Tiny Beans, Big Flavor
Mokka coffee is instantly recognizable by its small, round beans. The appearance of the whole bean Mokka coffee, while interesting and exotic, is not an asset in a coffee world that values large bean size as a quality metric. Furthermore, the Mokka varietal is a tall-growing, low-yielding plant, making for picking and processing that is labor-intensive and costly. So why would any coffee farmer choose to grow Mokka coffee?...
...Because it's delicious. That's why.
Everyone interested in exploring Hawaiian coffee should have the opportunity to try Maui Mokka coffee. In addition to having world-class flavor and aroma, it has a rich history as old as the coffee trade itself. Read on to learn more, and to finally clear up the difference between Mokka, Moka, Mokha and Mocha...
The 15th Century in the Yemeni Port of Mokha
It is widely known that coffee originated in Ethiopia. Legend has it that a nomadic goat herder named Kaldi first noticed that his goats were unusually energetic after eating the berries from a certain tree. Kaldi shared his observation with the abbot of a nearby monastery who made a drink from the berries. He found he was able to stay alert through long hours of late-night prayer, and word began to spread about the stimulating fruit.
While coffee originated in Ethiopia, the coffee trade originated in nearby Yemen. Just a short boat ride across the Red Sea from the East African coast, the Yemeni port city of Mokha was the first hub of coffee commerce. In 15th Century Mokha, the beverage brewed from the roasted seeds of the berry was popularized, and in the surrounding hillsides, coffee was first grown commercially.
Mokha would go on to be the center of the global coffee trade for hundreds of years. As coffee gained popularity throughout the Middle East and later Europe, and as new growing regions arose in Asia and Africa, 'Mokha coffee' cemented its reputation as the world's finest coffee.
Mokha, Mocha, Mokka, Moka
Mokha is the origin of many words in the coffee lexicon, and it's easy to get confused. Coffee from Mokha was known to have intense chocolate flavors. That's why nowadays, when someone says 'Mocha', they're probably referring to a coffee drink flavored with chocolate syrup or chocolate powder. They also might be referring to anything with coffee-and-chocolate flavoring (thank you Betty Crocker).
Here at The Coffee Store, when we talk about Maui Mokka, we're talking about a varietal of coffee plant with origins in Yemen (more on the Maui Mokka varietal below). Other folks may spell this varietal 'Moka' or 'Mokha' (I told you it gets confusing). For even more confusion, we offer a blend called Maui Mocha - it's not coffee from the Mokka varietal, it's a blend that's infused with chocolate-flavored coffee.
Mokha-Java (spelled any number of ways) is a type of blend that coffee producers have offered for centuries. Traditionally, it used a chocolaty coffee of Arabian origin (Mokha) mixed with a bold, earthy coffee from Java. You can still find Mokha-Java blends, but they're most likely to contain African and Sumatran coffee beans.
Maui Mokka, the History
Coffee production in Yemen declined sharply in the 1800's. New coffee-producing regions with higher-yielding coffee varieties came to dominate the world market, and 'Mokha' coffee fell out of production altogether. Some believed the old Mokha varietals to be extinct, but in 1986, the University of Hawaii started field tests of 'tall Mokka', a hybrid of a tall-growing Brazilian Typica and a Yemeni Mokka.
The test cultivar was grown in Ka'anapali, Maui, on land belonging to the Pioneer Sugar Mill. While the Pioneer Mill - and later the entire Maui sugar industry - went out of business, the coffee was able to thrive. After Pioneer mill was shuttered in 2001, their director of Agriculture, Kimo Falconer, formed MauiGrown Coffee to resurrect Pioneer's coffee holdings. MauiGrown continues to operate the Ka'anapali coffee plantation and Lahaina coffee mill.
Today, MauiGrown Coffee is a world leader in Mokka coffee cultivation. Other producers, including some Kona coffee farmers, have taken note and tried their hand at growing Mokka, too. There have been some tasty results, and The Coffee Store is surely on the lookout for more wonderful Mokka to offer. For now, we're proud to offer a collection of 100% Ka'anapali Mokka coffees.
Maui Mokka Coffee, Cupping Notes
The thing that really sets Maui Mokka coffee apart, besides the tiny beans, is the flavor. A lot of coffees have chocolate in their flavor profiles, but Maui Mokka beans are bursting with chocolate flavors. You might taste the syrupy piquancy of cocoa liquor, the astringent snap of bakers' chocolate or the sweet and mellow flavor of your favorite chocolate bar. We're not adding any flavorings - it's just the coffee - but more than once, folks have demanded to know what we're putting in the coffee to make it so chocolaty.
At lighter roast degrees, Maui Mokka is sweet and smooth, with a potent note of milk chocolate. The aroma evokes hazelnut and dried fruit and the finish is clean and quick. If you love coffee roasted on the lighter side, our 100% Kāʻanapali Mokka - Lighter Roast is not to be missed.
Roasted darker, Maui Mokka develops intense dark chocolate notes as well as a subtle smokiness. Try our 100% Kāʻanapali Mokka - Darker Roast for an incredible, full-flavor brew that is velvety and indulgent.
We're also proud to offer 100% Kāʻanapali Mokka Ecstasy, a 50/50 mix of our lighter and darker roasts. Here again, chocolate is the transcendent flavor note, with complex supporting notes of nuts and fruit and wine and smoke.
100% Kāʻanapali Mokka Peaberry
One of our rarest and most prized coffees is our 100% Kāʻanapali Mokka Peaberry. If you'd like to know more about peaberry coffee and what sets it apart, read our All About Peaberry blog. Suffice it to say that our Mokka Peaberry is outrageously flavorful. Naturally-processed, our medium roast highlights the fruit-and-chocolate cup character of this award-winning coffee to perfection. If we have some left in stock, it's always worth trying. If not, check back in the springtime when the new harvest comes in.
Mokka is excellent with any brew method. Its low-acid and rich flavor make for excellent espresso, indulgent drip coffee and delightful pour overs. Our favorite way to enjoy Mokka is with an immersion brew method like French Press. The rich chocolate flavors and smoky aromatics really stand out when the coffee has a few minutes to steep.
The Champagne of Coffees
Rare and wonderful, difficult to produce and highly-esteemed, an iconic representation of origin and history... It's no wonder Mokka is considered 'The Champagne of Coffees'. Here on Maui, we're fortunate that such a paragon of coffee cultivation is local to our little island. Next time you're enjoying a cup, look back through the centuries and appreciate your coffee's story. From goats in Ethiopia, to mystics in Yemen... from fame to obscurity and back again... we can all be grateful for the miracles great and small that bring us our coffee. Aloha!