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New Coffee Shop Brings Yemen’s Renowned Coffee and Little-Known Culture to the Upper West Side

Basheer Shahbain, owner of Moka & Co. coffee shop on Broadway, hopes that the establishment will provide Upper West Siders with a new understanding of his homeland, Yemen. The coffee shop is named after the Yemeni port city of Mocha, which was the first commercialized coffee plant in Yemen in the 1400s and spread through the Ottoman Empire and into Europe. Many Yemeni Jews left for Israel after it was declared a state in 1948, and many from that movement later emigrated to New York in the 1970s.

Shahbain sees this history, even if fractured, as something worth celebrating. Jewish people in the neighborhood have stopped by and told him their relatives are Yemeni. The Broadway shop is the second New York City location for Moka & Co., which was started in Michigan and also has a location in Astoria, Queens, a block from the stretch of Steinway Street renowned for its Middle Eastern fare.

Moka & Co. offers regional drinks like Turkish coffee and Adeni chai, classics like matcha lattes and caramel macchiatos, and an array of fusion sweets. Some Moka & Co. prices are higher than at nearby chain coffeehouses due to difficulties sourcing specialty beans from Yemen. The country’s ongoing, 10-year-old war makes it difficult for the company to source specialty beans, especially given the conditions on the ground.

On opening day last week, customers arrived to try out Moka & Co. coffees, made with beans sourced directly from Yemen and spices from the region, like cardamom, saffron, and ginger. One early patron, Ed Newman, a lawyer, photographer, and self-professed coffee aficionado, said he always welcomes new spots for coffee and would likely be back the following morning for more.

Read More @ West Side Rag

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