a sweet, lightly a drink Yemenis call “Qishr”. The husks are combined with spices and boiled. The resulting beverage is cooled to room temperature and drunk in the afternoon as a thirst-quencher and pick-me-up.
Yemenis drink roast-and-ground coffee only in the morning, when, after bathing and prayers, they line up at coffee houses for a quick morning cup of coffee boiled with sugar in Middle-Eastern fashion.