‘This guy’s crazy,’ says a taxi driver, listening to a BBC interview with a man who has decided to become the first exporter of coffee from Mokha, Yemen, in 80 years. The man being interviewed, we have learned, has risked his life quite a few times over, in the most hair-raising ways imaginable it would seem, to achieve his dream of putting Yemeni coffee back on the map. We meet this taxi driver towards the end of the book, and although he does not know that the man being interviewed is actually sitting in the back of his cab, by this stage we have come to think that, yes, the man concerned, one Mokhtar Alkhanshali, is crazy.
Coffee was discovered — or, to be more accurate, the beverage invented — in Yemen. (In Ethiopia, where a goatherd first noticed how frisky his charges became after chewing the raw beans, there was little or no preparation of the bean itself.